Platforms PSVR (reviewed), Vive, Rift
Developer Untold Games
Publisher Maximum Games
Release Date October 13, 2016

Review code provided

Loading Human: Chapter 1 is a first-person, narrative-driven adventure game set in the future that casts you as Prometheus. Your father is a dying scientist who has summoned you to his Antarctic research lab to task you with an important mission – retrieve the Quintessence, the most powerful energy source in the universe, from deep space. It can also reverse the aging process and is the only thing that can save your father’s life.

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Loading Human is a very weird video game. It leans heavily on its narrative to do the heavy lifting, with most of the gameplay confined to puzzle solving and moving around. You’ll spend your time wandering around various futuristic environments, solving the occasional puzzle and interacting with the various characters of the piece. It’s a narratively interesting game with a decent story, though as the “chapter 1” subtitle might suggest, incomplete for the moment.

What Loading Human nails is its character interactions. While most of the characters you’ll be talking to are disembodied voices, such as the AI that guides you through the game, there is one character you’ll spend a lot of time with – Alice. Through a series of flashbacks you’ll get to spend time interacting and talking to her as the narrative unfolds. Loading Human pushes character interaction further and harder than any other game I’ve played in VR.

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The first time I met Alice she held out her hand. Without even thinking twice about it I reached out to shake it, only becoming aware that I was sitting in my room holding a Move controller when a hand that was decidedly not mine floated into view. Shaking Alice’s hand was incredibly natural thanks to the immersive power of virtual reality combined with two controllers that are in-game representations of my hands.

Loading Human plays on this quite heavily throughout its running time. Although there’s some awkwardness as your brain tries to remind you that you’re playing a video game, it was always quite apparent what it wanted me to do, because it’s stuff I do on a daily basis as a Human being. Loading Human uses these interactions to really root you in its world and create a fantastic sense of physically being in another place altogether. Just don’t lean in too far when it comes time to kiss her, otherwise you’ll be making out with the inside of her skull.

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Unfortunately, these interactions are going to be the only place where Loading Human really grounds you in its world. The game’s basic controls are incredibly strange and unintuitive. On Playstation VR, most games need to make a trade-off between allowing you to move freely throughout the environment with the traditional Dualshock, or root you to the spot but allow you more interaction with the world around you using the Move controllers.

Loading Human tries to have it both ways. You get the Move controllers to be able to interact directly with the game world, picking stuff up, pushing buttons, making out with digital characters. But it also tries to let you move freely around the world as you do it. It’s an admirable goal and one that definitely merits further exploration, because while there are some neat tricks to the way Loading Human tackles movement, it gets pretty confusing very quickly and the whole system ends up coming off as more than a bit awkward.

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To move in Loading Human you need to hold down the Move button on the controller in your left hand. That will make you walk in the direction you’re facing. You can turn by pointing and clicking the controller in your right hand in any direction (turning is done by quickly fading in and out to avoid projectile vomiting). You can do an about face by pointing the right controller straight backwards too. And for some reason there’s an option to crouch.

If it sounds confusing, it is. It makes a tad more sense when you’re actually in the game than when someone on the Internet is trying to explain it to you. It works, but not without some major caveats. The biggest issue I had with movement was that I was controlling the direction I was walking in with two different input devices, one of which was my head. Trying to look around while walking makes you do an impression of a guy who’s gone on a three-day bender.

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It’s baffling, especially when there’s an entirely separate mechanic to control which way you’re walking. Because I’m easily able to look in a different direction than I’m travelling in real life, and because Loading Human is trying to approximate that experience, it comes across as incredibly unintuitive and shatters immersion. It doesn’t help that clicking to look feels really imprecise. The simple act of facing a control panel sometimes takes multiple attempts before I’m in a position to comfortably use it.

I found that I was spending my entire time with Loading Human constantly thinking about movement – how I was going to approach a table, which way would be the best way to walk up an incline, where I could position myself in a room. Because of the complicated nature of the movement controls, it overrode everything else. At a certain point I just wasn’t engaging with the story or the game world at all, I was just focused on how I was moving.

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It’s a shame that this is the case, because Loading Human does a decent job at telling a pretty good story otherwise. You’re constantly kept up to date about goings on around the world by your disembodied AI companion, as well as newspapers you can find scattered throughout the environments, and Untold does a decent job at building a future world for you to inhabit.


Summary

Loading Human’s control scheme is a major barrier for entry to what is otherwise a pretty decent stab at a story-driven Sci-Fi game, which makes the fact that movement is so obtuse all the more annoying. It has some cool ideas and some nice moments, but these are completely obscured by a control scheme that demands constant attention and thought, breaking any kind of immersion that the game could possibly manage. The story and world building in general, and interacting with Alice, are all pretty well done, which makes it a shame that the controls are so uncomfortable to use, forcing you to focus your attentions in all the wrong places. 

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