Espire 1: VR Operative Oculus Quest 2 hands-on impressions
VR stealth action takes a lot to get right. The stealth action genre has spent years in traditional video games just fine-tuning the gamers’ choices to sneak around the guards cautiously or preoccupy them with the risk of an overwhelming reaction. Espire 1: VR Operative has been on various VR platforms since late 2019, especially the original Oculus Quest, where it sold quite well. Almost a year after its original launch, Espire 1 has been fully updated for all platforms and supported on the Oculus Quest 2. With this in mind, we delved into the title of Cyber Stealth Action.
For the uninitiated agent
Espire 1: VR Operative accepts players into a cyber espionage organization called Espire. These people designed incredibly tactical Android platforms before some rogue military organizations took over and messed things up. It is up to the player to tap into the androids left behind in Espire facilities to investigate and attack enemy forces from within. Espire 1: VR Operative gives you a wealth of mobility and spy gadgets, as well as the ability to use any weapon you come across. You can play them slow and low, or fast and aggressive, while completing various missions and challenges to face against enemies that are still heavily armed. And you do this while using even more sophisticated Espire androids found along the way, from wrist cameras and silent tranquilizers to infrared vision of traps and enemies and time-slowing mechanics.
What’s new in Oculus Quest 2?
New textures and effects were used in Espire 1 for Oculus Quest 2, but the sound enhancement is definitely the star for your stealth runs.
As of November 13, Espire 1 received a major update to prepare the game for Oculus Quest 2. Enemies and the environment have been re-textured in order to take advantage of Quest 2 compared to its predecessor. There are also updates to the sounds when bullets hit walls (a different sound depending on the material hit), ricochet effects that allow bullets to ricochet off surfaces for both players and enemies, and improved color correction for the Oculus LCD display Quest 2.
Perhaps the most notable change in gameplay is the audio overhaul. If you crouch now, the music will decrease and the volume of enemy activity will increase. This was a huge improvement as when I wanted to get stealthy I could better keep track of where enemy fighters were and plan carefully around them. It made stealth all the more workable and fun.
How does Espire 1 Update 1.7 play?
Quite simply, Espire 1: VR Operative is really fun to walk around on the Oculus Quest 2. As almost always, the lack of cables on the headset, but the decency of the quality in the game is the selling point. The levels look decent enough and the gadgets and weapons you collect on your way to deal with more and more enemy soldiers are superb. The infrared vision ability, wrist cameras, slow timing mechanics, and more make for an ever-evolving list of fun devices. As an Android, you can also grab and climb almost any metal surface, which makes for versatility when sneaking around rooms. At some point I had to cross a gap that construction was going on around, so I used the metal pieces of the scaffolding to climb the underside of a support beam to pass some sort of climbing pole over the gap. It was a wonderful solution to environmental puzzles made possible by the possibilities.
The gadgets and various skills that you can use in Espire 1: VR Operative make the gameplay continually fun and engaging.
The game is quite forgiving if you want to get aggressive too. Most of the more unique weapons are hidden across all levels, but it’s not difficult to get your hands on an enemy submachine gun or rifle and drop the patronage of calm if you want. Wielding two assault rifles with two weapons and harshly painting enemy fighters would be weird as a normal human soldier, but you are a hacker operating a remote robot. So here it makes sense and in the end it’s just fun. You can go through missions and try to carry them out in a number of different ways, starting with every weapon you’ve already found or just going wild by delving into an extensive cheat menu that gives you everything from invincibility to infinite ammo to Infinite energy for gadgets allows how slow and enemies see through walls.
I think one of the few complaints I have with this game is that enemies could sometimes spot me too well, but mostly just plain stupid in their reaction. Sometimes in the middle of a firefight, an enemy would run in the opposite direction from me for no apparent reason before turning to face the fire as I followed them. Sometimes the game would cancel a search and lower the alert while I was knee deep in the middle of a rampage. Enemies’ behavior left a lot to be desired, but if they fall on you it can be terribly awkward due to the checkpoint system.
The only control points are Espire androids found in a mission that you can use as a respawn point. The levels in the game are pretty long (which would be a good thing otherwise) and it’s a long way to go to get to Espires halfway. If your Android is destroyed before that point, you will see a very long way back through the level and all of the threats you left intact along the way.
A menagerie of cybernetic stealth and aggression
Perhaps the best thing about Espire 1: VR Operative is that there are enough options to go quiet or very, very loud.
Aside from the two weaknesses mentioned above, Espire 1: VR Operative is still quite a fun experience. The skills, gadgets, and gunplay presented through the virtual control of an Android robot are really fun and make for a lot of good gameplay. Even with silly enemy decisions, when they find you, secretly finding your way around your surroundings is a visceral and exciting real-time puzzle. And if you do choose to be quiet, the more aggressive tools at your disposal are a blast too. Put those things together and Espire 1: VR Operative is a great action-stealth proposition for the Oculus Quest 2 platform.
TJ Denzer is a player with a passion for games that has dominated for a lifetime. When he’s not handing out beatdowns, researching the history of video games, or role-playing games with his partner in the latest fighting games, he’s looking for new foods and drinks to keep getting good times with good people inside and outside of South Texas. You can also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.