Tristan GreeneEditor, Neural by TNW
Tristan is a futurist covering human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: Tristan is a futurist covering human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: He/him
I Expect You To Die is one of the most beloved, successful, and critically acclaimed virtual reality games of all time. So you’ll have to excuse me for being a bit worried about a sequel that shows up after five years.
In the VR world, five years is the difference between two or three different generations of hardware. I’d like to think VR gamers have come a long way since the days when we could be satiated by a seated experience that relies on clever writing and simple mechanics to delight and awe us.
I’d like to think that. But I don’t. Because, no matter how far VR goes, it’s obvious to me that I Expect You To Die 2: The Spy and the Liar is always going to be fun.
Schell Games’ excellent follow up to its initial smash hit is nothing short of brilliant. It’s top-notch in almost every way. And, if I’m being honest, the things it does wrong are more indicative of limitations on the platform than the developers’ ability.
I Expect You To Die 2 is a seated VR experience that puts you in the virtual shoes of a secret agent trying to stop evil.
Players manipulate objects, solve puzzles, and try to stay alive (key word being try). As the title implies, this is a rouge-like game: you’re going to die. A lot.
I could expand on its game world or tell you about the amazing cast – Will Wheaton stars as one of the main characters and Puddles the clown (AGT fans will know who I’m talking about) sings the opening theme – but instead, I’ll just tell you about the experience.
And don’t worry, there are no spoilers ahead.
The game tasks you with solving various problems over six different missions. You’ll have to unlock doors, find secret codes, defend yourself from attackers, and try not to blow your cover.
This plays out in a few different ways, but most of it plays on common sense.
In the tutorial, for example, you’re tasked with tossing bombs inside of a safe so they can be safely detonated.
It’s pretty intuitive – you can’t use the remote detonator if the safe isn’t closed all the way, for example – and it lends nicely to understanding the idea of trying to solve the game’s puzzles like you might if you were really there.
I Expect You To Die 2 has the usual floating hands that can grasp, pull, push, turn, throw, and hold objects. But it takes things a step further and allows you manipulate objects via telekinesis and to freeze objects in space.
This led to some really cool problem-solving opportunities. I kept getting peppered with arrows in one stage until I grabbed some objects and suspended them in the air around me. It made it nearly impossible to see, but it gave me enough time to figure out how to fight back. It’s stumbling on solutions like this that makes the game fun.
The audio is excellent and the voice-acting is fantastic. The graphics are suitable and, thankfully, stylized.
VR struggles with the uncanny valley more than other visual mediums, but here a hip, throwback cartoony vibe makes the game seem like it has higher fidelity graphics than it actually does. I tested the game on PSVR running on a PS4 Pro and it looked and played great.
I was particularly impressed with the never-ending appearance of little touches here and there. Most VR games, for example, will litter the world with objects that have squiggly lines to represent writing. If something in this game has writing on it, you can actually read it.
Other things I really enjoyed about this game include the amount of content (you’ll replay the six missions over and over trying to solve them) and the accessibility.
This is about as mild a VR experience as you can get, physically speaking. There aren’t many flashing lights, your character doesn’t walk, run, or fly anywhere, and there’s also no jump scares.
I Expect You To Die 2 relies on clever writing, delightful humor, sophisticated puzzles, and solid gameplay to deliver a wonderful VR experience.
It’s a clear contender for best VR title of 2021.
But it’s not without issue. The controls are good – but how good will depend on your platform. If you’re playing on PSVR, for example, you’ll want to make darn sure your camera can see your hands as clearly as possible.
I found myself fumbling around on the floor beneath my real office chair after dropping virtual items on the ground several times, something which occasionally caused my controllers to stop tracking at the worst possible times.
This is more of an industry problem than a game specific one, but it bears mentioning for those who don’t have a lot of placement options for their VR setup. As far as I know, there’s no option to use a regular gamepad to play this game – it requires motion controllers.
That being said, I’m hard-pressed to think of anything else about I Expect You To Die 2 that I don’t like. It’s definitely my new go-to when it comes to introducing new VR players to the platform. It’s comfortable, fun as hell, and brilliantly done.
I Expect You To Die 2 is available now on Oculus, PCVR, and PSVR.
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