With the Oculus Quest 2 offering a more approachable price tag coupled with an untethered experience, the amount of players getting the chance to play games in virtual reality is continuing to grow exponentially and with that the options of software on VR platforms is becoming more competitive. Certain genres are seeing dozens of releases more frequently and there is no shortage of shooters in the virtual space, but the folks at Caveman Studios are looking to separate themselves from other shooters by tackling a more realistic, competitive military experience with Contractors.
Contactors boasts both single player/cooperative PvE missions against bots as well as a PvP multiplayer suite including objective based and deathmatch modes to frag friends and strangers in. These game types are typical fodder for first-person shooters, but what boils Contractors down into a more specific sub-genre of shooter that may pique your interest is its focus on a more realistic approach to gameplay. Featuring an IK system that allows your movements to be represented in the virtual space– you’ll see your hands and arms move in real time within the virtual space as well as your body which serves as your inventory displaying your other weapons, grenades, and ammunition. This layer of realism baked into Contractors isn’t something profoundly new in VR, but when done well, as it is in Contractors, it helps bring you further into the virtual streets and buildings as well as the crosshairs of the opposing team.
The gameplay in Contractors, once you get the hand of its at first complex controls, runs rather smoothly and shooting feels responsive and on par with others I’ve played on the Quest 2. In the first few sessions movement felt a little disorienting for me, but thankfully Contractors has a bevy of options to help customize your experience and fine tune it to your liking. The variety of weapons and other items at your disposal is significant enough and coupled with the variations in different loadouts you could concoct it offers up some level of experimenting as you look for that winning combination that meshes with your playstyle. Thankfully, loadouts aren’t just a deep well of kitting out your operator and running wild, there’s a point system to regulate how much you are taking with you. Whether it be specific grenades, body armor, or weapon attachments the economy based loadout system allows some sort of balance when dropping into matches.
Visually, Contractors is below the bar set by other games I’ve had the chance to play on Quest 2. Granted some of the more technically impressive games I’ve witnessed on the Quest 2 have been more solitary experiences or platform exclusives, I have had other multiplayer games outshine the environments in Contractors specifically. Certain textures are rough and flat leading to a little dip in the immersion to me since these lackluster surfaces stand out so much. Although graphics are not the most important thing to me when enjoying a game, these were at times rough and worthy of mention here. I cannot speak on the PC VR version and if the visuals are improved there.
Where Contractors strays too far for me is its level of realism. Firefights where manually performing the actions for pulling out a clip, ripping a clip off of your chest to shove it into the gun, and pulling back the lever to be able to shoot again sounded appealing in theory to me but in practice became overwhelming and almost always resulted in the enemies victory over me in a gunfight. Potentially in a single player experience this heightened level of immersion could entice me, but in a PvP match against other players the appeal of that shiny bullet point in Contractors description lost its shimmer as soon as combat scenarios erupted. Your initial clip becomes too vital of a resource. In a competitive shooter like Valorant, where reloading takes time and clip management is integral to the strategy you may opt out of reloading depending on your current clip and the scenario you’re in, and in Contractors that same mentality runs through but with that added factor of performing all of those actions yourself instead of tapping one key adding a whole additional layer of pressure that just didn’t vibe with me.
Although, this is just my personal preference on the matter. To some players this may be a draw, an essence of the appeal that lies within the layers of immersion– and if that’s the case Contractors should be something on your radar. At no point did it feel like my execution of the hand movements and button presses wasn’t tracked accurately it was just that level of depth and nuance to certain mechanics that I personally wasn’t eager to envelope myself with.
Contractors has a lot of great ideas but some fail in execution one way or another. The biggest one for me being the pre-game lobbies and the inability to group up with your friends. Pre-game lobbies offer up a nice hangout with a slew of activities to indulge in but they almost always overstayed their welcome. I felt myself waiting far too long in-between matches for the next one to begin, mixing this with the inability to group up with your friends and travel between lobbies together made this more of an issue since coordinating with my friends to all leave and join the same match before it filled up required far too many hoops to be leapt through. This grouping up issue is a trend I’ve noticed in many VR games though, not just in Contractors, but that doesn’t excuse it when there are other games that have these capabilities on the Oculus Quest.
If you’re looking for a shooter somewhere between Call of Duty and Counter Strike, Contractors may check that box for you. Possessing a deep level of immersion with gunplay mechanics, 4v4 competitive modes, and an arsenal of weapons to get acquainted with, despite its flaws Contractors can court those looking for a specific style of first-person shooting experience. It may not be my favorite shooter on the Oculus Quest being just a step too deep into the lake of immersion, but those looking to master the mechanics can ride the waves while I go back to being in over my head.
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