Back in December, I got my first taste of Gunheart and it was a welcome surprise. With such a high volume of VR shooters out there bringing me to near fatigue, I braced for one more. I’m glad I did, as what Drifter Entertainment has produced with Gunheart is pure enjoyment. Too often, I see desktop players hoping to join in the fun on VR-only titles, but mostly to no avail. Gunheart, however, makes sure everyone can play, whether it be with the Vive, Rift, Windows MR and yes, even just on a desktop. What makes it even better is that everyone can play together!
The ability to have this sort of cross-play isn’t entirely new, so why be so excited about it? Most instances in the past have been games that were built with the desktop in mind first and VR either second or added later. Gunheart rather is built from the ground up for VR, but also with desktop play. Again though, not a first so why prattle on about it? Simply put, it’s the first instance where I can confidentially say that all parties involved will be happy with the outcome.
Be Still My Beating (Gun)Heart
Let’s back up for a second, and get to what exactly Gunheart is. At its core, it is a co-op RPG shooter where players take control of robotic bounty hunters on Planet Fortune. Guess what you’re there to do, make a few bucks of course! With 10 unique weapons and over 40 different modifications, players can customize their arsenal. What does that matter though unless you look good, too? There are a plethora of cosmetic items to be found, so not only can your combination of weapons and mods be unique, but so can you. With all these kinds of customization options available, players might get a bit of a Borderlands type vibe from the game.
After some initial instructions from your employers on Planet Fortune, Palco, players start out at the Bent Horizon bar. This a hub/social area where you can not only meet up with other bounty hunters but also modify and buy more weapons, take on missions, as well as collect loot from successful endeavors. While it might not sound like much at first, there are 9 campaign and 11 challenge missions available. Each of these though can be replayed, not just in regular fashion but with Elite Mode and Speed Run options available. To keep players coming back for more, there are also a set of weekly missions to try your hand at. So while on numbers alone it might not seem like quite a lot, there is plenty of replayability to be had.
So it’s a co-op shooter, what if you want to be a lone wolf? If having some random player join your game isn’t something you look forward to, players can always choose to start a mission and mark it as “friends only”. This should keep things in order at the very least. If you don’t want to go at it solo, then up to 3 players can take on any mission together. This is extremely helpful, especially for Elite missions. With drop-in/drop-out and dynamic difficulty, it always ensures a fun but still challenging time.
With the cross-play function, you may be wondering about controls. The VR controls with the Vive are well done. There are a plethora of locomotion options that should accommodate nearly anyone’s preferences. When it comes to the desktop, the majority of the controls should be easy to pick up with as they are similar to most modern shooters. The cool feature though is the ability to teleport with the desktop version as well. There is certainly a big effort to keep the control schemes feeling level between how the game is being played. For the most part, it is. On the desktop, the biggest issue I had was with the multi-tool that players can use to pick up objects. It’s very hard to maneuver with a mouse and keyboard while holding onto something and likewise throwing an object if certainly off from one’s gun sights. Overall though, they really did a great job of not making it feel like there is just one truly superior way to play. There may be some difference, but none that really swing the balance to one control method.
Playing Well With Others
I keep bringing up the cross-play aspect, but it really is important in a lot of little ways for continued success. For successful co-op and PvP, there needs to be players to play with. I didn’t get to spend lots of time in PvP, but let’s just say with regular movement and teleporting, things can get fast and a bit wild in a hurry. This has been one of the more problematic areas with VR PvP to date with any game, sustaining enough players. Obviously, the desktop player base is going to have a much larger pool of potential players. Will this lead to more saturated servers? That will remain to be seen, the effort to give all control types a level playing field will only help here as well as perceived advantages/disadvantages tend to chase players off.
Overall I’m really impressed with Gunheart. It’s easy to get caught up in the importance of the cross-play aspect, but the game itself is great fun. It’s a solid shooter, which some great mechanics and customization that should keep players engaged for quite some time, at the very least long enough to get their money’s worth. Which way do I prefer to play, though? There’s such a gorgeous world built here and it’s hard to really beat the immersion factor you get playing this in VR. I may prefer the VR experience, but I’d also never feel that I was really missing out if I could only play on a desktop, and that’s no small feat.
*** A PC code was provided by the publisher ***
- Great visuals
- Cross-platform play
- Lots of options
- Minor control issues
- Uncertain playerbase