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Silicon Rising Early Access Review: An Unreal Sheen Can't Disguise Crippling Design Flaws

Silicon Rising is a looker, that much is true. From the glisten of rain-swept cyberpunk streets to meticulously detailed, dank warehouses and office spaces, the game carries that unmistakable Unreal Engine shimmer. But that gleam is only skin-deep.

Don’t let the lure of this light blind you to the game’s shallow and often crippling design issues. Out now in Early Access, Silicon Rising is a strange sort of first-person shooter; a wildly mixed bag of production values and high strung set pieces. Its cyberpunk world might be stunning to look at, but it’s also unmistakably hollow, static and stale, always kept at arms length for fear you might poke and prod at its rubber props.

I couldn’t tell you much about its premise; the dialogue is stiff and gruffly acted — oddly typical of gorgeous VR shooters that appear as if from thin air on Steam — not to mention filled with ugly translation mistakes. Diving head first into danger, our brave protagonist at one point informs an ally: “Bad news: They get Gia and I am on my way to save her”. In a sniper escort mission, my butch companion growls “one shot, one kill” as I take down an enemy… after missing the first five times.

The plot exists to shove you into an exhausting amount of dual-wielding shootouts against an unending army of identi-kit robots. Stay in a fixed position, shoot a set number of enemies pouring out from the same two or three positions, then move onto the next shooting gallery. Rinse and repeat.

What’s most puzzling is that, while Silicon Rising looks the part, its audio is severely lacking, with guns missing any sense of kick and busy streets completely robbed of any additional effects. Machines toil away in total silence and you’ll pass through the neon-drenched metropolis without even a hint of the atmosphere you might be hoping to glean.

Were these hiccups the end of the matter, Silicon Rising would at least be a passable, if utterly forgettable game. Dodging out of the way of bullets — only glowing ones hurt you while the rest are for show — and temporary weapon upgrades give it an arcade edge, which helps you to overlook the feather-light weapon handling however dated it might feel in 2020.

But mission design seems to have no regard for strategy or even sense; in one level you’re pelted with bullets by an aircraft. You can’t shoot it down but, for some reason, one of the points you teleport to leaves you completely exposed to its attacks from one side, while a barrage of enemies rush in from another. You’ll often find yourself caught out in the open like this and expected to perform miraculous feats of gymnastics to dodge bullets. It’s as if the game simply decides it’s time to die at some points.

To its credit there are a few diversions from the derivative core. One mission has you steering a car with one hand and while shooting out the windscreen with another, while a second sees you picking off sentries on a cruise ship from a safe distance with a sniper rifle.

Much like the rest of the game, though, they’re plagued with issues. Driving is unresponsive and the slightest bump with another vehicle or wall sends you either screeching to a halt or hurtling off into the air (also to clear traffic you have to shoot at innocent drivers to get them to steer out of the way which doesn’t seem very responsible). One wrong shot with the tricky sniper section, meanwhile, and you’ll need to replay the entire sequence from scratch.

Silicon Rising Early Access Review Final Verdict

Silicon Rising has an earnest ambition to deliver the kind of polished, story-driven shooter VR gamers were pining for in 2018 (which was around the time the game started development). But what’s here falls well short of the bar set by better games in the last two years. It’s better than, say, Reboant, but doesn’t even begin to compare to the likes of Boneworks or The Walking Dead.

If you’re looking for a cinematic agent-style action game for your VR headset, Defector is a better bet. Silicon Rising could drastically improve with some simple changes over the course of Early Access, but it needs far more work to give it any sort of meaningful substance.

This review was conducted on an Oculus Rift S using the Early Access Steam version of the game. Since it is still in Early Access a score is not rendered at this time.

Silicon Rising is available on Steam now for $19.99.

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