Since it launched more than year ago (how time flies!) Sony’s PlayStation VR has attracted a number of incredibly fun, polished, and often experimental first person shooters. Many early adopters will be familiar with Until Dawn: Rush of Blood and its arcade, on-rails shooting as well as RIGS and its sports-like mech battles.
Throughout 2017 we’ve seen a steady trickle of shooters, punctuated by games like Farpoint, Arizona Sunshine, Starblood Arena and Superhot VR among plenty of low key releases. After a long run up through Early Access on HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, Raw Data has joined that lineup as one of the best, most enjoyable PlayStation VR titles.
Billed as a “technothriller”, Raw Data goes in surprisingly hard on its story and setting. For a game that essentially boils down to frenzied, wave-based shooting, Survios has made a huge effort to flesh out its futuristic dystopian world. As a member of the amusingly named SyndiK8 you infiltrate the offices of Eden Corp, looking to expose and thwart its sinister schemes by stealing Raw Data. It’s hardly an original premise and while much of the story is purely optional, those who want to extract some interesting nuggets of lore can indulge in the game’s secondary narrative layer.
There are four resistance members assigned to the mission, each with their own unique weapons, abilities, and upgrades. Naturally, each has an impact on how Raw Data plays. Elder’s bow requires you to draw and loose arrows using the PlayStation Move controllers, while Saija’s katana will respond to your sword-swinging gestures and can even deflect incoming fire. Boss and Bishop, with their signature shotgun and pistol, both feel way more familiar, but are admittedly less enticing than their edgy squadmates.
Each mission is self-contained, transporting players to one of several richly detailed environments. Although there’s some nice visual variety, they all borrow the same wave-based survival structure. Once the hacking tool is fired up, you’ll need to fend off an increasingly diverse army of Eden Corp robots, coming at you from all directions.
The constant influx of enemies can begin to feel repetitive during longer sessions. However, as with any PlayStation VR shooter, this is usually countered by dialling down the difficulty and experimenting with the various weapons and powers.
For budget VR users Raw Data is a no-go, as it demands the use of two PlayStation Move controllers. Although DualShock 4 support opens the doors to a wider crowd, it completely undermines the immersive shooting mechanics. The motion tracking with Move is impressively fluid and precise, making longshots with the bow so, so rewarding.
It isn’t long before Raw Data filters is some advanced mechanics. A few missions into the story, players will unlock the ability to place defensive turrets as well as new powers for any characters they’ve been using. As a result, Survios manages to keep the game feeling fresh, rewarding players with more than just a score at the end of each mission.
Sadly, PlayStation players miss out on some of the features from more powerful VR systems. HTC Vive and Oculus Rift both get to enjoy the game’s campaign in co-op, and there’s head to head multiplayer which has grown from 1v1 to 5v5 in the month since launch.
The recurring theme here is substance. On paper, creating a wave-based shooter doesn’t sound all that inventive or ambitious, yet Raw Data is just that. In a bid to capitalise on the VR gold rush, we’ve seen plenty of smaller, lacklustre shooting galleries, but Survios effortlessly puts them all to shame.
Version tested: PlayStation VR