When a shooter is at its best, everything just feels right. Controls are snappy, shooting is satisfying, the environments are fun, and getting a “frag” is appropriately rewarding. Keep each of these elements in mind, and then toss PlayStation VR into the mix, and that’s how it feels to dive into Telefrag VR.
Telefrag VR is a 1v1 arena shooter from Anshar Studios, which is no strangers to finding success in virtual reality. We reviewed its last excursion, Detached, and came away impressed. This trend continues here; it’s very clear the team just gets VR. An arena shooter straight out of the past using the technology of the present, Telefrag is impressively slick on all fronts. Sidestepping and dashing are wonderfully fast, and it makes the matches more frenetic than they would otherwise be. You can turn the dashing and sprinting into smooth motion in the comfort settings, but even if you can stomach the smoother gameplay, we recommend not doing so. The game just plays better without it, and we found it much more fun.
As we mentioned, the game is a 1v1 shooter where you play quick best-of-three matches against a single opponent, and that’s essentially it. The game is rather light on content, which is a tough pill to swallow given how well it plays.
The game has five arenas, each with unique identities, and they're all brilliant fun. The themes swing from an industrial factory setting, one with more sci-fi leanings, to more of an ancient Greek arena. These five maps are paired with five weapons, each of which have alternate fire modes and their own unique versions of teleportation. Much like the weapons themselves, the teleport abilities have different projectile speeds, methods of traversal, and precision required.
While the rocket launcher has more of a sluggish AOE type teleport, the pistol has a much faster shadow teleport. These play just as big a role in choosing your loadout as the weapons themselves, because, as the title of the game indicates, killing players by teleporting into them is a big component of the action. We will say it takes a while to get used to, however. When learning the ropes of the game in bot matches, the AI had just as much success telefragging us as we did them.
We do think at least some of that is down to playing with the DualShock 4 first rather than the PS Move controllers. While it controls like a more traditional shooter on a regular pad, we found that the Moves are far better overall. Movement feels surprisingly natural with the wands. And unlike with the DualShock, you can effectively aim both of your weapons at different spots, as you dual wield at all times.
This is important to keep in mind when selecting your weapons, as you only get a couple of each per game. Plus, if you die, you have to select a new loadout, adding an extra layer of thought to the gameplay. After one circuit of the maps, as well as at least a round apiece with each weapon, we were starting to get a good feel for the game, including which weapons are clearly the best – it’s the pistol, for the record.
It's at this point that the game’s biggest hurdle reared its ugly head; the community. Not that the community is bad, but rather there isn’t one. We made a point of holding the review off until the game launched so we weren’t constantly squaring off against bots, and we were only able to find a couple of matches total. For what it’s worth, if you don’t find a human opponent, the game matches you against a bot that seems a touch more creative than their offline match counterparts, but it’s a concerning start. At the end of the day, the core mechanics of the game are sound. But if no one shows up to utilise them, how is it going to grow? Various bot matches kept us occupied for a time, but this doesn’t show the game at its peak potential. While still fun, the spark generated by two live players is what the game needs to hit that next level. This will be especially true if the team uses the game as a “step 1” rather than the final product. The launch version of the title is a good baseline to build upon.
While Telefrag VR might be light on content, what is there is fairly impressive. Each of the game’s maps and weapons have strong identities that set them apart from one another, and the gameplay is exciting as well as polished. But ultimately, we’re just really worried that not enough people are going to show up and play. Finding a match proved tricky almost immediately, and if this trend continues, there may not be reason to add content going forward, which is not what the title deserves. Prove us wrong. Please.