Every now and again a game or experience on the PSVR comes along and initially blows my mind. I become hooked to the universe, the mechanics, and the story so much that I can’t stop playing until I see the end credits roll without taking my headset off. Red Matter is the latest game that drew me into its world with it’s clear, detailed environments, excellent use of the Move controllers with its various mechanics, and intriguing story which had me hooked from the start.
From the aptly named developers Vertical Robot (VR), who are a small indie studio built from gaming veterans to create VR games, this appears to be their second game within the new medium and their first to land on the PSVR. So, why is Red Matter one of the most immersive VR games I’ve played in a while? Let’s find out…
Red Matter is a Virtual Reality story-driven puzzle game that is also populated by logic and practical puzzles as well as secrets and a few ‘spooky’ events. Our protagonist is a face, body, leg, and arm-less astronaut known as Agent Epsilon. Clearly, the developers saved render processes by only rendering your hands, but it does look funny when you see your shadow and you are literally just a pair of floating hands! But I digress, You’ve been sent on a mission from the Atlantic Union in order to land upon Rhea, one of Saturn’s moons, and retrieve a secret file from deep within the Volgravian base.
Basically, the world has been at war and we are currently within the aftermath, a sci-fi dystopian Cold War which led to certain factions branching out and creating bases where they initiate secret experiments in hidden locations. Whilst within this deserted laboratory, which appears to be frozen in time, there’s a great sense of someone watching over you and an eerie feeling that you’re not alone. You must reactivate the various machinery, venture deep into the hidden bowels of the facility, and uncover the secrets of what really happened to those who once took residence here.
First things first, Red Matter is yet another masterpiece in VR, especially if you’re playing it on a PS4 Pro, as I did, as it has a 20% resolution bump and better Anti Aliasing active from the start. Not only that, the reflection effects are possibly the best I’ve ever seen in a VR game. Actually, scrap that, they are among the best I’ve seen in a game, period! It may not seem like much, but even in the main menu, you can fire a laser with one of your tools, this is used to read things (which I’ll explain in a minute), but you see the beam and the ambient light reflected within all surfaces such as glass, monitors, and even shiny metal. Not only that, if the glass has dents or scratches, the light reflects off those too. Seriously, the game looks freaking amazing!
On top of that, the textures used within the game all seem really high quality compared to what we usually see. I imagine it’s because the game is mainly made up of small areas, a few rooms rendered at a time with ‘hidden’ load screens such as opening doors and using the elevator. But still, if you get right up close to an item, the textures look great. You can even clearly read all the text within the game, although the majority of it is in Volgravian – thankfully you have a translation device.
I’m not going to spoil what happens later on within the game, but the effects the game throws at you are all equally as impressive. Another small thing that I thought was really nifty was the physics engine. If you grab a mug, for example, you can wave it in the air, like you just don’t care, with no friction. As you throw it, there is a slightly lower gravity field than Earth, so it will float for a few seconds before coming back down. However, if you grab a chair and try to wave that about, even if you move fast in real life, your arm in the game will move slower – this is due to the chair being much heavier than the mug. It’s a small touch but one which left an amazing first impression on me.
Controls, done correctly
So, I’m initially blown away by the visuals and core mechanics, but just how does Red Matter stand in terms of its controls? Initially, I was really confused by the control instructions which were placed within the menu screen before starting the game. However, it all became clear upon starting the game properly. First, let’s talk about movement, as you have a few options here. Red Matter supports ONE control type, two Move controllers. NO support for the DS4 or the Aim Controller. I’m fine with this as the game uses the controllers correctly and fully takes advantage of how they work.
You can move via free-movement or a form of teleportation. Free movement is achieved by holding the Move Button on the right controller and then operating it like a joystick, as we saw in games like Skyrim VR. However, you walk very slow when opting to do this, so I’d only advise it if you’re trying to re-adjust your position. You turn with two of the face buttons on the right controller and it’s in 45-degree increments, which isn’t very good, but the developer is adding in smooth turning soon. You can also turn blinders off or on.
Teleportation is an interesting mechanic. You can pick from three methods based on two distances. I’ve not seen this before so it was rather intriguing. Basically, there is a near and far distance, near is within a few feet and far is anything else. The three methods are teleport, dash, and jump. Teleport is an instant move to the set location, this is the default for the ‘near’ setting. Dash has you seeing yourself move, but it’s accompanied by a bit of blur as if you’re ‘dashing’ to the set location really fast. Jump has your character basically throw themselves into the air as they perform a single moon-jump to the set location – this is the default for the ‘far’ option. Sure, it’s slower than the Dash and Teleport option, but when you’re jumping over big pits, it looks pretty cool!
The stars of the show here though are the actual interaction controls. Above, I stated the controls in the menu screen look confusing, this is why. In-game you’re holding two devices, the right-hand device controls your thrusters and a grabbing hand. The buttons on said device visually change in-game based on what you’re doing. Most of the time, it will show the left, right turn option, as well as the move button for your thrust, and the option to press to teleport/jump. Whilst in jumping motion, the Square and Triangle push a new button, which speeds up your jump, and Cross and Circle slow you down. This is why the controller looked strange, the in-game device isn’t set out like a Move Controller with four face buttons, it’s adaptive and you just push the button that would be in the vicinity of the button you see.
Similarly, the left-hand controller also has dynamic buttons, only this hand is more special. This hand can swap from a grabbing hand – like the right-hand controller, a torch – which I thought was very dull and useless, and a translation device – your essential tool! That’s right, because everything is in a foreign language, you need to give everything a quick scan with this device and it will translate it into English for you. You can also use it to read data banks and objects to receive a description of what it is. This is the key mechanic you’ll use in regards to puzzles as you’ll find the solutions, hints, or guidance within your location, but in another language.
