The Climb 2 (Oculus Quest 2)
Regardless of how obvious the VR concept was when it was released in 2016, the original The Climb made a splash as VR headsets quickly got much better in terms of both visual quality and comfort. Fast forward five years and the lightweight, wireless Oculus Quest 2 is probably the easiest to use helmet to stick your head in. So it was interesting to try out Crytek’s sequel for a few sweaty afternoons.
The Climb 2 versions will be released today, March 4th, in the Oculus Quest Store. That means there is currently no Oculus Rift version. I mention this primarily because, although the CryEngine puts some nice graphics in front of your eyes since we had an Oculus Link cable on hand, I really wanted to “boom” resolution with a powerful Rift-style gaming PC that cares to the main part of the processing. This would of course detract from the feeling of freedom you get with the Quest 2, but at the same time you can’t help but feel like the computer sacrifice leads to something too blurry rock structures and a bit too cardboard-like city buildings.
The environments are really great, and I don’t think you can ask for much more variety (unless you get crazier, less realistic) when you get five settings with three climbs each, ranging from mountains of all kinds (of course) to canyons and even an active volcano. You will be amazed when you start a new level or when you take the time to look around and enjoy the scenery, but the climbing surface itself, which you focus on 90% of the time, feels like one in comparison ugly mess of clay.
The urban setting mentioned above is one of the key additions to The Climb 2. It feels fresh and distinctly different from the natural surfaces, and presents a unique challenge when trying to switch billboards or automatic window washers, for example. It’s a little more frustrating, however, especially when you can’t use some pretty obvious bars, beams, and objects as the next handle (this happens in natural settings too, but not as often). Oh, and the cardboard-like, flickering buildings won’t make up for it, unlike the beautiful views in the wild.
So it seems that some of the problems we had with the first game remain here. This is a VR experience that may seem amazing at first and work for a while, but somehow … it loses its grip when some of the bugs appear. For example, I recommend you get up and move around to get the most of it, as your body movement adds some sauce to the entire gameplay. Not only is it more boring when you sit down, it also means that you feel like you are pulling down the rock face instead of climbing it much more often. On the contrary, I think you will end up hitting the A button for jumps because the alternate body movement is not as accurate.
That being said, The Climb 2 can click for a while and there is a sense of satisfaction when you reach the top. Interestingly, it’s an experience that can be relaxing (if all goes well), while also being good exercise for your arms and shoulders. Once you master the basic movements, you can even try using a few wrist weights to make this a pretty demanding workout routine. And if you really enjoy yourself and feel like an expert rock climber, you can switch from casual to professional to add chalk and stamina as strategic elements (drop those weights though). We found these to be challenging, as did the handles that you need to clean before you grab onto or the more technical moves when you’re half-grasping to save stamina.
The more spectacular moments come when the stairs or rope you are climbing react to the weight of your character and fall down or ask you to react quickly, but again they are only convincing if there is a smooth, “fair” Was a climbing experience.
All in all, The Climb 2 builds on what the original offers, for better or for worse. It’s bolder, some of its levels are breathtaking (the Nordic and the high contrast canyon are my favorites) but at the same time it breaks the illusion of vertigo when you want to pull the wall down and it feels quite frustrating at times. “Do you dare to climb?” Well I would say you should while you enjoyed what the original was on offer, or if you take my caveats into account.