Out now exclusively for Oculus headsets, SWARM from Greensky Games is a grapple shooter that provides thrills that only VR can deliver. We used the Quest 2 to take it for a spin.
SWARM features a story, but the narrative is paper thin and provides the usual ‘aliens are invading the earth’ excuse for letting you go out there and send them back to where they came from. With a no questions asked mentality to the gameplay, that’s really all you need anyway – there’s an almost Duke Nukem-like approach to the storyline, though with slightly less attitude and very different gameplay mechanics.
Your touch controllers acts as pistols with a grappling hook function while in the game, and it doesn’t take long to realize that SWARM is the kind of VR game that wouldn’t have worked as well in the earlier days of VR. With intense mobility and non-stop action, this is a game for more seasoned VR vets who aren’t afraid of a little sensory overload. Using the grappling gun to hook onto floating platforms, you can quickly get around each arena, out of harm’s way or closer to that cluster of enemies you’re looking to take out. And you can’t stay there for too long either, because before long they’ll swarm you with their bullets, missiles or melee attacks.
There’s a lot to consider at any given time, and your ability to react quickly is extremely important. SWARM is an intense experience, and it will take time and practice before you’re zipping around the level and taking out enemies like a sci-fi superhero. When you nail it, however, it’s supremely satisfying, and picking up the game for another run becomes a bit of an addiction as you try to not only be effective and deadly but also look stylish while doing so.
Although the core of the game, as described above, remains roughly the same, new weapons and abilities gradually give you the tools to mix things up – introducing elements like bullet time to make you feel even more like an unstoppable superhero. It’s like the recent Spiderman-like Yupitergrad, but on steroids. Gravity is never your friend though, and the danger of plummeting down to your death is as real as the danger that the invading aliens pose.
The audiovisual style for SWARM is something we’ve gotten used to within the VR sphere, with a look and feel that reminds us a bit of cell-shaded games like Yupitergrad, or XIII or Borderlands if you need a non-VR example. It works great for a game like this for several reasons, and of course a key factor is that it helps keep the performance up – crucial for a high mobility game like this. It also helps with the frantic on-screen action, because the high contrast in the visuals makes it way easier to pick out targets in a split second than it would have been with more realistic graphics.
SWARM may not be doing things we haven’t seen elsewhere, but it’s a highly polished VR experience that’s hard to fault. It also works very well on the Quest because it allows you to move around without wires, which is a big plus as well.