Call of the Mountain Review
Call of the Mountain is a landmark VR game on several fronts. It is the first Sony First Party PSVR2 game and is the PSVR2 launch showcase game. Call of the Mountain also serves as a VR game introduction to VR virgins. And it is a side story expansion of the Horizon Zero Dawn franchise. To pull off all these feats, Sony called on its big developer guns, Guerilla Games and Firesprite, developers of the PSVR1 game – The Persistence – to handle these challenges.
With the launch of Sony’s next foray into VR with the PSVR2, Call of the Mountain has huge shoes to fill. For their second kick at the VR can, Sony opted not to go with their team mascot, in all but name, Astrobot. At a cursory glance, the decision to bypass the more family friendly Astro in favor of Call of the Mountain is puzzling. However, it turns out Sony’s aim is to strut the capabilities of the PSVR2. Accessible as Astrobot is, it does not have the same graphical flair as a Horizon game. Sony’s decision to choose Call of the Mountain as their flagship PSVR2 augers well for their VR roadmap. The lush jungle environments and dizzying mountain regions of the game allow for unbelievable visuals.
Call of The Mountain Is AAA VR Gaming
VR Gaming has been stuck in a rut the last couple of years. VR Gamers want games on the same level and depth as those in pancake AAA titles. While the Meta Quest 2 introduced VR to the widest audience to date, it has to be noted the PSVR1 comes in second, an unfortunate consequence has been the death of AAA VR Games. As a standalone headset, the Quest 2 cannot handle the graphical horsepower needed to run AAA games.
So the VR gaming market has floundered and a lot of VR Gamers are looking to the PSVR2 to kick start the VR Gaming market again. With the power of a PS5 behind it, coupled with the Foveated Rendering and Eye Tracking tech, it poised the PSVR2 to herald the return of AAA Gaming. And Call of the Mountain is certainly a great shot across the bow.
The game is indeed a graphical showcase of the PSVR2’s capabilities. With its OLED panels and HDR, never has a game looked so vibrant. The lush green foliage and lighting of the game is the best ever seen in a VR headset. The sun in the sky can be blinding and its rays pierce the thick foliage, casting the ground in patches of clearly delineated light and shadow.
Then there’s the VR sense of scale. My goodness, Call of the Mountain is the perfect vehicle to show that scale off. Not just in the dinosaurs, but the world itself. It’s a jaw dropping moment when a Tall Neck lumbers across your path. You literally crane your head back, looking up at the ceiling to take in the view. Seeing the true scale of all the dinosaurs is amazing. Not to be outdone are the vistas. As implied by the game’s name, they set it in the mountains, which allows for many breath-taking vistas.
Tools of Climbing
The bulk of the gameplay is the traversal across these mountains using hand holds, Tomb Raider-ish pickaxes, a grappling hook, and strategically placed ropes. The views from these sections is vertiginous. If you have a fear of heights, this game will either cure or acerbate it. As someone not great with heights, the game kept my interest for sure.
You may find the amount of climbing too much, so I recommend you take full advantage of the areas where you can explore. Each one offers up some diversion, be it banging drums, wall painting, or a training hub. There is an excellent amount of interactivity with the environments, another VR staple. The training hub allows you to match your bow and arrow skills against those of Horizon star, Aloy.
Speaking of the bow, it is your primary weapon. With the eye tracking, you’ll feel like a regular Robin Hood in no time. The haptics of the PSVR2 Sense Controllers come into play here, as you can feel the tension and release of the bow. You can also craft arrows with different payloads that are done in game and with no obtrusive menus. It’s a slick VR implementation.
Every game platform has its limitations and the combat mechanics of the flat game version of Horizon in VR is one of them. Short of an actual Holodeck, there is no good way to implement Horizon combat in VR. Instead, they created a really suitable compromise. When you go into combat, the game locks you into a ring of movement. You can circle the combat area in both directions, which gives a great sense of mobility without becoming disorientating.
Shortness of Breadth
The game clocks in around 8 to 9 hours if you partake in the side activities. If you focus on just the storyline, you could rush through it in 6 to 7 hours. For all the great things the game accomplishes, this length will be a bit of a letdown. For true AAA VR Games, players expect the game to provide 15 to 20 hours at least.
The opening section with the on rails boat ride makes for an excellent showcase for VR newbies. It’s also a major step up from the Underwater Adventure used for the PSVR1. In that one, it lowered you into the ocean to look and marvel at the flora and fauna until a shark shows up.
Amazing as the virtual world is, it is not without flaws. Items in the distance are soft in appearance. It’s a minor blemish that fortunately does not diminish the visuals. A little more noticeable, if you choose smooth turning, is judder. It only occurs when turning but, thankfully, not when you move your head. You can negate the problem by choosing snap turning.
Never has there been a world as detailed and vibrant as the one of Call of the Mountain. Vegetation sways in the breeze, you can run your hand in water, and feel it. You can also feel branches as you push them aside. Most items in the environment are interactive, you can even push the grass around that grows on cliff sides! Plus, you can feel the thumping of dinosaurs from the headset. It’s a wonderful extra layer of immersion.
A Big Step for AAA VR Gaming
Overall, this is an excellent first foray for Sony with the PSVR2. Hopefully, this game is but a first step into AAA VR Games for PSVR2. If Sony adopts a policy of including VR Modes for all their First Party AAA Games, aka hybrid gaming, gamers are in for awesome times ahead.
*** PS5 code provided by the publisher ***
Horizon in real world scale
Great use of VR
Lots of climbing
Linear game path
Smooth turning jitters