Solaris Offworld Combat Review – Sci-Fi Quake For The VR Age
Solaris: Offworld Combat, the next VR shooter from Firewall Zero Hour developers First Contact Entertainment, is out now for PSVR, Rift and Quest. Check out our impressions in our Solaris: Offworld Combat review!
Note: This review was originally published on September 26th, 2020. It’s now been updated to include the PSVR version.
Following up on one of the most successful and well-known PSVR games, Firewall Zero Hour, is no small task. Especially when your next game, in this case Solaris, launches first on different headsets (before the recent PSVR homecoming). But for all its differences and unique challenges, I think Solaris is still mostly a worthy follow-up to the breakout PSVR hit.
The big difference here is that Solaris is not a realistic-style tactical military shooter. At all. Whereas Firewall borrows heavy inspiration from the likes of Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon, Solaris is more like an alternate reality sci-fi version of Quake with its focus on pick-up-and-playability and quick-paced gameplay.
Everything in Solaris is about as streamlined as it can possibly get — for better and (in some small cases) for worse. For example, there are no game modes to pick from, maps to select, playlists to queue for, or anything like that. The main menu literally just says ‘Play’ or asks you to put on the helmet to enter a game. That’s it. From there you’re spawned into a match with seven other people in a 4v4 game to capture control points that move around the map, sort of like Headquarters in Call of Duty. It’s very quick and efficient and, above all else, very fun.
In addition to the four guns (starting pistol, automatic assault rift, grenade launcher, and rocket launcher) there are two equipment items: proximity mine and deployable cover shield. It’s enough gear to add some strategy to encounters, but does feel a bit light overall.
Another example of this streamlined approach is the lack of an inventory, weapon switching, or reloading. You walk over weapons to pick them up and then it auto-switches to that new weapon. You shoot the special weapons until they’re out of ammo and it switches back to your starting pistol. No reloading ever required. In this way the “weapons” actually function a bit more like upgrades since they’re temporary. It adds intensity because you can visibly see when others pick up the weapons and creates competition to see who can get them first.
Solaris: Offworld Combat Review – Quest vs Rift
Solaris: Offworld Combat is out on both Quest and Rift with cross-buy and cross-play support. So even if you only have one headset, you’re playing against and with people on both platforms at all times. Visually it’s extremely similar. So similar in fact, that other than a few particle effects and lighting enhancements you can barely tell the difference. Gameplay is functionally identical. The only difference I’ve ever really spotted from a performance level is at the start of a match on Quest, before you’re ever in combat, there is a little bit of jitter and stutter as things are initializing, but once you’re in the game and actively playing, that all goes away. Refer to the video below for a side-by-side comparison.
However, not all of the streamlining they’ve done is for the better. One great example of this is weapon handling. In Solaris, you literally cannot control your left hand at all. Every weapon in the game is essentially one-handed just like the pistol, which is fine in and of itself, Half-Life: Alyx did this as well, but in Solaris your left hand isn’t tracked at all. If you reach out with your left controller it doesn’t do anything, you’re only using it as a thumbstick to move around.
The issue with this is twofold: a lack of presence and immersion, but also a lack of gameplay opportunity. In games like Onward your left hand is equal to the right hand, you could pull your pistol with the left hand, cradle the gun on your left shoulder and even pull the trigger left-handed if you wanted to. But in Solaris your left hand is basically the left half of an Xbox controller in your hand without tracking.
All that being said — you will forget about it. While playing I tended to rest my right controller on top of my left controller to steady the aim regardless of weapon so it generally felt like I was using both hands in-game even though I wasn’t. I genuinely stopped noticing or caring about it during the heat of battle.
Solaris: Offworld Combat Review – Comfort Settings
Solaris: Offworld Combat should be avoided if you require teleportation movement to enjoy VR because smooth, direct locomotion is the only option. That being said, there are some settings you can tweak to make it more comfortable if you’re not extra sensitive. In the main menu options you can switch between smooth and snap turning or turn on/off the FOV vignette for turning and sprinting.
Another odd limitation is the restricted physical crouching. I know the Quest and Rift S are capable of accurately tracking me as I lay down on the ground, or even roll around, because I’ve done it in games like Rec Room and Onward, but there are invisible barriers in Solaris that only let you go down as low as the crouch button animates.
Probably more than any other shooter I’ve played in VR, Solaris is the most seamless to play. It’s pure entertainment that just works. You never have to fuss around with anything feeling wonky or off because all the things that usually cause those issues in VR just aren’t here. On the surface things can see simplistic, but in the moment they absolutely are there to ensure the game is as fluid and playable as possible from top to bottom.
Solaris: Offworld Combat Review Final Impressions
Solaris: Offworld Combat is more than just the sum of its parts. While it’s easy to nitpick some of the decisions made, like your left hand not really being tracked in the game or the lack of a party/friend system at all for launch, the fact of the matter is that it’s still just incredibly fun to play. Visually it looks great on both Rift and Quest and the gameplay has that quick and seamless feel of Quake mixed with a slick Tron-style aesthetic. Despite the issues, Solaris is easily the most accessible and streamlined VR shooter I’ve played in recent memory and scratches the arena shooter itch I’d forgotten I had.
Solaris: Offworld Combat is out now on Rift and for Quest with cross-buy and cross-play functionality across both platforms. This review was conducted using both versions of the game, but most time was spent in the Quest version. A PSVR version also release today, May 18th. For more on how we arrived at this score, check out our review guidelines.
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