First-Person RTS

HIGH Finishing off a tank with a manually-thrown grenade.

LOW The whole desert map, really.

WTF How weirdly deadly medics are.


 

VR as a medium is still figuring out exactly how it’s going to fit pre-existing genres into its mold. How, for example to handle cutscenes that provide vital visual information while the player is free to just stare at the floor? Out of Ammo addresses a similar limitation of the RTS genre. Historically the camera looks straight down at the action, and the player is in charge of putting up the best possible defense while enemies skulk around outside the camera’s view, crafting sinister plans. How, then, does that mechanic work when the player is standing sixty feet over the field, free to look at any part of the map with a glance or press of a button?

Out of Ammo‘s answer is to swamp the player with so many foes that they’re barely able to keep up with their surroundings. It’s hectic, and it’s kind of a mess, but if players can keep their heads on straight and plan their defenses properly, it can even be a little joyous.

An RTS/FPS hybrid, Out of Ammo‘s main mode puts players in the role of a hovering commander in charge of defending one of six different locations. After a minute of preparation, enemies start to attack and they never let up, rushing in a few at a time at a rate of roughly three waves per minute. The player has only two things on their side – a constant resupply of troops and structures brought in by helicopters every minute or so, and the ability to jump into any troop and manually fire weapons at the encroaching blocky hordes.

The strategy part of the design works fairly well. Players can station troops – snipers, soldiers, rocket troopers – anywhere they like, either out in the open, or in the structures that engineers can build. When enemies approach, the soldiers will automatically fire at anyone in range, so it’s the player’s job to constantly reposition the troops to make sure they’re ready for incoming attacks, while also ensuring that the support troops responsible for keeping the fighters alive don’t get wiped out. It’s very basic as RTSs go – just three main unit types, a couple of emplacements, and only a handful of enemy varieties. The challenge – and the pleasure – is in the way Out of Ammo keeps the pressure up right from the start by sending a constant torrent of foes and ensuring that there’s never time to do anything but triage and call in the occasional airstrike before it’s time to jump manually into the fray again.

At any time, the player can take control of any troop. They’ll see through their POV and hold whatever weapon is in their hands. This is a vitally important tactic because AI allies aren’t fantastic shots, and it’s almost always a good idea to help them out by getting into a skirmish and gunning down a wave of enemy troops or wiping out a tank with a well-placed RPG round. The game would be considerably easier if players could remain inside their ground troops indefinitely, so the devs use the titular restrictions to keep the player in check. Every soldier has a limit to the number of rounds they can fire before the player is forcibly kicked from their body, and a cooldown starts before one can be used again.

This time limit on active ground-level participation adds an extra level of strategy. Should players have one or two troops covering every possible approach, so that they can jump anywhere at any time, even though that takes their eye off the state of the camp? Or should they concentrate troops in the highest-traffic areas, and then leave a small number of troops at the other approaches, knowing that they’ll have to handle any surprise attacks single-handed? The eight different levels all have vastly different layouts with a wide variety of enemy formations, ensuring that each one requires a different strategy if players are going to last more than a few minutes.

The only real objective in Out of Ammo is surviving as long as possible, and enemy waves will increase in frequency and strength until the player’s base finally falls. This time can be extended by bringing along additional players – having accurate shooters on the ground while a decent strategist arranges the base is the optimal way to play. There are also a couple of extra single-player modes. In one, players provide sniper overwatch cover for soldiers awaiting extraction, and there’s another where they have to teleport around a playfield, scrounging ammo and shooting enemies. Both are solid expansions on the main game’s premise, especially since it’s visually interesting to spend extensive time at ground level in a blocky world drawn with basic colours and minimal textures. They’re all simple shooting modes, though – for all its charms, Out of Ammo doesn’t have much depth.

The game’s biggest problem, however, is how clearly it was designed for room-scale VR with 360 degree tracking. Out of Ammo demands that the player constantly spin to keep an eye on different parts of the base, stoop down to place a machine gun nest, or step over to a tower to take control of a sniper. Constantly turning and leaning to accomplish tasks is required, and it’s incredibly easy to lose track of where the camera is – and understandably, this often causes the camera to lose tracking.

Pressing controller buttons allows players to spin 90 degrees to the left or right, which is a great idea in theory. In practice, suddenly having the entire base shift around the player’s feet is quite disorienting. The whole game is built around the player developing and keeping situational awareness, so constantly spinning the whole world makes that difficult. If the developers patch in smooth rotation at some point I imagine this will be mitigated somewhat, but for now, I’d guess that it plays much more smoothly on the Vive, where turning and tracking aren’t issues.

Out of Ammo can provide thrilling RTS action, both in single and multiplayer modes. It’s never been this easy to keep track of a base and get right into the action, and there’s enough variety in all of the freeplay levels to keep strategy and action fans busy for a while. The lack of objectives or any kind of mission structure does hurt the game, though, and the lack of a clear goal to shoot for makes the whole thing feel a little too basic. Still, Out of Ammo suggests interesting new developments for the RTS genre, and I’d be interested to see a more fully-featured effort. Rating: 6 out of 10


 

Disclosures: This game is developed by Rocketwerkz and published by Zen Studios. It is currently available on Oculus, Vive, and PSVR. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PSVR. Approximately 4 hours of play were devoted  to the single-player mode, and the game is not complete-able. 1 hour was spent on multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Blood and Violence.  The game isn’t too bad. Enemies shoot out voxels of blood when struck, while explosions blow them to pieces and headshots send their skulls bouncing to the ground. It’s grisly, but in a cute and silly way, no a lot scarier than Minecraft, really.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: You’ll be missing out on audio cues letting you know when new enemies waves and resupply helicopters are coming, so the game will be more difficult. Also, the text cannot be resized.

Remappable Controls: No. It is played with two single motion controllers.

 

Daniel Weissenberger

Daniel Weissenberger

What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died?

Nothing relevant to this conversation, that's for sure! Because we're here to talk about (sorry, write and read about, respectively) GC_Danny, who's updating this profile for the first time in thirteen years!

So let's take a gander back at that time and see what's happened! In addition to writing hundreds of video game reviews, Dan produced a book that can be legally purchased by almost anyone! He also wrote two short films, two episodes of television, and two movies! Although, sadly, and through much fault of his own, the movies have yet to be released.

In addition to general game reviewing, he's also dabbled in more long-form work, writing some of the longest and most comprehensive game reviews of all time. Then there's his non-GameCritics blogging, where he's famous as the world's foremost expert on the TV show Criminal Minds, as well as the co-host of a weekly podcast - he's even working on a new videogame/critical experiment, which you can find out more about here!

If all that wasn't enough, just a few months ago he rebranded himself as 'The Hidden Object Guru', hoping to stake another claim of ultimate expertise, this time over a genre of casual games! Will he be successful? Only time will tell, but you're free to join the thrilling ride at his YouTube channel!
Daniel Weissenberger

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