The first episodic adventure of its kind on PSVR, Loading Human: Chapter One mixes together the explorative elements of so-called ‘walking simulators’ with a hefty dose of sci-fi and sprinkling of mini-games to round out the package. Putting players in the virtual body of young astronaut Prometheus Baarick, you are tasked with crossing the breadth of the cosmos to retrieve the ‘Quintessence’, an extremely powerful element that can reverse the chronic aging process that current afflicts your genius scientist father, Dorian Baarick.
Towering ambition let down by mediocre execution
When the opening scene of Loading Human’s inaugural chapter fades in, it’s fair to say that the initial ten to fifteen seconds are extremely favourable. In many ways, Loading Human looks like the prototypical VR experience as it whisks players off to a fancy looking sci-fi locale where you can walk about, interact with the game world, and of course, look down at the floor and see someone else’s torso and appendages in lieu of your own.
Primarily using the PlayStation Move controllers, Loading Human’s idyllic VR facade soon starts to crumble when you attempt to navigate your way around the game world, because doing so is an absolute chore. Starting with movement, moving forward can be achieved by aiming the controller forward and clicking down the trigger, while walking backwards is done by aiming the Move controller behind you and again, pressing down the trigger. So far, so simple then.
Where things unravel quite significantly is when you attempt to do anything more complicated than that. Turning for example, is achieved by aiming either the left or right Move controller to the side and then clicking the trigger, except that when you turn, you never rotate in the same increments; thus making the act to turn and look at something in particular far more convoluted than it needs to be as you continually find yourself adjusting to get the job done.
Speaking of convoluted, crouching and handling items also proves to be a much bigger pain in the rear than it needs to be. When it comes to the former, you need to gesture downward with the controller in order to crouch, which would be fine if it worked more than four times out of ten; so yeah, not ideal. When it comes to interacting with elements of the game world, this too proves to be troublesome; since the PlayStation Move controllers each represent one of your spindly in-game arms, they must be positioned in an awkward, grasp-like gesture in order to pick up items or flick switches; both of which constitute the majority of your interactions in Loading Human.
Certainly then, for the majority of Loading Human’s duration, such interactions disappointingly exist within the realms of the mundane. From looking at camera feeds to opening an elevator door with a metal rod, or making a pot of tea, its clear that Loading Human doesn’t really make the most of its evocative setting, not to mention the additional immersion that PSVR provides. Compounding this disappointment is the fact that while Loading Human’s world might be overly tricky to interact with, it nonetheless remains one of the more visually accomplished PSVR titles out there at the moment, boasting some great texture work, reflective surfaces and particle effects (not to mention a pleasing lack of vomit-inducing moments and blurriness).
When it comes to providing some semblance of challenge, Loading Human finds itself decidedly short of the mark here too. Though there are puzzles and arcade-like mini-games, none of them present any sort of difficulty whatsoever outside of dealing with the painfully fiddly controls. However for those who do get easily stumped, hints can be gained by pressing any one of the face buttons on the Move controller but they vary in usefulness; either telling exactly where to find your next objective, or, just telling you what that next objective is but just in different words.
Aside from its game world, something else that Loading Human attempts to trade on is its narrative, and like everything else in the game, the results are mixed to say the least. The fact that the protagonist shares a namesake with the Greek god who stole fire from the other deities to give to mankind, is no coincidence, as the plot allegorises often in its parable of power and responsibility. The problem is, the cast of characters involved in this story (there’s essentially just three of them) just aren’t that interesting.
Starting with Prometheus himself, he just sounds continually disinterested in everything; like somebody trying to pull off a Squall impression from Final Fantasy VIII, but trying far, far too hard to do so. The father figure of the cast, Prometheus’ father Dorian, has a number of potential ulterior motives that could blossom in future episodes, but here, he’s a largely uninteresting character who merely acts as a catalyst to take the player from one part of the game world to the next. Ostensibly, the best character work comes from Alice, the romantic interest for Prometheus. Deftly acted, Alice is arguably the emotional core of Loading Human, as her tender, innocent moments with Prometheus help to make her into both a sympathetic character, and also a believable motivation for Prometheus to do more than just whatever his dad tells him to do.
When it comes to the review of episodic fare such as this, the length of a singular episode wouldn’t come under scrutiny; however, the first episode of Loading Human retails for between thirty and forty bucks, which puts it way above and beyond the ‘spare change’ price point that the likes of Telltale’s episodic fare tends to sell for. As such, its relatively brief length coupled with the lack of incentive to replay, invariably damages the value side of the equation quite significantly.
Loading Human review summary
Though steeped in promise, Loading Human is off to a decidedly shaky start with its first episode. Here’s hoping that future episodes are able to capitalise on the potential that is so clearly there, but as of right now, Loading Human’s tricky controls and mundane mechanics make it a mediocre PSVR effort to say the least.