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Not So MMO: Gunheart - A Unique but Rough Co-Op Shooter

Editorials By Suzie Ford on June 04, 2018

Gunheart - A Unique but Rough Co-Op Shooter

Gunheart is a 3-player co-op game that is coming out today across several VR platforms, as well as for desktop PCs via Steam. Gunheart is developed by Drifter Entertainment, a team that sports an impressive pedigree of experience ranging from Gears of War to Doom and Quake and that experience shows. It's a sometimes rough shooter that has potential for those looking for a small-group cooperative experience.

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Gunheart has been developed from the ground up for virtual reality including HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Windows MR. It also features a port to PC via Steam. 

In Gunheart, you're a bounty hunter that will be sent off on a series of missions to wipe out an infestation of aliens that is impeding the production of resources on various installations around the galaxy. Missions are chosen from a large map within The Bent Horizon, the game's main hub where players can also purchase or upgrade weapons or can check out and buy new cosmetics with cash earned during each mission.  Playing through the campaign straight through will take about 6 hours, though each mission is replayable in order to obtain a higher score, find more loot, complete more side objectives and so forth.

Missions can be taken on by groups of friends or with randoms via a matchmaking system. I never saw another player in the hub so I played alone, so there's always that too. 

Each mission begins with pre-determined objectives and a variety of side objectives to complete. You'll have a limited number of lives so it's wise to keep that in mind. However, there are ways to "create" additional lives along the way to replace any that have been lost by using a machine to create a milk carton that adds or replaces a life.

Having never played a VR-to-PC game before, I'll admit that it was a bit jarring. I've played a lot of first-person shooters before, but playing a VR game without actually having VR felt odd. Obviously, it didn't take long to adjust, but it is quite clear to me that Gunheart is probably best played in VR.

Maps are very linear, with at least a couple of checkpoints along the way as well as lulls between sections where players can find ammo refill crates, life refill stations, additional weapons and some peace and quiet before heading on to the next leg of the trip. Along the way, various "side missions" crop up such as to shoot X-number of X-critter or to shoot X-number of cash crates for additional currency and so forth. 

Once the banter from the unseen NPCs is finished, it's off to find some bugs to kill. As you can see by the screens, these are very....buggish...flylike and.... *shivers*. I didn't like it on PC and I can't even imagine it in VR, particularly as these things will run at you in packs and will literally run right into your face. I'm sure this is designed to give thrills and chills to the VR audience, but it falls flat in the desktop version. In fact, I'm never unaware of the fact that I'm playing a game that wasn't designed for the system on which I am playing. While it may be the bee's knees (pun intended) for VR players, PC players may find Gunheart off-putting.

Movement is another component that keeps me firmly in the "oh yeah, I'm not playing in VR" camp. While there are some places that allow for free movement, there are others where you literally come to a halt...you cannot jump, for instance, to the platform that is right there. Instead, you have to use a teleport mechanic. Oh sure, it's fun and all, but it's weird, especially if you teleport to a platform that is moving through the skies and it suddenly stops moving and you can't move around on it either. If there's not another platform nearby, it's back to where you began. Given that missions are timed-for-reward, there's not a lot of leisure time to sit and observe the platforms in order to find a good way to jump across a canyon (though you can always get across on more mundane pathways with minimal jumping required). Additionally, if you find yourself surrounded by enemies, it's a simple process to turn and teleport a couple (or a few) times out of danger which sort of reduces the overall immediacy and danger of the mission itself. It's really hard to die, at least in the early missions, unless you miss a jump. 

From a gameplay perspective, Gunheart is pretty standard fare. In fact, that's one of its biggest problems, at least for a PC player: It's nothing special...like at all and there are PC-only or developed-for-PC games that do everything it does, but better.

The gunplay feels unsatisfying in both sound and impact. Guns shoot like an 80s arcade game and the impact on monsters features this odd muted *poof* without any physical signs that you've hit them. Enemies run at you in packs, but if you're smart, you just stand at the start of the area and take them out at a choke point. Once they stop -- since they can see you from across the entire location even if you're behind a barrier -- you can stroll or teleport through the rest without facing any resistance. AI needs help! 

Along the missions I played, I ran into three types of bugs: A larva type that would run up in packs and barf all over my character; a winged and armed giant grasshopper that was usually tough to kill and would also run right into my face or even through me to get behind me; and a giant flying organic gunship at the end of the level. But that's it. For a game that is in its "final release state", that's a woefully low variety of creatures to fight. Obviously over time more will be added, but with only three types today, it feels more like an early release title, not a final product.

All in all, Gunheart is a decent game, but a forgettable one, at least for PC players. It's got potential, and the world needs more small-group cooperative games, but if I had to make a recommendation today, I would say wait a while, save your $30 and see where it goes over the coming months. Potential just isn't enough to get me to open my wallet.

Suzie Ford / Suzie is the Associate Editor and News Manager at MMORPG.com. An avid gamer, Suzie lives in the desert Southwestern US with her own personal minion.