Here’s what marks Budget Cuts as a cut above other VR funtimes: it’s been 20 minutes since I took my cybergoggles off and I still sort of feel like I’m in VR. That used to happen all the time when I first got my Vive, but my brain’s since learned to tell the difference between the real and the virtual. Budget Cuts, though, feels so much like embodying a physical space that it’s short circuited whatever tolerance I’d built up.
That’d be impressive enough on its own, but developers Neat Corporation have also filled that space with teleportation guns, terrifying robots and jokes. Their robo-stealth ’em up is finally out, and I’d be surprised if it doesn’t end up being the best VR game of this decade. Here’s the most recent trailer, though I reckon the slower pace of this much older one does a better job of showing it off.
You’re a human in a robo-dominated workplace, attempting to evade the clutches of HR. That means slinking past security robots, throwing knives at them when that doesn’t work, and solving puzzles along the way.
It feels ridiculously slick, largely thanks to the teleportation gun at the heart of the game. You aim it with your non-dominant hand, get a peek at what you’ll see at your destination, then squeeze the controller and pop into existence elsewhere. Every other movement system I’ve tried in VR games has had some degree of awkwardness, but this is the exact opposite. It’s both elegant and stylish, and when things are going well I feel like James Bond would if he had superpowers.
Things don’t normally go well. The same sense of presence that makes swanning about those offices feel so cool also makes running into a robot a terrifying experience: the first time one came after me I shrieked so loudly my neighbours across the road probably heard it. This isn’t a horror game, but those panicked moments tap into the same fight-or-flight impulses that I’ve only properly felt with Amnesia and one or two other horror titles. I’ll echo the warning on the game’s blurb: this isn’t for young kids.
It absolutely IS for everyone else though, and if you own a Vive or a Rift it’d be a crying shame to miss out. You can still check out the pre-alpha demo if you’re on the fence, though I doubt you’d regret just jumping into the full game. I should probably mention that I’m only half an hour into this version, but I’ve played that demo for hours on end without getting bored – so it’s hard to imagine it getting stale any time soon.