Hands-On: Archangel is a VR rail shooter with a huge mech twist

Skydance Interactive is fairly new to the VR scene. the trailer for their first VR game, Archangel just made it’s debut a few days ago. It’s a cool trailer, so we were excited to get our hands on it at E3 2017.

As you can probably ascertain from the trailer, you’re controlling a giant robot. You'll be shooting, blocking, and punching foes by the hundreds as you trudge through broken American cities. It’s a very game-friendly premise, and does a good job of emulating what I’d imagine it would be like to drive one of the Kaiju busting suits from Pacific Rim.

It does that with a great attention to detail, especially when it comes to the construction of the suit, and the movement you are allowed. When you pull your arms in front of the viewscreen there’s a very satisfying, tiny delay between your movement and the response of your giant avatar, and great care was taken to have the response time appropriate for an incredibly heavy arm as opposed to yours. It doesn’t feel frustratingly slow, but adds to the immersion in a subtle but effective way.

The VR aspect helps with this too obviously, and the mech suit is fully rendered. That means you can turn around and see the entire cockpit. You can lean forward and see the gears and pistons whirring as you move forward. Everything about the mech is precisely crafted, and that makes a really fun virtual reality to explore.

The joy of piloting a fantastic looking giant death machine is easily my favorite part of Archangel.

A mech rail shooter

The shooting in the one level I played was certainly entertaining, but also a little on the simple side. You begin with shields on both your arms, used for deflecting enemy projectiles. You’re then given a machine gun on your right arm, which behaves pretty much exactly how you’d expect a giant machine gun to behave. It’s great for cutting down lesser enemies, and acts as your primary weapon.

About halfway through the level you’re given a rocket launcher, and that’s certainly satisfying. Your enemies consist of easily destroyed unarmored personnel which pose very little threat, tanks that can take a bit more of a beating and shoot missiles, and more agile flying units that take a few rockets to take down. I’m looking forward to some variety in enemy types in the final build. Though there is some strategy to blocking projectiles and prioritizing targets, by the end of the level it felt a bit too much like a shooting gallery.

This could easily be improved with more dynamic enemies, and a heavier emphasis on multi-tasking, which I’m sure will be part of the completed product.

In addition to your guns, your fists are also weapons, and one of my favorite things in Archangel was punching through bridges. Smashing giant bricks of concrete with a hyper power fist of death is exactly as fun as it sounds. An emphasis on this physicality would certainly be appreciated, I smiled every time I got to do it.

Movement in Archangel

Other than the control of what you see and your arms, movement is handled by the game. This is an on rails shooter, and though that’s perfectly fine, I couldn’t help but think about how cool it would be to be able to move in any direction I wanted. I know this is a completely different game that would require substantially more production time, but it really would be amazing. The sense of control in this powerful mech is the core of the fun of Archangel, and adding the element of movement would make it truly stand out.

Also, it would allow me to punch buildings in a giant robot, and any game that lets me do that will immediately be my favorite game ever for all time.

Maybe in the sequel!

A Promising Concept

Archangel has some excellent ideas, and I can’t wait to see how the finished product adds to those. The elements of a truly fun VR experience are here, and some of them are already fully accounted for. The mech itself is AWESOME, I don't think there’s a better word, and that makes it worth experiencing already. I’m sure it will only get better.

Couple the excellent sense of immersion and attention to detail  with more complex gameplay and more concrete smashing, and Skydance Interactive might have the next VR hit on their very large, robotic hands.

Archangel will officially launch in July for an exclusive two-week window on PSVR before it releases on other VR platforms.

Check out our full E3 2017 coverage.