Content Type: Gaming Reviews
Date: October 30, 2018
The Brookhaven Experiment VR is a survival horror wave based first-person shooter available for download from the PlayStation Store for PlayStation VR. The Brookhaven Experiment VR is developed by Phosphor Studios; an indie studio that has also created such unique games as puzzles galore in The Path to Luma, first-person action adventure Heroes tie-ins Gemeni and Enigma: Heroes Reborn, first-person planetary exploration in Corpse of Discovery, first-person action adventure The Dark Meadow, third-person action adventure Horn and more besides. Can Phosphor Studios deliver the most atmospheric survival horror wave based first-person shooter in the form of The Brookhaven Experiment VR?
The story revolves around an experiment that has torn reality apart resulting in the arrival of monsters roaming the Earth’s surface and not many humans surviving the fallout. Therefore, you are Earth’s and humankind’s last stand as you must make your way to the location of where reality was torn to seal it in order to prevent any further monsters from coming through before rebuilding of civilisation can commence.
Story campaign takes place over ten levels with each level comprising of between two up to a usual quantity of four waves, although there is only one level available to choose from at the start as each level is unlocked after completing the previous level. Meanwhile, survival mode is quite different as it has five maps that last for as long as the player survives as there are an infinite amount of waves containing a remixed sequence of enemies such as the positioning, quantity and types of enemies being different in the town square in survival mode in comparison to the story campaign, while the player can select any of the five maps from the outset. Every survival mode map provides a grading of your performance based upon the quantity of enemies defeated, headshots, damage inflicted on your character by enemies and more besides.
Enemy design has a large quantity of variety as monstrous enemies come in different forms, shapes and sizes such as a monster that has a closer resemblance to a mutated human that walks, while a taller, grotesque specimen that walks until your character has shot it in which it furiously runs towards your character, small mutated enemies that run towards your character, a mouth containing lots of sharp teeth that tries to eat your character, huge spiders and more besides. Meanwhile, there are also gigantic enemy bosses that make the more common enemies look small by comparison including tentacles that rise up from the ground beginning with one tentacle that has one or two green eyes until eventually three tentacles with red eyes are surrounding your character as the player will have to look around more regularly, while the colour of the eyes indicates the health of that particular enemy boss.
Your character has a pretty good range of weaponry for the player to choose a customisable loadout including the default weapon being a well balanced handgun or alternatively a gas-powered hand cannon, a 44 magnum with maximum stopping power, a lightweight pistol with a high rate of fire, a one-handed SMG, a sawed-off shotgun and a crossbow that fires bolts for heavy damage with no recoil or reloading. Every weapon has three attributes including firepower, rate of fire and capacity that each vary from weapon to weapon, although your character is only equipped with a single gun and knife to defend himself from the waves of enemies surrounding him, while not every weapon is available after each wave. When ammo runs dry, it is not just the knife that your character has at his disposal for close quarters combat as the player can use a gun or flashlight to hit a monster on the head or body to perform other types of melee attacks.
There are a wide variety of upgrades, although not every upgrade will necessarily be stocked at the end of each wave as upgrades are unlocked by shooting at boxes within a story campaign level, while survival mode sees weapons and upgrades purchased with an in-game currency referred to as SP that is earned by your performance. Bolt-on upgrades include a laser sight to enhance your aim with a laser beam, while a clip-on flashlight shines a light on your target and a muzzle brake significantly reduces recoil. Buff upgrades include a magazine extender to double your gun’s clip size resulting in less reloading, while a good luck charm increases your chance of getting a critical hit on an enemy and body armour reduces the amount of damage inflicted by enemies on your character for an entire wave. Special ammo includes explosive ammo that inflicts triple damage on enemies, armour-piercing ammo inflicts extra damage and penetrates multiple enemies, tracer ammo lights up the surrounding environment after every fifth round and inflicts extra damage to enemies, alongside toxic ammo that damages enemies over time due to the toxin covering the exterior of each round, while throwable upgrades include mines, grenades, flares and an automatic turret.
Environment design is diverse as they comprise of an abandoned factory, a town square at night, a laboratory basement and observatory, a storm drain, reservoir, bridge and more besides. However, it would have been more preferable if the player had a much greater freedom of movement in order to actually be able to explore every area rather than your character moving at 180 degree angles, although every environment still manages to fully immerse the player as enemies attack from every direction.
