Horizon The potential brilliance of Cry of the Mountain is almost too close. Sony’s first-party launch flagship for the PlayStation VR 2, the gaming giant’s very excellent new virtual reality gear, is Call of the Mountain.
The game is a spinoff of the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 games Horizon Zero Dawn and Horizon Forbidden West, respectively, and mixes climbing and archery, two of the most novel and enjoyable activities in virtual reality.
The universe is rich in depth and visually stunning, featuring a variety of environments from lush woods to chilling icescapes to rusty, post-apocalyptic ruins. Even though I was first wary of VR eye tracking, this function has convinced me of its utility.
But it constantly serves as a reminder that there is room for improvement. It borrows large swathes of gameplay from other games without giving them credit and then softens the difficulty curve. When it comes to its superior combat abilities, it’s stingy. It has a clumsy plot, but one that is also unavoidably painful. Sony has a golden opportunity to get people interested in next-generation VR gaming, but it doesn’t go all out.
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The environment of Call of the Mountain will be familiar to anyone who has played a Horizon game; it is a dystopian future where robots have nearly destroyed humanity, robot dinosaurs roam the earth, and people react mystically to ancient airplanes and car keys. The series’ primary protagonist, Aloy, makes a cameo in Cry of the Mountain, but you play as a new character named Ryas, a skilled climber and archer with a murky backstory.
Moreover, the Feel controllers included with the PSVR 2 take the place of the traditional console’s regular control scheme used in previous Horizon titles. To get about, you simply push the face buttons on the controller and walk around with your arms swinging naturally. (You can also activate teleportation, which is helpful if you suffer from motion sickness; however, I wouldn’t call myself particularly strong-stomached, and I and my coworker, Sean Hollister, both found the default option to be completely pleasant.)
Horizon Call of the Mountain’s exciting highs, beautiful world, and exhilarating combat elevate it just enough above its often monotonous climbing mechanics to create a fun PS VR 2 game.
Our review: pic.twitter.com/I90Aw8P3to
— IGN (@IGN) February 17, 2023
Physically grabbing hold of ledges and pillars allows you to ascend vertical surfaces. To draw a bow, you reach across and squeeze the trigger on one controller, then pull back and release your arm to draw an arrow.
A grappling hook, pickaxes, and a disc with sharp edges can all be obtained as the game progresses. You can use your arms to dodge around an arena and switch between different sorts of arrows, such as fire arrows that cause damage over time and “tear arrows” that knock off armor, during some pitched encounters.
Certain apples can cure you while others don’t seem to be grabbable, and there are plenty of other examples of the hand-tracking technology scattered throughout the levels that you may utilize to your advantage, such as pebbles you can stack into cairns or brushes you can use to paint on walls.
Many portions of Call of the Mountain function almost exactly like Crytek’s VR free-climbing series The Climb, which, in case it isn’t clear, is excellent. The designers of Call of the Mountain have almost surely played The Climb by Crytek. The similarity, though, also draws attention to what isn’t present: especially, much difficulty.
Because your energy depletes every time you release a grip in The Climb, you’ll need to keep your full attention on the task at hand—swinging from ledge to ledge without falling to your death. If you listen to Call of the Mountain, you can linger for as long as you like, and your hands will mysteriously find the grips.
Keeping your arms in motion is a mild form of exercise, but it’s very difficult to fail, so the reward for succeeding is diminished. The PSVR 2 wire can become caught up in your feet if you try to turn corners too quickly.
On the other hand, there isn’t nearly enough bow-and-arrow combat despite the fact that it’s fully featured and hard. Call of the Mountain combines the familiar thrill of virtual reality (VR) archery with the unique robot-fighting mechanics of Horizon, based on penetrating the machines’ armor and exploiting their vulnerabilities. Exciting, high-speed battles are a regular part of the game.
You can craft several types of arrows and arrow pieces using what you find. Yet, you usually only use such arrows in the level’s major boss battles. In stealth portions, you have the option to shoot at opponents, but the game doesn’t feel balanced for it.
For example, I once eliminated all the machines in a given region, only to have Ryas worry about being noticed while he walked. Targets in the challenge arena are stationary, so it’s not quite the same as the active battle in terms of improvisation and dodging.
Also, the game’s most fundamental features are unexpectedly inconsistent. For example, Cry of the Mountain has a powerful yet unobtrusive eye-tracking technology that can be activated at will. Never again do I want to utilize an analog stick to choose dialogue options during a chat with a character in an RPG; instead, I can just look around a wheel and press a button to select the option I’m now staring at.
But, the game’s item selection wheel is tediously slow and difficult when you need to quickly grab your grappling hook or pickaxes. There are two weapons available in the game, a standard bow and a slingshot that fires grenades, but switching between them is so cumbersome that I rarely used the latter.
The Fighting Combines Standard Virtual Reality Archery With Horizon’s Signature Robot Hunts to Excellent Effect
For Ryas, who we learn in the prologue is a Shadow Carja, all this fighting and climbing is a path to atonement. Ryas have just been smuggled out of prison to gain a full pardon, recover his brother, and take down the Shadow Carja, a breakaway group from Horizon responsible for atrocities that occurred before the game’s commencement.
Ryas are one of the most talkative first-person avatars I’ve played as, and he will remind you of this important piece of lore approximately one million times over the course of the following eight hours.
Actually, I enjoyed taking on the role of Ryas, in no little part because Mark Allan Stewart, who voices him, nails Stephen Russell’s cynical yet sympathetic antihero from Thief, one of the best game protagonists ever. But seriously, guy, here we are at the top of a mountain, climbing a 20-foot robot skeleton in an abandoned factory, and you’re rambling on to no one in particular about how you went hunting when you were eight years old because your father made you.
Do you never get out of breath? Hey, you just hit one of the hidden targets in the area around the level and exclaimed, I’ve still got it! or Get that out of here! Sir, relax, that big red X was a good 15 feet away and was just standing there.
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To be fair, it has been a while since I played Horizon Zero Dawn, and I didn’t play Forbidden West, so I accept full blame for forgetting the specifics of the setting. In theory, I am familiar with the history, albeit I have lost practically all of it in the time between episodes. But for such a short game, the sheer density of storyline and casual intra-franchise connections is astounding.
Horizon Call Of The Mountain. Just wow! 🦋 pic.twitter.com/PRPx9aMaBS
— Mike VRO (@vr_oasis) February 16, 2023
Forty-hour sessions, a la traditional gaming consoles, are not something I anticipate or particularly desire to undertake in virtual reality. But, other creators have proven that it is possible to cram a lot of excitement into a compact form. Resident Evil 4 VR, a VR adaptation of the iconic horror shooter, is available on the Meta Quest 2.
Half-Life: Alyx, a Half-Life 2 spinoff written efficiently by Valve, features a plethora of challenging puzzles and exciting fights that effectively highlight the Index’s capabilities. Neither of them was overly harsh, but they both expected you to put in the effort. Sony’s PSVR 2 certainly aspires to but fails to achieve, that level of tentpole significance.
It’s safe to say that Call of the Mountain isn’t like an interactive theme park ride like many of the first VR games were. Yet, it seems like it was watered down so as not to turn off VR beginners or that its creators were not given enough resources to properly achieve their vision. There’s nothing I can do now but speculate about the game’s canceled content and replay the game’s most challenging boss battles.
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