The name Apex Construct reveals quite a lot about Fast Travel Games’ debut project. Created by ex-DICE employees specifically for PlayStation VR, it’s a narrative-based first-person shooter in which you’re armed with a bow-and-arrow in a distorted dystopian Earth. Despite the striking visual identity, though, it serves up an irksome narrative about faceless AI entities named Mothr and Fathr – it’s the worst kind of sci-fi, and exactly what you’d expect from a release with such a try-hard title.
It doesn’t play particularly great either. The problems, unquestionably, fall at the feet of the controls. With a PlayStation Move motion controller in each hand, you’re free to use each appendage individually, picking up objects and investigating them by rotating them in front of your face. You must also manually notch arrows and draw them, aiming before letting rip. Meanwhile, an inventory on your left, artificial hand allows you to stash objects away in the most cumbersome manner imaginable.
Navigation is the first major issue. You can turn on free movement which is executed by pushing and holding the Move button and tilting where you want to go like a joystick, but there’s also teleportation. Both options are fine when you’re solving puzzles, but you don’t have enough control during combat, and this can lead to difficulty spikes where you’re getting flanked and totally overwhelmed. There’s a shield on your bow which helps, but you’re still going to take damage.
It’d be great, then, if hitting enemies wasn’t so darn difficult – but even though we’ve become skilled archers in our four or so hours with the title thus far, the game can be downright unfair. You’ll see arrows sail through your targets without doing a lick of damage, or sometimes they’ll inexplicably bounce off if you happen to hit the "wrong" area. It’s just absolutely infuriating, and it’s caused us to rage-quit on a couple of occasions, despite the combat being fairly scarce.
There are some nice touches; you can shoot electric arrows into water for extra damage, for example. But turning is another issue. The game tells you to press triangle and flick in the direction you want to rotate, which would be fine if triangle wasn’t also used for full 180-degree turns. It’s simply not reliable, and while you can turn on a motion sickness-inducing smooth rotation option, there’s no way to use the same buttons for the more comfortable incremental turning. It’s just shoddy.
And it’s a shame because, beyond the clichéd storytelling, there’s a strong sense of visual identity here. The world is cartoony, but it’s detailed, and it looks excellent on the PS4 Pro in particular. There are also some really cool ideas, like computer terminals which you have to use interactive keyboards on to hack into the file structure and open up documents. Many of these segments are essential for solving puzzles, as you hunt for key codes that can be used to open up locked doors.
But it’s the controls that are the real mood killer, and honestly have delayed our review. For once it’s not the accuracy of the Move wands that’s the problem; it’s the implementation. Motion controls are amazingly immersive in virtual reality and we love using them, but when you’ve got a solution that leaves you longing for your trusted DualShock 4, then you’ve got it wrong. We’ll persevere with this sci-fi adventure, but only because we feel obliged to bring you a full review.
Are you still interested in checking out Apex Construct, or will you be waiting for our full review before making a decision? Watch a flurry of arrows inexplicably bounce off impenetrable armour in the comments section below.