Finnish developer 3rd Eye Studios has borrowed and plucked a wealth of talent from both the video game and movie industry in order to help craft its debut title, Downward Spiral: Horus Station, but it hasn’t really worked. Boasting of past projects like Alan Wake, Quantum Break, Trials, and films Gravity and Prometheus may turn one or two heads, but the final product will leave a lot to be desired. Downward Spiral: Horus Station is an incredibly middling experience that is almost completely devoid of any excitement whatsoever.
Playable as both a regular game or in virtual reality via PlayStation VR, you’ll board the Horus Station to find it deserted. It’s now your job to get the power back on, re-align the ship by connecting each of its areas back together, and most importantly, find out what happened to the crew.
It’s a plot setup we have all seen many, many times before, and the game does little to veer off of this beaten path. In fact, thanks to the title’s strict focus on environmental storytelling, you may struggle to glean any hard facts from the experience at all. There isn’t a single cutscene or piece of spoken dialogue throughout the entire five hour runtime, and so a lot of what happens is left to interpretation.
There’s multiple references to walking through some ruins on the surface of Mars, which the game depicts at certain intervals, but we couldn’t tell you what’s really going on here if you asked us. Maybe there’s plot threads that we didn’t pick up on, and if so, then the game does a very poor job of presenting them to you in what is a very linear experience. But if there isn’t, then Downward Spiral doesn’t have anything to say at all.
If you were hoping that gameplay would pick up the pace, prepare for another setback. The whole game takes place in zero-g, and without that gravitational pull to keep your feet on the ground, you can float about environments as you please. It's neat in concept, but the means of mobility left at your disposal aren’t up to scratch. First off, you’re introduced to the mechanic that allows you to create your own momentum. Using the left thumbstick, you need to hold onto walls and surfaces and propel yourself along, which is fine in tight spaces, but completely useless in large, open areas. The act of doing this doesn’t feel good in the slightest. It’s fiddly, unreliable, and frustrating, but thankfully you won’t have to put up with it for long. After a frustrating 15 minutes or so, you’ll obtain the grappling hook, which allows you to travel anywhere in the environment once shot. This makes navigation and traversal much easier, but it fails to quicken the pace.
Everything about the game is simply far too slow. You move about at a snail’s pace, and the objectives you’re given hardly make it a worthy journey. Collect a key card, press a button, simply travel to the next area, destroy a couple of robotic enemies, line up a door via a computer terminal. Save for some impressive moments where you leave the station and traverse space by your own means, Downward Spiral: Horus Station is nothing other than boring.
Of course this can all be experienced in virtual reality as well, which makes the original mechanic of propelling yourself by using your hands feel a little more natural. The DualShock 4 controller is an option but the VR mode feels at home when using the Move controllers, which allows you to control each arm separately. It’s never going to improve the overall gameplay experience, but the novelty of floating about in zero-g is heightened a little with the headset on.
Graphically, the title does little to impress. The tiny sections where you do get to leave the station for the vast reaches of space are again great to look at as a huge planet looms in the background, but interiors of the ship are incredibly dull. The structure of areas are repeated over and over again, there’s very little to diversify the robotic foes you’ll encounter, and textures themselves wouldn’t look out of place in the previous generation.
Surprisingly, the game also has a multiplayer offering and the ability to play the game in co-op. In terms of the online side of things, you can jump into team deathmatch or a horde mode which pits you against the robots that patrol the station. We tried to get into a game across multiple play sessions, but was unsuccessful every time.
Downward Spiral: Horus Station neither succeeds nor fails in any spectacular fashion, and as such, it just sort of exists. This is a boring experience that doesn’t do anything truly unforgivable, but is also unsuccessful in offering anything worthy of talking about. Downward Spiral: Horus Station is a thing, but you really don’t need to experience it.