I absolutely love what the developers have done with the Move Controllers. They have created a 100% immersive experience where you have to not only translate various things to figure out the clues and solutions, but you also have to swap to double grabbing hands to operate heavy machinery and really think about the solutions. My only complaint in regards to the movement/controls was going to be the 45 degrees turning, but that’s being addressed. The free-movement could be a little faster I guess, but you are a body-less pair of hands after all! Oh, that kind of breaks the immersion a little as well, but you don’t notice it after a while.
Puzzles and narrative
Obviously, I don’t want to give away the story or details about what’s going on in Red Matter, that’s for you to find out. However, I have done a video down below which you can check out if you wish – it’s a short preview of what the game is like. I thoroughly enjoyed the puzzles which were presented as I moved from one area to the next. Going into Red Matter blind and without any help or guidance, it took me just over 2.5 hours in order to get to the end and see the credits. I’ve seen people on YouTube have completed it in less than an hour though, so your mileage may vary based on how much exploration and investigation you do. Also, after my first playthrough, I had all but two trophies for the platinum, so there’s replayability if you miss any, but it is possible to get everything in one go.
In regards to the puzzles, It’s not your usual puzzle-types, it’s more logical and environmental puzzles. None of them was too difficult, but they do have you looking around your current environment as you seek out hints on the logic behind the answers. You’ll also uncover more of the narrative as you find and scan certain items and paintings which are hidden throughout the various areas. I really enjoyed the story being told. It never got too complicated and I enjoyed the direction it went in towards the end. I would strongly advise you to play Red Matter on your own though, as in don’t watch any walkthrough before you do. Otherwise, you’ll end up ruining the whole experience for yourself.
As stated above, Red Matter looks and plays great on my PS4 Pro. It has a 20% resolution bump and better AA than the base model, but I imagine it still looks great on there as well. If you’ve played The Exorcist: Legion VR, the graphical fidelity reminded me of that game – everything looks realistic and clear with only objects in the far distance looking a little fuzzy. It’s great having a PSVR title where you can clearly read all of the text with no issues. The reflections and ambient glow on the various surfaces as you see all the fine details in the glass are what really impressed me though. At one point I was in the elevator pretending I was a Jedi as the laser beam from my translator looked just like Darth Vaders lightsaber!
I did have one issue with the technical side of the game – the lights. Not the lights in general, but the desk lamps which you can turn on. At one point I had to read a card so I put it under a lamp – as expected, it lit up and I could read it, but as I moved my head, the light source stopped illuminating the paper. I had to put my head up close for the light to take effect on the item. I expect it’s only a glitch and I only had the issue once. Also, the rag-doll physics of the spacesuits is rather hilarious, but it did spook me when I was slapping its head and its hand shot up due to physics! I thought it was trying to grab me!
Soundwise, The ambient noises confused me. I thought Red Matter was a simple ‘locate and report’ game, but then the female screams and creepy chanting started! It’s not a scary game, but there are a few jumps in it and it does cover a rather creepy theme in certain areas. So, the ambient noises left me a bit unsettled and freaked out, but overall the music, the sound effects, the voices, and the female “ahhhhhhs”, were all spot on and really drew me into this amazing virtual world.
Red Matter has easily shot near the top of my recommended PSVR titles of 2018 with just one negative holding me back from recommending everyone goes and buys it now – its price. I obtained the game for free, for review purposes, I had tonnes of fun with it, I love the physics, the controls, the mechanics, and even the spooky moments. However, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up had I realised it was a 2-3 hour game at £24.99. Do I think it’s worth that price – yes and no. Yes, because it really is a great experience and I’m sure anyone who plays it will love the atmosphere and the way the game makes you feel on edge all the time. No, because I would have priced a game at this length at around £15 so that it was more appealing for people to pick it up.
However, if you want to experience a trip through a deserted Russian-like research lab as you uncover the truth of what went on there whilst solving clever puzzles and moon-walking around the place, then this is the game for you! If you do pick it up, I recommend playing it blind, investigate everything, take your time as you investigate your surroundings and don’t be too hasty to look for a guide for a quick platinum. You’ll enjoy it a lot more if you appreciate everything that went into creating this truly immersive VR puzzle adventure game.
Also, Whilst looking for the final few trophies, in order to light up my trophies, I realised that if you choose to ‘load’ a save file, you have access to a chapter select. this means you can easily travel back and forth as you search for missed items. Seriously though, try and 100% this awesome game on your own.
My initial preview
Red Matter is one of the best PSVR titles I’ve played this year, both visually and mechanically. It takes full advantage of both Move Controllers as you swap between various tools in order to solve puzzles, investigate, and traverse. You have multiple methods of transport as well as an option for both snap and smooth turning (coming soon). This great VR puzzle adventure title will have you virtually scratching your head as you try to work out the solutions to the clever puzzles.
The only downside, it seems a little expensive for the amount of content, however, the content it does have is of high quality and easily sits near the top of the best PSVR games out there.
- Really atmospheric and intense
- Clever puzzles which get you thinking about the solution
- Great use of the Move Controllers
- Various tools to perform different tasks
- The reflective surfaces are great! I've not seen anything as reflective as this before!
- The light sources are a little glitchy with certain lamps
- The price seems a little high for a 2-3 hour game, even though it does look and play great