The long-awaited Vertigo sequel has finally arrived, bringing with it more of the game’s distinctively Half-Life-like flair and compellingly bizarre world. Does Vertigo 2 surpass the first film? You already read the headline, so there’s no need to keep you guessing. Rapid response: Yes. Read on for the lengthy response.
The sequel places a number of additional worlds and lifeforms between you and your version of Earth, but you still have to fight your way home through a robot and alien-infested science facility, much like in the previous game in the series. Although I would recommend it, you actually don’t need to play the first Vertigo to get lost in the bizarre and extensive story of Vertigo 2—if only for easy access to the story and roughly four more hours of blasting.
However, even if you, like me, played Vertigo Remastered in 2020, you might not understand a single thing about the sequel. This installment adds a new level of narrative richness to the franchise’s type of absurdist sci-fi kitsch, one that may be too dense and complicated for most viewers. It makes little difference whether you want to play it or not; the game itself is unquestionably an improvement over the original and numerous other VR shooters.
It is without a doubt the best PC VR game thus far in 2023, which is even more astounding given that Zach Tsiakalis-Brown essentially created it alone. Seriously, Vertigo 2’s credit screen is the shortest I’ve ever seen given the scope of the event.
Given that we only consider the final product and ignore team size and money, it is nevertheless important to note that this game, which is so well-made and creative, was created by a very (very) tiny team without the kind of AAA budget we’ve seen wasted on experiences just half as good.
Vertigo 2 is a VR native through and through, while also paying homage to some of the greatest video game characters. Each of its 14 collectible weapons has a special reload mechanism that was created with VR users in mind. Because of the user-friendly emphasis on weapons, you won’t waste time fiddling with movements that are more appropriate for realistic combat sims with a considerably slower pace of gameplay, including racking gun slides or managing charge handles. You soon learn that realism isn’t important because a room full of weirdos will miraculously appear and be determined to reset your progress to the previous save point.
In order to reload, you normally need to press a controller button to expel a used magazine (or another type of pod), grab a new magazine from your left hip holster, and place it into the magazine well. You typically only have three of these magazines available at any given moment because it takes time for the ammo to regenerate automatically. Where a magazine should be, there is a small counter.
This implies that while you’ll use a variety of stronger weapons during your trip, you’ll need to rely on weaker weapons like your starter pistol in large-scale encounters and against bosses while you wait for your preferred weaponry to become functional. Additionally, auto-recharging ammo eliminates the necessity for frequent loot collection in the level, with the exception of the occasional bomb or health syringe that may be hidden somewhere.
It takes time to build up the muscle memory needed to quickly reload, fire, and switch to a new weapon, which might unintentionally increase the difficulty of a firefight. The wheel-style gun inventory system is nonetheless user-friendly enough to eventually allow you to develop that ability and use it effectively as the variety and quantity of enemies grow.
Fortunately, you may upgrade a number of your weapons, which, similar to Half-Life: Alyx, can only be obtained through one-time synthesizer points that you come across over the game’s 18 chapters.
Because modding stations might be submerged, in a cave corridor that leads nowhere, or concealed behind a number of filing cabinets, it’s a tried-and-true technique for making you fully explore levels. Although the upgrading mechanism isn’t very robust, it’s adequate to keep the starter weaponry useful as you advance to the arsenal of more powerful weapons.
Vertigo 2 has 10 brand-new boss encounters, all of which are large, wacky boss battles like the first game in the series. I won’t give any of them away, but they’re essentially what you’d expect: custom clashes in somewhat sized arenas where you must make the most of your surroundings and most potent weaponry. Despite being fairly conventional fare, bosses have enough personality and variety to keep you interested. They also had attack routines that you’ll have to figure out, perhaps after a few deaths.
Vertigo, on the other hand, takes things a step further by including a huge variety of antagonists that you may mix and match as you explore the multiverse. Additionally, as you move closer to the game’s conclusion, you’ll run into a haze of all the evil guys from the multiverse at once, so you’ll need to become intimately familiar with all of their weak areas.
A large selection of puzzles is one thing Vertigo 2 is missing. The ones there are of decent quality, but I truly wish there were more. But I don’t mind if it’s more about the shooting, bosses, variety in the enemies, and an odd story.
Although you could spend more time searching every crevice for weapon upgrades and easter eggs, or with a higher level so foes are harder to beat, it took me about 10 hours to complete the game’s enormous and really shockingly diversified campaign on the usual difficulty.
The game’s contagious cartoon aesthetic is back, and it now offers considerably more refined settings that are enormous in size and variety. The opponent models and animations, which make up 99 percent of your encounters anyhow, are all pretty nicely done, despite the fact that humanoid character models are a tad stiff (and perhaps too avatar-y).
One of Vertigo 2’s best features, aside from its superb, sweeping orchestral score, is the ongoing shift in player expectations.
As soon as you think you understand what’s going on in Vertigo 2, you’ll discover an extraterrestrial trying to rent you a boat, a robot war in which you must pick a side or an interdimensional space opera that gets intense. As you’ll suddenly be transported to a new realm, a new objective, and ultimately a new understanding of why you’re trapped in such a strange environment, the level design gradually becomes equally unpredictable. I adore how ridiculously crazy everything is.
It can be challenging to search across a five-floor building for a single jigsaw piece, only to have the objective radically shift midway through. Another time, you scramble to what you assume to be another boss battle only to discover that the monster has been devoured by a much larger and more deadly creature. And it never breaks the fourth wall while doing any of this. Your task could be simple or it might entirely go off the rails at any time.
In the meanwhile, Vertigo 2 openly pays homage to the Half-Life series as well as many others. Most of the scientific levels have VR-ified health regen stations scattered about, along with mobile copies of the wall-mounted syringes—clearly influenced by Half-Life. Put it in your arm, reenergize, and carry on. You’ll quickly become accustomed to its auditory buzzer as well.
Nevertheless, character voiceovers can range from excellent to bad, so you’ll probably want to keep the subtitles on at all times to ensure that you don’t miss anything. Unfortunately, I discovered this after the opening cutscene, which has two aliens, one with a heavy Spanish accent and the other with a Yoda-like idiom, and clearly calls for subtitles to be even remotely understood.
Furthermore, the game offers a variety of recording options for when you wish to record in-game videos, such as a third-person perspective and a smoothed first-person view for a more professional and stable clip. In general, all VR games ought to offer those features given how helpful they are for taking screenshots and in-game videos. Even easier in-game screenshots in VR exist thanks to a smartphone that basically just hotkeys Steam’s F12 screengrab function. Here is my Instagram-ready selfie with a starting gun.
If you are prone to VR-induced motion sickness, there are a lot of factors in Comfort Vertigo 2 that you should be aware of. The environment is large and diverse. There are sporadic parts of the forced movement that may or may not be comfortable for you, so experienced VR users and those who are not negatively affected by artificial locomotion shouldn’t have any trouble playing through some of the most difficult bits.
You’ll be required to use jumping pads to leap into the air, travel in swift vehicles that the player character cannot control, and strafe about very constantly while shooting, all of which add lateral movement that some players may find unsettling.
However, the game fully utilizes a hybrid locomotion technology that makes use of both smooth locomotion and teleportation as playable movement options. Users can toggle a leap button in the menu options if they don’t want to employ teleportation, but if they’re particularly sensitive, they shouldn’t do this.