Playing through Mortal Blitz feels like going back in time, which is a strange feeling when you’re talking about a VR game – but it’s true. What we have here is effectively Time Crisis in virtual reality, which sounds like a match made in heaven and, we feel, is likely to be a fitting genre when implemented well.
There’s no denying that this style of arcade shooter is perfectly suited to VR. Sometimes the best experiences in the medium, at least so far, are the more scripted ones that limit your movement and focus on what happens in moment-to-moment scenarios. Mortal Blitz does this relatively well, putting you into a series of slightly different situations – usually next to some convenient cover – while releasing swathes of enemies that come at you from all angles.
From behind cover you must move your body, or at least your head, around corners holding out your motion control-wielding hands to blast enemies. The controls are simple enough: you aim as you would a real gun, pull the trigger to shoot, and reload with the central move button.
Sheathing your weapon by selecting one of the four face buttons allows your free hands to interact with things or pull new weapons, grenades, or objects in your direction. Some of these can be released and propelled towards enemies; others, such as weapons, will be equipped, thereby replacing the previous one until your ammunition runs dry. Don’t worry, there’s always a pair of automatic pistols with unlimited ammo to fall back on.
Shooting at enemies sometimes staggers them into a daze, at which point, if you quickly sheath your weapon and pull the trigger, will slow down time Max Payne-style and pull the enemy towards you. Quickly re-equipping here and firing while the enemy hangs midair gives you bonus points and forces the enemy to drop various bits of ammo and health for you to collect. The better your hit rate while the enemy is staggered, the bigger your points bonus. It’s a little bit like Bulletstorm, but with nowhere near as much variation or payoff.
Indeed, while getting to grips with these mechanics early on seems promising, you eventually fall into a habitual rinse and repeat method. We tried mixing things up, be that by changing weapons or throwing objects towards enemies, but the outcome is the same regardless. You can easily gather the same or more points by simply shooting with your default pistols.
This feeds into our biggest gripe with the game: a complete lack of variety that extends to level and enemy design, or the scenarios in which you're placed. There’s one moment, atop a train where you must swing from side-to-side avoiding incoming obstacles, which gives the impression that more complex scenarios are incoming. But this is over all too soon with very little challenge, and we never see any other kind of interesting scenario again. Instead, it merely falls back into its repetitive gameplay with very little threat from the enemy.
With little payoff for mixing things up in combat, we also can't see many reasons to return for a second run – which, for a game that tallies up points based on your performance, is a cardinal sin. We can't help but feel that Mortal Blitz is a missed opportunity.
We had some fun with Mortal Blitz's brief 90 minute campaign, but it’s hard to ignore the lack of imagination that’s gone into its makeup. For every moment of glee, mostly afforded by the VR headset than any real design philosophy, there’s an equal moment of disappointment. As a genre, it perfectly suits the VR medium, but the repetitive and uninspiring design leaves little to reflect on with too much positivity.