Lies Beneath is coming to the Rift in a few weeks, but has already been released for the Oculus Quest. The latest title from Drifter Entertainment, previously responsible for the Quest version of Robo Recall, we couldn’t wait to check it out.
Besides the excellent track record that Drifter has in VR land, another reason we were looking forward to playing Lies Beneath is that the Quest has a relative lack of games that don’t fit into the ‘casual’ genre. The Vader Immortal episodes are very pleasant exceptions we played recently, but we were eager to finally play another wireless first person VR adventure again.
In Lies Beneath, you’re a college student returning to her home town of Slumber in Alaska to find out something terrible and sinister has happened. Your father is missing, and the inhabitants of the town have gone crazy or have mutated into living nightmares. It’s up to you to figure out what’s happening and find a way out of what is an interesting premise to start a VR game with.
The game presents itself as a dark comic book adventure that’s come to life, thanks to a visual style that works very well on a headset like the Quest with a cell-shaded look that’s lower on detail but emphasizes style. Cutscenes are actually presented as interactive comic book pages as well, complete with visible dialogue (which you also see in-game as a way to express your character’s thoughts), further embracing the look and feel of an adult comic book. The fact that the in-game visuals sport a similar look only helps convey the sense that you’re living through the events of what you’re reading.
The gameplay itself is a mix of combat (both ranged and melee) and puzzle solving in between sections where you explore and discover parts of the narrative. You have a wide range of weapons at your disposal as well, from (shot)guns to slashing weapons like a small axe. The story’s divided up into 20 chapters, which combine to a campaign of close to 10 hours if you take things slowly and explore a bit. Since the game is fairly linear you won’t get lost easily, but there are interesting bits and pieces of the story to be found that are worth looking out for.
Tense moments come when you encounter enemies that you can’t deal with through combat, but need to run away from. Most confrontations are combat-centric though, so it’s a game that favors action over suspense in the interactions you have with others. The visuals help instill a dreary sense of atmosphere to the story though, and tension slowly builds up. One example is having limited visibility in certain sections, which may in part be due to technical limitations of the Quest but works well in providing a sense of desolation that doesn’t feel much better than the feeling that you could be jumped at any second – something the game also provides.
The combat itself, even though it’s a big part of Lies Beneath, isn’t the most refined example we’ve seen in VR. Gunplay is mostly fine, but melee is mostly reduced to just slashing in the direction of an enemy and hoping for the best. There were also plenty of instances where I thought I’d grab something from the environment to help me, but I couldn’t.
These were minor gripes though, since the visual style and narrative more than make up for the shortcomings in the game’s combat. Lies Beneath will have a lot more competition on the Rift, but on the Quest it’s one of the standout experiences when it comes to narrative-driven horror games.