The controls are appropriately mapped to two PlayStation Move controllers that represent your left and right hands with a control scheme consisting of on the right-handed Move controller pressing the trigger button to fire weaponry; pressing square to change to special ammo; pressing X to reload; pressing the move button to change from a gun to grenades, while on the left-handed Move controller pressing the trigger button to turn the flashlight on or off; pressing triangle to flip the flashlight around; pressing O to rotate your character’s field of view by 180 degrees; pressing the move button to change from a flashlight to a knife; and pressing start to display the pause menu. PlayStation Move’s gyroscopic motion sensing functionality allows the player to aim the weapon in the right hand and shine the flashlight in the left hand towards enemies, while head tracking is utilised efficiently enabling the player to seek out enemies attacking from different angles, alongside vibration occurring to emphasise the time pressure of reloading quickly before more enemies arrive at your character’s position and reflecting the recoil of weapons that have faster rates of fire such as the SMG. Meanwhile, left-handed mode reverses the controls from firing with the right-handed Move controller to the left-handed Move controller and vice versa. PlayStation Aim controller compatibility was also supported via a post-launch update with excellent calibration and an optimised control scheme.
Graphically, The Brookhaven Experiment VR is amazing as the enemies look the part as monsters and are well animated, while the surrounding environments showcase the ruins of a once peaceful city that is now overrun with monsters as some buildings are crumpled with excellent flame effects and swaying foliage in the wind, alongside great fire effects for each of the weapons. Lighting and shadows plays a massive part in conveying the tension such as the town square at night genuinely requires the flashlight, but it is not just a dark environment as the player can look upwards to see the moon and stars in the night sky, alongside a giant enemy rampaging through the city in the distance. The same quality of detail for night time environments can be seen during the reservoir level in which water ripples gently across the surface, while simultaneously reflecting the moonlight and nearby lighting of flames.
The Brookhaven Experiment VR’s presentation is immediately immersive as every menu and loadout option is situated around the player resulting in utilising the gyroscopic motion sensing functionality of the VR headset to look at each option before pressing the trigger button on the right-handed Move controller to select the mode, loadout or option.
A female voice-over provides advice such as when you are going to need your flashlight, instructs your character on what his mission objectives are and where to proceed to begin the next mission and even provides a bit of backstory by telling your character of her sorrow that the experiments did not go according to plan resulting in such monsters arriving on Earth. Sound effects include your character firing weaponry and engaging in combat against incoming monsters, monsters attacking your character, footsteps and growls from monsters and ambience; however there is not much in the way of climactic music in each level.
The trophy list includes 21 trophies, although rather surprisingly every trophy is bronze. Almost half the trophy list involves surviving each chapter of the story campaign, while easier trophies include the C-Note bronze trophy for killing 100 enemies. Harder trophies include the I Like the Night Life, Baby bronze trophy for completing a night time level in the story campaign without turning on the flashlight; the Tubthumping bronze trophy for surviving ten waves in a survival map; and the Ammo Conversation bronze trophy for surviving a night time campaign level using only the knife. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 10 to 15 hours to 100% the trophy list.
There are three difficulty levels including normal, hard and apocalyptic for story campaign and survival mode. Major differences between normal and apocalyptic difficulty being that enemy movement is much faster, enemies arrive in clusters albeit from differing angles, so the player has to look around to make sure there are no enemies positioned directly behind or horizontally in every direction and enemies inflict far greater damage to your character’s health that certainly increases the immersion of the virtual reality survival horror gameplay.
For family and friends situated in the same room; the TV presents what the player is experiencing, albeit without the same quality of depth in comparison to virtual reality. There is no social screen multiplayer which is a missed opportunity to introduce local multiplayer through having the VR player taking on the role of the lead character as he kills monsters on his way towards closing the tear in reality, while the TV player controls the enemies situated within each area in an attempt to prevent him from defeating every enemy to progress through Brookhaven and begin returning the city back to some form of normality by deciding the approach and formation of each enemy wave in a competitive multiplayer battle.
The Brookhaven Experiment VR’s replayability originates from a story campaign containing 10 levels and multiple waves per level, survival mode with five maps and grading the player’s performance, diverse environment and enemy design that elevates the survival horror gameplay, three difficulty levels for story campaign and survival mode and a customisable loadout including weapons, items and upgrades before the level commences and between each wave that will collectively have players returning for quite some time.
- Title: The Brookhaven Experiment VR
- Developer: Phosphor Studios
- Publisher: Phosphor Studios
- System: PlayStation VR
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross-Buy: No
- Cross-Play: No
- Players: 1
- Hard Drive Space Required: 4.18GB (Version 1.06)