A New Bar for Graphics & Interactions on Quest 2

Coming out in just two weeks, Red substance 2 promises to step up from its already acclaimed predecessor, this time built from the ground up to look as good as possible on Quest 2. We’ll have to try the game to see how it develops before release.

Developer Vertical Robot has boldly claimed that Red substance 2 will be the best-looking (realistically styled) game on Quest 2, and from what we’ve played so far, it looks like they’re well on their way to making it a reality. In many ways Red substance 2 running on Quest 2 looks as good or sometimes better than many lesser PC VR titles, which is no small feat given the platform’s performance limitations.

‘Good graphics’ is a really broad term; it’s not just about how high resolution the textures are or how many polygons are on the screen. It is a synergy of both technical and artistic effort that makes the graphics look good.

And Red substance 2 really delivers on that. Not only is the game crisp and full of graphical details like reflections and lighting, there’s also a very well-executed art direction, with some rooms looking so visually distinct and with such amazing lighting that you’d swear the studio hired an architect in the place of a game environment artist.

The game has a distinct retro-futuristic feel, combining 60s sci-fi sensibilities with brutalist architecture, leading to many impressive-looking rooms that would be the perfect villain’s lair from an old international spy thriller.

Image courtesy of Vertical Robot

But when it comes to VR, it’s never just about looks. For the world to feel immersive, it must also be interactive. And it is another place where Red substance 2 clearly understood the task.

Vertical Robot has continued to lean on their ingenious ‘grabber’ tools – which they pioneered in the original red fabric –as a basis for interaction in the game. In short, in the game you have a multi-tool that appearance much like the controller that is in your hands in real life. The tool can switch between grabbing, scanning, hacking and a flashlight. It’s surprising to say, but having ‘grabbers’ that look like your controllers feels far more immersive than using virtual ‘hands’ to interact with things in the game.

The reason for the extra immersion is twofold: First, because there is a tool between you and the object, you don’t expect to feel the kind of haptics that you would if you were grabbing the object with your actual fingers (and thus realism is preserved). And second, since you can’t deftly manipulate and precisely target virtual objects with yours actual fingers, the grippers much more accurately represent the coarse input limitations of your VR motion controllers. Honestly, it’s amazing that many more VR games don’t use this approach.

With your multitool in hand, almost anything that looks like you could interact with it can actually be picked up and played with. And that’s a big plus because, in short, the core of the gameplay Red fabric 2 is true interacts.

And if you can not actually picks something up, there’s a very good chance you can use your scanner tool to scan it for additional information. And aside, Red substance 2 may have the best paper physics I’ve yet seen in a VR game – little details like that really add up!

To that end, the studio has done a great job of creating satisfying interactions that are fun to perform. You must press buttons, turn buttons and pull levers, all to solve environmental puzzles that move you through the game and develop the story.

The game is not just puzzling… there’s some action in there too, but I can’t talk about that yet.

From what I’ve played Red substance 2 so far (about a quarter of the game by my count) it’s been a very impressive experience that stands out from the rest of Quest 2’s mostly arcade-y library. It feels a lot like a PC VR game that just happens to run on Quest 2. And for Quest 2 players who wanted it Lone Echo would have reached the headset, Red substance 2 feels like the next best thing given its pace and focus on immersion and interaction.

If I had to give the game a rating from what I’ve played so far, it would be an obvious thumbs up. But the big question is whether the gameplay will stay fresh throughout the game or become stale, and whether the story will feel integral to the experience or just a superficial backdrop for puzzles.

You can find out in our full review when Red substance 2 launches on Quest 2 and PC VR on August 18.

William

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