The retro Compound FPS brings boomer shooters to the world of VR after years of work by an independent developer: our review.
The world of First Person Shooter in VR has gone to expand more and more, to host real masterpieces such as Half-Life Alyx (here the review of Half-Life Alyx) which has become a real benchmark for experiences with the helmet. A major absentee to date has been a worthy virtual reality heir to classics like Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, and Duke Nukem 3D. Well, after four years from the debut on Steam in Early Access, the first person shooter Compound received the update to version 1.0 on PC VR to prepare for the landing on Quest in 2022, so as to pay homage to the aforementioned FPS icons in the best of ways. No more chatter then: the time has come to talk about it.
Since the Eighties with fury
Compound was made by a single indie developer debuting in the gaming industry, Bevan “NotDead” McKechnie of NotDead Games. The premises of the adventure are simple: in a world dominated by large corporations, our virtual alter ego takes on the responsibility of bringing down the most powerful and despotic of organizations, diving into an adventure between the city sewers and the skyscraper of the corp, where there is a CEO intent on eliminating him with the help of his henchmen.
In short, we are talking about plot fragments that are not exactly original but which at the same time provide the perfect excuse to drop players in Cyberpunk 2020 and RoboCop-flavored shootings. Compound adopts one visual style in low resolution pixel art with a clear retro inspiration, able to amaze even those who have never touched Wolfenstein 3D or its recently released related titles. NotDead’s choice is excellent: if the nostalgia effect strikes the hearts of historical enthusiasts, the adoption of this aesthetic could captivate everyone, with a vibrant and bright color palette placed on models made with care and precision. From the entrance of the skyscraper to the corridors of the laboratories of the corporation, passing through the apartment that serves as our headquarters, no element out of place in Compound: the objects that fill the procedurally generated rooms – with which it is often possible to interact – contribute to the characterization levels and in some cases add quotes to historical or pop culture-related FPS.
Sure, the initial areas might feel empty and a bit claustrophobic but things change, with the maps opening up to allow us to think about different strategies to eliminate enemies.
The random generation of stages, even in size, prevents the experience from becoming distracting or monotonous, with quick and easy games that entice the player to repeatedly oppose the fierce guards of the corporation. The definition of the environments, which benefits from additional details such as cars moving between buildings and the gloomy starry skyis completed with the soundtrack signed by Speedblack exclusively for the game, which however – while fitting perfectly with the tones of the experience – did not turn out to be exactly memorable. The rest of the sound was made instead with remarkable precision, from weapons to explosive barrels, to the sounds of robots and human enemies. Discovering the minutiae of audio also means admire the charging animations and the death of enemies or the effects of explosions, elements which have also been accomplished with competence.
Quick and content-rich games
We then move on to the actual experience with controller in hand and eyes immersed in the viewer, in our case the Oculus Quest 2. When Compound opens we are catapulted into our apartment where we have access to a kitchen, added for aesthetic purposes but with different elements interactive, from the table with dishes to be consumed to set the difficulty of a game, up to the trophy case complete with minigun placed in an opening case upon completion of the game.
Then there is the firing range, which allows you to test all unlockable weapons and an antechamber where you can activate the so-called Mutations. On the purely structural front, Compound offers eight different areas, each with a couple of levels inside (in the last area there is clearly the final boss as well). From the initial emergency guns placed on the walls of the rooms, the fighter passes gradually to more powerful weapons, with his opponents who, in parallel, become more and more aggressive and numerous, including soldiers equipped with robotic jetpack headcrabs equipped with shields, tanks robots and much more. There is no shortage of mini-bosses such as giant rats, spiders and assassins with unique abilities, and then there are the final bosses, who use heavy vehicles and tools of death out of the ordinary. After taking down the villain at the creupscolo of the adventure, it is possible to access one of the three available endings, which are a bit of the reward for having faced various loops by defeating a multitude of minions and enemies, perhaps even at a high difficulty. The soldiers’ artificial intelligence is not prodigiousmind you, but at times it seemed to us that the robots led the charge under the cover fire of the companions, forcing us to remain stationary in one point without being able to counterattack.
The paraphernalia at our disposal is quite large, as well as divided into several colors depending on the ammunition to be used: in addition to guns, we can take advantage of the bow, shotguns, assault, sniper and even carriers of death such as the railgun, the grenade launcher and the rocket launcher.
Weapon feedback is great and it is possible to hold them with two hands to better manage the recoil. In some cases – think for example of the revolver and the shotgun – it is possible to conclude the reloading process of the individual bullets with a simple flick of the wrist to close the barrel or lock the drum in position, an attention that makes the experience even more pleasant and enveloping. We are also allowed to use two guns in akimbo mode, to defeat the enemies with great ease: mind you though, you must be skilled in reloading the one with exhausted shots, when the time comes to do so. Normally you can only carry two weapons in the game but when you activate the “Boomer Shooter” mutator – which multiplies the number of enemies on the screen – that limitation disappears. Between the activation of the explosive bow or a third hand, to speed up the reload or allow us to wield additional weapons, we liked the mutators a lot, because they maximize the replay factor of the experience.
Compound is a drug
Net of the lack of additional modes, which would exacerbate the already good replayability, the frenetic action offered by Compound it is addictive. The heart-pounding shootings they’ll make us hear John Wick, between the search for cover, the use of multiple weapons simultaneously and being able to use the corpses of the guards as a human shield. The desire to repeat the loop will not easily vanish once more games have been completed and the only limits will be set by your body and the time available: the title of Bevan “NotDead” McKechnie in fact must be played standing for the best possible experience.
Consequently, the amount of movement required to avoid the bullets could make you sweat a lot if you indulge in immersion in this riot of pixels. We cannot completely rule out the arrival of the motion sickness for the most sensitive users but for our part we have not had any problems in this regard.
A few words about the controls with Oculus Quest 2: through the settings it is possible to select between various types of movement, from the most fluid walking option to teleporting to a place indicated by us, and all work very well. The only bug we have identified concerns the sporadic recording of motion inputs at times when analogue is not used corresponding but we are sure it will be fixed quickly with the next patches.
Weapon selection in the match and reloading process won’t be that easy to internalize and will require some practice. Compound is compatible with Valve Index, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Quest headsets, Windows Mixed Reality and will land on the Quest store by the end of the year. It will be interesting to discover the differences on the performance front, while we are sure that in the future we will see the arrival of new content