Archangel - PlayStation VR Review

Bring your Mecha-pilot fantasies to life.

Game Info:

  • System: PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive
  • Publisher: Skydance Interactive
  • Developer: Skydance Interactive
  • Release Date: July 18, 2017

Who it Caters to

Skydance Interactive’s Archangel appeals to many different audiences. Shooter fans, mecha lovers, VR advocates, and certainly anyone into post-apocalyptic sci-fi settings they can become a part of. Much like we mentioned in our E3 demo review, Archangel is kind to the player by delivering easy-to-understand how-tos at the beginning. This, coupled with mode choices that vary from Easy to Permadeath, makes Archangel a very accessible game for anyone who is tempted by the VR title, regardless of experience level.

Archangel is an otaku’s mecha-pilot dream come true, where one gets to really immerse themselves in the Hero role while piloting a six-foot-tall robot with a co-pilot AI. With the detail and care with which the surroundings were crafted, both inside and outside of the cockpit,
Archangel is made to feel like the player is the lead character in a sci-fi movie. And with its varying difficulty levels, anybody can experience piloting a mech that can go through bridges, skyscrapers and take down enemies like it’s nobody’s business!

What to Expect

The clear graphics -both in cutscenes and during gameplay- add to the immersive feeling of the game. The dilapidated cityscapes and mecha designs are carefully and beautifully crafted, and while there may be a bit of an issue keeping track of your hull’s integrity (the gauge is out to the side, making it hard to look at since the whole thing moves with your head) it still proves to be well thought-out and made to be immersive and enjoyable. And you get to choose between either Gabe or Gabby Walker, it’s nice having a male/female option!

Do expect a lot of talking and witty banter from Gabe/Gaby, your AI partner M1KL, and your teammates. This, however, tends to notify you of things going on around you, gives some exposition, or simply brings some levity to the tense situations the player finds themselves in. The only downside to this is that after you die and restart a certain stage, you have to wait and listen to all the same one-liners and back-and-forths as many times as you respawn.

Gameplay is easy to pick up. The on-rails nature of Archangel takes away the difficulty of figuring out camera angles and how to move about the stages. The controls are also easy to learn, especially when using the Move Controllers, which give the game a much more fluid, natural feel. You only need to keep track of shooting triggers, weapon rotation buttons, shield buttons, and the grip button, which allows you to punch your way through ruined cities and catch HP-boosting nanobots -which are rarer than some would prefer. While you can use the wireless PS controler, it is a bit awkward and it takes away from the immersive experience. We recommend experiencing Archangel with the Move Controllers, and that is how we played through it ourselves.

The story and character backgrounds are well-exposed at the beginning and the story develops at a good pace through cutscenes. Until it suddenly ends. Archangel is a short game, a fast learner or a veteran gamer could probably finish the first run in about 3 hours. Despite the short story, however, Archangel delivers what it promises: “Drop into the cockpit of a six-story war machine…” and it does it with style.

Archangel VR - Official Trailer 2

Story

In a post-apocalyptic America, HUMNX is a terrorist group that has overthrown what was left of the American government. Gabe (or Gabby if you choose her) is testing out the six-foot-tall Archangel at one of the last surviving military posts while their son watches alongside scientists and other soldiers. Suddenly, tragedy strikes when they are attacked by HUMNX, and Gabe with his Archangel, seem to be the only ones who can stand up to them.

Having the only mech around and with testing interrupted, Gabe/Gabby find themselves in the same situation as the player, learning how to maneuver, protect and attack with Archangel. Luckily, teammates -as well as your AI co-pilot and new BFF, M1KL- are there to give advice, warnings, backup, and even some emotional counseling.

Along with his partners, Gabe will traverse the destroyed cities of America to find the last safe place left in America. Through this journey, the soldier faces ground and aerial troops, drones, floating mines, and even rocket-launching towers. As if that wasn’t enough, the connection with M1KL seems to be affecting the pilot’s consciousness and forces Gabe/Gabby to relive and face past traumas, as well as the recent death of their son at the hands of HUMNX, who also attempt to hack Archangel and M1KL though this whole ordeal.

As the battle escalates and M1KL fuses more and more with Archangel’s pilot, the battles get tougher, the enemies larger and the stakes go higher. Without spoiling anything, we’ll just say that Archangel manages to deliver a touching story with great character development on top of all the action and excitement of being immersed in a realistic sci-fi world.

Gameplay

To get the most immersive experience, of course, we opted for the PS Move Controllers. Using the ‘Moves’, it’s easier than ever to learn controls. This translates into things like organically reacting by shielding yourself with the same motion you would in real life, shooting by pulling a trigger, or a combination of both you never thought you were capable of before VR.

Since Archangel is an on-rails type of shooter, there’s no problem maneuvering around the stages; and looking around you to see your enemy and your surroundings is as easy as…well, looking around! Aiming is done by moving the Move controllers, which displays crosshairs or other aiming markers, making aiming as natural as pointing with your finger. Gameplay-wise, there is a tutorial right at the beginning, and your teammates and M1KL make sure to tell you useful facts about your weapons and such as the game progresses. Learning the controls is intuitive and easy, as they mirror each other in each hand and are placed where one would expect. Triggers are for shooting, big buttons make a fist (good for grabbing/smashing/punching), the shields are activated with X and ◯, while you can switch weapons with △ and ▢.

