Budget Cuts: Simple & Sweet VR Stealth Game – Hands-On Preview [BitSummit 2016]

Budget Cuts caught my eye not just because of how relevant its title is to my life right now, but because I’d never played a a VR stealth game. I had my doubts, but Neat Corporation’s Unity-developed “sneak-em-up” had me not wanting to quit. This, I learned, is why they pick big, tough people as security guards at places like BitSummit.

When I was told it was about sneaking, I was concerned about movement, because with VR, I’ve seen cables to be a problem. PC (via HTC Vive) exclusive Budget Cuts solves this my having players launch out a little ball, then press a button to teleport to that location. It’s a simple solution that works well in practice.

As I stealthily moved around my environment, I solved puzzles in order to progress I located a key for a safe, disabled some kind of electric barrier, and so on. I’d then face nasty patrol robots, or rather, my throwing knives would deal with them. After whipping a knife or two into unsuspecting robots’ backs, I realized why my cable guy had been so careful to secure the straps on the HTC Vive’s control wands. Didn’t want a Wii situation.

Though my navigation was as simple as opening drawers and piecing together a figurative two-and-two, it felt extremely satisfying. Like Cosmic Trip, another VR game I’d played with excellent control and handling, felt completely natural after the first couple of minutes.

It also drove home the point that the human subconscious is incredibly powerful and incredibly stupid. Despite the cartoony look of the virtual world I was in and despite knowing full well that I was playing a video game and not even my first or second VR game of the day my brain was convinced that I was there, and I could feel my body reacting.

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The strongest example of this happened on top of a table. I warped myself into a position standing atop a desk. I looked down to see the desk at my feet with the floor below it, and instantly my legs reacted as if I were actually standing on a real desk. That sense of extra balance you tend to only feel when you need it most came out in full force. I knew nothing was out of the ordinary, but my mind didn’t. This VR shit is out of control.

My time with Budget Cuts was shorter than I’d have liked, and I moved at a more leisurely pace than that of the embedded trailer above, but I got enough of a taste to know that it’s one hell of a game. Its gameplay is simple, but feels new because of the technology. In that way, we might some day, 30 years from now, look back at games like Budget Cuts as pioneers of their time mechanics that seem so basic to our giant, advanced future brains, but revolutionized the way we game. Might. Don’t come back and beat me up 30 years from now, if I’m wrong.

There’s not much to the official website, but it’s here.

Also, for fun, here’s the caution poster that was in front of a booth of VR games at BitSummit: