The vastness of space is something that has always been a captivating yet terrifying draw. Mankinds nature for exploration has never been satiated and with no stone left unturned on our little blue planet, we look to the stars. That endless sea of black, planets, stars and solar systems beyond our own, has always been a rich source of inspiration for ‘what-if’ possibilities. Not just for our imaginations, but for the pursuit of science. Just how far can we go? What would it take to get there? And what strength of will it demands of us to make it back home again.
“ADR1FT has been developed and promoted as one of the best reasons to believe in VR.”
From ThreeOneZero comes ADR1FT. A first person experience (FPX) about an astronaut who awakens stranded, floating above the Earth and rapidly loosing oxygen after a catastrophic event all but destroys the space station. It is up to the player to piece together exactly what happened whilst also slowly piecing the station back together by restoring the systems needed to launch the stations Earth Entry Vehicle (EEV) and get back home.
ADR1FT has been developed and promoted as one of the best reasons to believe in VR. Indeed the Oculus Rift platform even has exclusivity on it, at least for the time being anyway, so see it as being an important title for a burgeoning new technology.
Not having a VR platform to test this title on, I was still really excited that it was still coming to PlayStation 4, but also equal parts concerned and hopeful that the experience didn’t entirely hinge on an extremely pricey peripheral. Thankfully it doesn’t. Yes, I’m sure in VR it is simply an astounding experience, but even playing in first person with a controller you’ll still be fully immersed. This is in large part down to the audio. This is easily the strongest highlight in ADR1FT, from the sheer silence as you drift through the debris with Earth filling the screen below you, the radio logs of your crew members to the panic brought on as you gasp for breathe as your oxygen runs out. Just make sure you only play with headphones on. This is really essential as for a title built to be so immersive, without the added bonus of VR then your ears are really the last bastion of immersion that makes you feel the audio and, in turn, feel like you are an astronaut fighting to stay alive.
Controls too have been mapped perfectly to the dualshock 4, another example of how much care the developers have taken to ensure porting to a non VR platform won’t diminish your experience. Triggers act as ascend and descend, bumpers control your rotation, a click on the left-thumb stick re-centres yourself and Square allows you to reach out and interact with objects. It all feels very intuitive.
Once your fully acclimated to movement and interactions following a short tutorial, it’s time to float toward the devastation and begin your survival.
“Turning the genre on it’s head, survival in ADR1FT isn’t about evading a zombie horde or playing hide and sneak with an alien xenomorph, instead it’s something much more frightening and real. Breathing.”
ADR1FT had me hooked all the way through. Everything about it shows a care and attention to detail that sells you completely on your environment and your struggle to survive. Trying to repair each of the 5 main sub-stations (Cerebrum, Spiritus, Solaris, Vocalis and Mobilis) brings with it a genuine sense of triumph against the backdrop of an infinite vacuum where the smallest of tears in your EVA suit means it’s curtains for you. That’s not to say the game is punishingly hard though. Far from it in fact. You are never too far away from small oxygen packs that refill your tank, that ensures running out of air is never frustrating or annoying, but instead fun yet intense. Think of it like the underwater levels from Sonic the Hedgehog needing to find air bubbles to keep from drowning. But dialled up to 11.
Many times I got a little cocky and drifted a bit further than usual without topping up my O2, only to find myself caught short inches from the next one. This resulted in an incredibly tense moment when my character was reaching desperately for the O2 pack, fingers trembling at full stretch, only to knock it the wrong way and see the pack spin off in to space. Brilliant stuff.
“…the slow pace so refreshing in an age of gaming where titles are marketed on a constant adrenaline rush of explosions and action.”
Turning the genre on it’s head, survival in ADR1FT isn’t about evading a zombie horde or playing hide and sneak with an alien xenomorph, instead it’s something much more frightening and real. Breathing. It’s this simple mechanic that grounds everything. Keep breathing to stay alive. In order to do this you need to conserve your oxygen levels. Even moving uses it up so you’ll often find yourself floating as slowly as possible, drifting between the debris and the stars to reach each area. I found this slow pace so refreshing in an age of gaming where titles are marketed on a constant adrenaline rush of explosions and action. I liken ADR1FT’s storytelling in many ways to that of the marvellous Firewatch. Both have great voice acting, a fully immersive sense of place and kept me gripped throughout the entirety of their 4-5 hours of playtime. Unlike Firewatch however, this isn’t an on-rails walking (floating?) simulator. You are entirely free to explore the space station however you wish. Both inside and out.
There are also more collectibles here to unlock too. From data backup discs, audio logs, emails and crew tokens that unveil background to the events and relationships of each member. There is plenty to uncover. So whilst the main story might be a little on the short side, fully exploring the wreckage of Northstar IV will bump that up considerably.
If you haven’t guessed already, I can easily recommend ADR1FT for being a great title that offers an experience that feels entirely unique. Even without VR.