On the first run, you slowly get to use your items. First you get the shields online and find out they run out of juice after around 10 seconds and need time to recharge. No worries, you can upgrade your shields as you go to make them last a bit longer and even extend their cover a bit.

Your first weapon is a machine gun which does not run out of ammo nor needs to recharge. It does overheat, though, at which point you must give it a few seconds to cool down before continuing to shoot. You go through small tanks, ground troops, and even aerial drones before you obtain the Rocket Launcher. This is where the player’s cycling and timing strategy starts to develop. The rocket launcher needs to reload and it reloads one rocket at a time. The first one has 3 rockets and the upgraded one has a multi-target lock-on system and 6 rounds that makes it much easier to do away with swarms of drones or herds of tanks. However, you can’t shoot and shield at the same time with the same hand, so you need to plan when to shield attacks and when to shoot your enemies, as well as which enemies to knock out first. Observation and good timing are what will get you through the hordes and bosses.

At certain choke points, the player is forced to figure out the best balance between shielding, shooting, and launching rockets, all while taking into account how resistant certain enemies are, and how much damage the hull can take before it breaks and it’s ‘lights out and back to the last checkpoint’. This is really what Archangel is all about.

As you progress through the game, upgrades are unlocked for your hull, weapons and shields. However, enemies get bigger, badder and grow in numbers as you advance, so it’s more than just about the size or ease of use of your guns. The player must really calculate a way to cycle through attacking and covering, while always keeping an eye on the integrity of Archangel’s hull. Unfortunately that gauge is too far on the edge of the display and always just-out-of-reach of your gaze, making it very distracting just to try and see how much HP you have left.

Honey's Gameplay Consensus:

Overall, Archangel is a very accessible game that could be played almost by anybody wanting to have an immersive, interactive VR experience. Yes, it’s a short game, but it is challenging, fun, and well made. The easy controls make it so you can focus more on your tactics and aiming than figuring out buttons.

The setting, characters, and overall design are breathtaking and only add to the immersiveness of the game. Though being on-rails takes away a certain level of control, you barely miss it at all once you’re stuck at a choke point trying to ‘hold ‘em back’. Though it’d be nice if we could skip through some cutscenes and banter when respawning.

As mentioned before, Archangel really becomes more about managing yourself well and cycling through shields and weapons while watching out for hull integrity. You can’t just shoot blindly and expect to get through hoards or bosses. The player must plan well and maybe even sacrifice a couple of lives in order to see what’s coming, when, and from which direction, in order to carefully plan when to shield, with which arm, and which enemies need to be taken down first. Luckily, the more you play, the more points you acquire and the more you can upgrade your gear, but the enemies get bigger and stronger too so it doesn’t really ever get easier.

Archangel makes you think, plan, engages your hand-eye coordination and gives you a gaming perspective you’ve not experienced before. It’s just too bad it’s so short and has little to no replay value.

Honey's Pros:

  • Completely immersive experience.
  • Gorgeous, detailed graphics
  • Easy, intuitive controls.
  • Captivating character development and narrative.

Honey's Cons:

  • What you see is what you get. Literally 0 in the way of alternate routes/endings, side quests. Little to no replay value.
  • Too short
  • While playable with the Dual Shock controller, it is difficult to shield and aim, and awkward overall.

Honey's Final Verdict:

We need to keep in mind that this is the first VR game of this nature by Skydance Interactive. And, while the story may be short and have an abrupt ending, it’s an arcade-shooter experience for your home unlike any other. It shows what can be done with current technology and it makes it thoroughly enjoyable for people of all abilities. Skydance really went above and beyond what would be expected of a first-try VR game.

Considering it’s an on-rails shooter, some may think Archangel’s length is just right, but a few things like side-missions, hidden/extra routes, or levels that unlock depending on your achievements each time you finish the game would give it some much-needed replay value and give us more reasons to pick up the game again and again. Though that value could just be that you can choose to pilot a mech pretty much whenever you want!

In the end, Archangel is a game we recommend everyone tries out. It’s one of the best currently available games on the market that allow for an immersive VR experience. This makes Archangel an excellent introductory VR title, and a great game to get a feel for what VR is capable of.

Its only downfall is that the player is left wanting more. But again, this is only the first VR game by Skydance Interactive. We can only imagine there will be more and more content like Archangel -hopefully with more room for experimenting and replaying- in the future from these developers!

Tell us what you think of Skydancer’s Archangel! Do you agree with us? If you haven’t played it, do you want to now that you know a bit more about it? SHare your thoughts in the comments below!

Nya~!

Lizzy Nyanko

Translator/Writer

Author: Lizzy Nyanko

I’m a Mexican-American gypsy cat-girl living in Tokyo. I love all kinds of anime, all things Japanese, photography, cats, food and I live for new experiences! When I’m not writing or watching anime, you’ll find me in thrift shops, roaming around Tokyo, hiking, festivals or at an izakaya. I’m always busy doing something, but I answer comments as soon as I see them, so let me hear what you have to say! Nya~!

Previous Articles

Top 5 Anime by Lizzy Nyanko