One of the most eagerly anticipated Oculus Quest exclusives this season was Jurassic World: Aftermath, a stealth-centered take on the dinosaur movie franchise. Is it worth picking up, or does it suffer from the lack of horse power that mobile VR brings with it? We used an Oculus Quest 2 to test it.
Although named after the recent movies in the franchise, Jurassic World Aftermath actually feels more like the first two movies did – where some of the most iconic moments involved protagonists hiding from dinosaurs, not knowing if they’d survive only to see a dinosaur foot land inches away from them. Powerful stuff that translates well to VR, the developers at Coatsink must have thought.
They’re right, and the inclusion of voice acting from the likes of Jeff Goldblum (as Ian Malcolm) and B.D. Wong (as lead scientist Dr. Wu) certainly gels well with that retro appeal. Add the inclusion of recent ‘voiceover performance of the year’ winner Laura Bailey (of The Last of Us II fame) to the mix and you’ve got a game with excellent production values.
Your job is to go into one of the abandoned facilities on a now deserted island, which is now under new management, run by prehistoric monsters. The events are set in between the two most recent movies, and the campaign takes place inside a research facility that has lost much of its former glory. Slowly gaining access to new wings, your task is to retrieve valuable resources that were lost when humans had to quickly evacuate, but the fact that velociraptors now roam the building certainly doesn’t help.
Voiceovers help tell you where to go, although the experience isn’t as much about exploration as you’d expect and is actually fairly linear. Unlike that which we saw in Alien: Isolation, where you never know when a xenomorph would appear, the action in Jurassic World: Aftermath feels rather scripted – although this also makes for some great moments.
You often can’t walk, let alone run, because it would attract too much attention. Instead, you’ll spend a lot of time hiding under tables or crawling into lockers, watching dinosaurs (hopefully) pass you by. Terminals help you unlock more of the facility, but of course they also make noise, so it’s never a relaxed affair. In a way, Aftermath taps into the more horror-like aspects of the Jurassic Park franchise, and it’s a better game for it.
The stealth moments could have been implemented better though. There are a few ways to distract a raptor who’s nearby, but it’s not the VR playground that you’d expect and my excitement about setting a “trap” to alert me of their presence never came to anything while actually playing the game. Once you’re spotted, there is also little hope of escape, and while that’s probably technically accurate it doesn’t make for a great game mechanic. Shutting the door on a raptor running towards you is exhilarating, but these moments are too far and few between.
The scripted nature of the game doesn’t help the stealth mechanics either, as your dino foes often look like they’re patrolling a certain area because the location of your next objective demands it rather than their instinct to hunt. The first Jurassic Park movie taught us that “they’re smart”, but then I’d expect them to canvas different rooms and move along rather than stick around between me and my objective. Unless they’re so smart that they’ve learned about videogame mechanics and know to stand in between me and my goal – hats off to the raptors if that’s the case.
Across the four hour campaign, Jurassic World: Aftermath could have also used more variety, both in terms of dinosaur species and gameplay. You’ll want some T-Rex action, but you’ll only get it in the intro. You’ll want to marvel at the sense of scale that a large sauropod can give you, but none of that is in the game. Having said that, there is a second chapter coming by way of paid DLC in 2021, but ultimately that just makes this feel like half a game rather than anything else.
Having said all that, Jurassic World: Aftermath is still a thrilling experience for fans of the dinosaur franchise. Dinosaurs and new technology are somehow also linked to one another (just think about the original PlayStation demo, the first Tomb Raider, or the early VR title Robinson), and this is a good attempt at bringing a Jurassic Park-like experience to the Quest. The audio is spectacular and tense, and the visuals were done in a comic book style to help overcome the technical limitations of mobile VR. I constantly wanted to keep pushing forward, and despite the shortcomings of the stealth mechanics I can’t wait for part 2.