Red Matter is a deep and immersive sci-fi experience with a compelling narrative and jaw-dropping visuals.
Since launch, the Oculus Quest now has a few sci-fi titles available to download on to the portable VR headset, although I feel that there hasn’t yet been a game that combines as much of an immersive experience with a deep and interesting narrative that Red Matter manages to offer to Oculus Quest gamers.
Red Matter is fundamentally a first-person puzzle game, where your task is to explore an abandoned Russian space facility located on one of Saturn’s orbiting moons. During a sci-fi Cold War era between the US and Russia, you are tasked to locate some specific intel that’s located in the base, but you soon discover there is more to this facility and its personel than the intel you have to find.
The game takes place mostly inside the Russian facility, where everything is written in Russian. This is great if you can read the language, but if not, then you can rely on the scanning tool that your left hand is equipped with. This tool has a number of functions, from translating, displaying your mission objectives, downloading data from found cartridges and copying access keys to access locked doors around the complex. It’s a tool you’ll be using quite often in the game, so it’s great that it feels intuitive to use.
Due to the moon’s low gravity, you have to get around with the aid of your jetpack. You can do this in two ways. The first is by locating a landing spot ahead of you with the right analogue stick, and on letting go your jetpack will launch you smoothly up in the air and glide you over to your destination. Travelling smaller distances are transitioned much quicker, but if you want to use the game’s smooth locomotion you can use the controller’s grip button whilst moving the controller in a direction you wish to go to.
The game is paced particularly well, whilst its narrative helps to draw you into discovering what has been going on in the facility. Although you do have some level of freedom on where you go, the game does have an ability to keep you focused on progressing you through the complex facility of floors, corridors and rooms, exploring and solving puzzles in an attempt to gain access to locked areas of the facility in order to complete your mission and recover the Russian intel.
Although it might not feel like a typical puzzle game, each room you face has an item you have to find or combine in order to open doors, power up computers, operate lifts, buttons or levers. Each puzzle you face starts off fairly simple, but in later levels, I did find myself standing in the room trying to figure out exactly what I was being asked to do or find. After some time you soon get that ‘eureka’ moment when you solve the more complex puzzles, and you can’t help but feel like some very satisfied space-based Columbo in doing so.
What helps tie all the story, puzzles and compelling exploration together is the game’s gorgeous visuals. Red Matter is a stunning looking game where photos and videos do not do it any justice. Its developers, Vertical Robot, have really tamed the Unreal Engine that the game was built from. Its use of lighting and reflection really enhance a sense of presence as you explore the corridors and rooms of the space facility. This level of graphical detail greatly helps with the level of immersion that Red Matter gives you throughout its few hours of gameplay.
Its voice acting and sound effects work in harmony with the game’s visuals. Lots of effort has gone into this area to help you feel immersed in the game. The musical score is also one of the better scores I’ve heard in a game. It has a John Williams (of Star Wars fame) feel to it. Usually, music in a game can pull me away from an experience such as this, so much so that I reach for the music’s mute setting within my first play session. In Red Matter I never felt the need to turn it off, it just worked so subtle and well with the game’s visuals to enhance the level of atmosphere and immersion of the world around you.
Being a story-driven puzzle game, on completion after a few hours of gameplay, there isn’t much desire to play through this game again, but it is one game I would show off as an example of how well the Oculus Quest can be pushed, visually. At £18.99 from the Oculus Store, Red Matter is priced at just the right amount. For those few hours, your experience is highly rewarded for what is an acceptable price of entry. If you’re looking for a deep and immersive sci-fi experience with an interesting narrative and jaw-dropping visuals, I recommend you download Red Matter right now!