This year it felt like there was a lack of VR out at E3, but that does not mean it was not there and it did allow for titles like Phantom: Covert Ops to shine out a bit more than normal. Something that many could easily have looked over on the floor if there were loads of other titles out there. Thankfully, I had a chance to sneak down to nDreams to see just what they had for us this year and it was a nice little stealth VR title where we stay seated in a kayak the whole time. Something akin to Metal Gear Solid meets The Rock but in a seated and rowing position the whole time. Stick with me here and you will, hopefully, be interested in Phantom: Covert Ops too.
Before you start rolling your eyes, do know that Phantom has its roots in the real world with some of the covert operatives out there who needed to make some stealth ingresses into locations surrounded by water. That is just what we are set to do here and with all of the motion controls one would expect from the VR setting. Aiming a gun and throwing explosives is about the basic as you could expect, in general, but this one mixes in some real-world rowing mechanics to help try to navigate the waters of Phantom. Needless to say, get your arms all ready for this one as it drops us all into an interesting and immersive setting due to it.
Phantom: Covert Ops — Oculus Quest Teaser
You are a Phantom: an elite and deadly covert operative with a single night to prevent all-out war.
Dispatched into remote, hostile wetlands in your tactical kayak, utilize military-grade weapons and equipment to evade and neutralize the enemy threat.
Immerse yourself in a gritty and authentic arena of war across an intense campaign in VR. Engage your targets lethally or infiltrate unnoticed from within the shadows: it’s your mission to execute your own way.
In terms of the rowing, for those who do not know how to, it felt truly accurate in Phantom: Covert Ops during my demo. Even with the game in an early state, it felt like the team nailed it so far. While holding the paddle you will need to row, steer, and "brake" using the paddle and the different controls it will need for this vehicle. If you could find yourself in a straightaway and picked up speed, you could also use the paddle to steer like a rudder for a bit. Not the best option in the demo I had as it required a lot of moving through reeds and staying out of spotlights, but it is something that is in there. Even if you cannot use the oar single-handed all too well.
The next big thing for Phantom: Covert Ops had to be the stealth. Not something that is traditional in the VR setting, but given the basics of the game, it made sense. I mentioned before that we could use tall reeds and other objects to hide behind. I was also able to shoot out lights to cause more darkness and attention to be drawn elsewhere. The point of it all came across in the game, but still needs a bit of work in terms of the AI. This was an early build for Phantom, so it is nowhere near the final product, but the AI would react like real people but bugs could still be seen. It is worth noting that when they did work, they started to search everywhere they could and did not stop just because a bit of time went by.
In terms of the other controls and weapons in Phantom, as I said, they all follow mostly the same mechanics in VR. We need to reload from a limited stash in the kayak and can take aim. I had a silenced pistol, an un-silenced MP5, and a silenced sniper rifle. All but the pistol were able to go two-handed with the sniper rifle adding in something not usual for VR in my experience. When you lifted the gun to your face, it would snap in and require one eye to be closed. To aim, you need to move both your head and hands too. It was a bit of a learning curve in Phantom, but after a bit, it started to feel about right. It was just an interesting option to go with.
Even though my time with Phantom: Covert Ops was a bit on the shorter side, I had a whole lot of fun. Even in this very early build of it all where I went full hitman on everyone instead of true stealth. You could see that it still needs a bit of work, but the motion controls and other actions all felt "right." Even if I had a few issues recognizing how far back the kayak extended behind me when needing to back up. All things with a bit of practice and a bit more time for Phantom should be cleared up and placing us in the middle of all of the things mentioned at the beginning.