It’s a widely believed fact that games journalists hate video games. However, on the floor of Gamescom 2022, I may have made a discovery of significant scientific importance. I have discovered a video game that hates games journalists, or more specifically, hates me. This game is Hubris, the latest VR title from Cyborn B.V., which managed to break on me three times during a 25 minute preview. Despite this, I had a pretty great time with it. Better yet, Hubris feels like exactly the kind of game VR needs.
It’s important to stress that bugs in preview builds are rarely anything to worry about and should not be held against the finished game. In fact, all three errors were brand new to the devs too, despite playtesting it before they arrived and two days’ worth of previews having previously gone off without a hitch. Across from me another journalist was able to play with no issues either. It’s not a reflection on the game’s quality. It’s a reflection on how much it hates me.
If I had to make a serious guess, I think I knocked a wire loose in my headset, which would account for two of the three little bugs, and the third was just an unfortunate crash wedged in the middle. That, or it despises me. I mean take your guess. Moving on from crashes that I definitely caused, Hubris’ value is less in what the game is, which is a pretty solid space shooter, and more in what it represents, which is the best looking VR game that doesn't cost you three grand.
If you want to show anyone at a party what VR is, we have games for that. Beat Saber and a handful of others specialise in essentially acting as a spiritual successor for the Wii. At the other end of the scale, it has its killer app. Half-Life: Alyx is the game you show people who doubt VR is capable of creating prestige triple-A games. The problem is it has nothing in the middle. VR is prohibitively expensive (and Half-Life even more so), but when you get it there’s not much of a reason for it to become your go to platform. Unless you want to mess about being a Jedi to the tune of Billie Eilish, VR doesn’t have enough to offer. Hubris won’t single-handedly fix the issue, but it has realised there is a gap in the market and has been able to fill it.
The game feels a lot like Halo: Combat Evolved. While I’m not sure it will leave as large a legacy (few games ever do), its cool black and blue environments and clean cut designs remind me of Master Chief’s first outing. Everything is there, it just needs to fit together. You can climb, swim, jump, put things in your backpack, and, of course, do a bit of classic video game shooting, and it might be the first time I’ve thought “Yeah, I’d probably play a bit of that at home”. It doesn’t sound like the wildest praise in the world, but I’ve covered and tested VR games a lot and never felt like that. I can’t help the sensation that VR is fundamentally still a gimmick. Hubris shows me there’s another way.
Climbing was responsive and could be mixed with sprints and jumps, while the backpack inventory (also accessed through tapping your wrist) added a nice sense of realism that VR menus can often lack. Swimming, however, felt like a miss. The game directed me to move my palms backwards, and also to make a swimming motion, despite these being two completely different ideas. Shake your hips seductively and act like you’re conducting a funeral. The weird palm swinging won out, and while the dev’s example had the player character zipping about like Katie Ledecky, I drifted like a peeled orange. Leaving aside the game’s hatred of me, that was the one downer on what feels like a promising game.
Hubris is a decent game on its own, but what’s far more interesting is what it represents for VR. It’s not alone in going after the middle ground in VR, but it’s the most accomplished attempt I’ve played yet, and I’m curious to see where it goes from here.
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