Coming out later this year for the Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift headsets, Phantom: Covert Ops already won the Game Critic’s Award for Best VR Game at E3 and impressed us as well during a recent hands-on with the game.
What we know
Known for games like The Assembly, Shooty Fruity and Bloody Zombies, developer nDreams is no stranger to the world of VR. They’re developing Phantom: Covert Ops exclusively for Oculus, and it’s certainly one of the most ambitious titles for the Quest platform so far.
In the game, you’re a stealth operative bound to your kayak as you infiltrate enemy bases and fulfill your objectives. Stealth and diversion are your main tools, but you can also engage with enemies directly using silenced weapons.
What we saw
We went hands on with the game during a meeting with nDreams while at Gamescom, where a demo included a full mission that required us to infiltrate an enemy base and take out their giant radio tower by whatever means necessary.
In the demo (and game), the first mechanic to get used to is paddling your kayak around – you need this to get out of the way of enemy patrols and searchlights quickly. You’re also introduced to the options of grabbing your weapons and using them, but direct confrontation is the most dangerous option you have – instead, using your weapons to create a diversion is often a smarter choice.
The demo ended with us planting a bomb at the base of the radio tower, then shooting the bomb to make the fireworks start. With a multitude of searchlights and guards around the tower, this was tricky and required well-timed movements (and a few restarts), but it was a fitting end to an impressive demo – which was played on an Oculus Quest headset while seated.
What we thought
Phantom: Covert Ops felt like an incredibly intuitive experience, with the seated experience translating directly to being seated inside your military kayak. The paddling effect was realistic and thrilling at the same time, especially when tight maneuvering was required to quickly get into some reeds for cover.
As you traverse the water and find yourself under walkways, the tension is palpable as guards walk directly overhead as you sit silently in the dark, and taking out an enemy silently before venturing on definitely feels like a thrill. This is helped by the immersive controls, as the Oculus Touch grips allow you to grab hold of your paddle and weapons with a great sense of immersion.
This was also our first experience with the (standalone) Oculus Quest headset, which is looking like a great product if you’re interested in a minimal amount of setup and perhaps also a great deal of portability. We realize not every Quest title will be up to the level of something like Phantom, but it’s a great showcase for the viability of the headset. Part of that is undoubtedly the visual quality of the experience, as the game can stand toe-to-toe with many AAA titles on VR platforms that rely on a hefty PC or console. We realize the darker stealth setting helps the developer because a lot of the scene is shrouded in darkness and doesn’t need to be rendered (in great detail), but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. This one’s shaping up to be one of the best VR games of the year.