I’m in a car, an old-timey one—a Studebaker, perhaps. My helpful assistant Wigglesworth (that’s what I chose to call him) informs me I’ve only precious minutes to escape a deathtrap on four wheels. The owner of this vehicle is my nemesis, Dr. Zorr, and I am an elite spy, a member of the Secret Agency Group.
I notice a key above my head nuzzled in the driver side visor. I grab it, put in the ignition, and turn the switch. The car doesn't start, but a retina scan informs me I am not Zorr, and then a laser aimed right at my head drops from the visor. I look to the backseat and see a gun which is useless against lasers. I lower my head to avoid getting zapped only to find at the floor of the vehicle near the brake pedal, a bomb with a timer. The countdown begins.
Quickly, I find a knife in the glove compartment and, thankfully, find a note of how to arm a bomb. I follow this information backwards… So I’ve avoided deactivating the bomb (and a killer laser), which means, I’m safe for the next thirty seconds. As I look around my future coffin I see more dangers like a poisonous scorpion. And on, and on, and on.
I Expect You to Die (the title comes from 007's own Goldfinger, himself) is, quite simply, a ton of virtual fun, but it wasn’t always like this for me. I had yet to be sucked into the world of VR before being (almost) blown to bits playing the spy-themed puzzle game made Schell Games for the Oculus Rift. Previously, I had found the helmet heavy, the motion slightly uneasy, and the monitor, well, it felt like a big screen too close my eyeballs. That was two years ago. Boy, how things have improved.
The magic—yes, that’s sort of what it this felt like—is that I believed the situation, the direness of it. The full game will have a number of levels in which the player must escape. (I only saw the car level.) After a quick tutorial to learn how to use the Oculus controllers, which feels like a Dualshock 4 split into two halves, I was quickly fussing with paper, grabbing a drink of champagne, all virtually. And it never got old.
Although there is a ton you can interact with there was at least one “huh?” moment, albeit a quick one. Eventually, I needed to get the center dashboard open (see above). There were four screws. I took the knife I used to cut the wires on the bomb, but was quickly informed by Wigglesworth “that’s probably not a good idea…” So the game told me there was another way.
There was a screwdriver right outside of the car that once I pulled down the window I could grab telepathically, but that meant toxic fumes would enter the vehicle. I was able to get the tool, unscrew the plate, and eventually drive the car away in triumph. The knife not being able to be used was a tiny immersion breaker, but I am thankful Wigglesworth told me not to keep trying.
I Expect You to Die is a smart VR game in that there’s no need, at least so far, to use my feet. There was an instance near the end where I moved my feet to touch the gas pedal, but that is proof of how immersed I was. Don’t mistake me, as evidenced by the screenshots, this isn’t the most realistic-looking game. Truthfully, most of the VR games I’ve seen at PAX East look first-generation Xbox 360 era, but it doesn’t matter.
There’s a kind of mental trick going on in a VR world like this one. I set a piece of paper on fire with a lighter and I swear I could smell it burning. On the other hand, there’s the sense of the fantastic, like pointing your hand at an object just out of reach and using one of the control sticks to pull it in towards you. Like I said, magical. No release date is set yet, but the rep for Schell said they were hoping for by the end of 2016.