If you ask the HTC Vive community what games they recommend picking up for the device, you'll commonly see Final Approach listed. A quick trip to its Steam Store page reveals an air traffic control-style strategy game that doesn't particularly stand out from the sea of other titles available on Steam. But those who overlook it are making a mistake, as it's currently one of the best titles available for virtual reality.
I won't forget the first time I played Final Approach. The game initially threw me on an island location equipped with a few runways and hangars. The preview images on the Steam Store simply didn't convey what the game would look like in virtual reality. It was as if my office transformed into a tropical paradise and I was watching the action from above as planes and helicopters flew around me. My first instinct was to try and touch one. I was met with a haptic vibration from the controller that replied to my action with tangible feedback, offering me a convincing presence within the scene.
As impressed as I was with interaction with the world from a third-person perspective, I was soon embraced by a transition from the sky to the ground. These transitions allowed me to go from directing traffic from above to directly aiding it, whether it was spraying water onto a fiery engine or tossing outbound luggage into the correctly matching containers. This perspective change was the single most mind-blowing thing I had experienced during my first three days using virtual reality. And trust me, I was impressed with countless moments before playing Final Approach.
This ability to play in both third-person and first-person made me feel like I really was an air traffic god, or commander if you will, watching from above and choosing the fate of all the vehicles flying around you, before rushing in to provide assistance. So long was the requirement of using a joystick or mouse to guide my perspective as I could move around in a full 3D environment, allowing me to stand up and see everything below me, or get on my knees and zoom in on each individual vehicle to inspect it. It was like I was a kid again, sitting in my room with all my toys, but this time I didn't have to rely on only my imagination to constitute a world outside of my own.
As with many games in virtual reality, even the most simple interactions in Final Approach are amazing. Action boils down to being able option to route air traffic to their destination, which includes both takeoff and landing in addition to directing vehicles to places for repair and storage. It's a type of strategy gameplay that just wouldn't be all that interesting in a standard flat-screen game, but in VR it's unexplainably wonderful.
Beyond that, Final Approach is unlike most currently available VR games in that it offers several missions to complete with varying locales. This results in the game lasting for somewhere between four to six hours, a much better figure than I've gotten from other comparably priced titles.
Final Approach shows tremendous promise for the future of strategy style games in virtual reality. The genre is so much more intuitive and pleasant to interact with in virtual reality space. At this point, what I want is to play is a Black & White–style game on HTC Vive, as I could see that being compelling.
Final Approach is by no means a perfect game; in particular, it becomes repetitive after a short period of time and relies heavily on its multiple locations to stay fresh for anywhere near its full campaign duration. However, in the context of a launch-window title on first-generation hardware, it is a huge success and certainly more exciting than anything I played during the launch month of my PlayStation 4 or Wii U. For that, it deserves praise.