The idea of a VR adventure game is exciting to me. Roaming around an environment, observing the smallest details in an area, ushered along a narrative through compelling dialogue and story. A good VR adventure game would be a joy to waltz through, and would bring the genre to new heights, just as Fullbright’s quiet Gone Home (2013) once did (even if some arbitrarily refer to it as a “walking simulator”). Unfortunately, the Playstation VR launch title Loading Human: Chapter 1 fails to take this next step.
At its best, Loading Human reminded me of when I’d pick up an item in Gone Home: I’d turn it over in my hand, observe its details closely, maybe even trigger a narrative anecdote. In Loading Human, that’s still technically possible. I can hold items close to my face, hear the protagonist’s thoughts on whatever, throw beer bottles on the ground and watch them shatter. But at its worst, Loading Human continuously reminded me that it’s empty—not in the literal, barren sense—but where it matters most in any adventure game: in its story and characters.
Merely walking made me nauseous
Loading Human’s first chapter leaves a lot to be desired. You’re a man named Prometheus, you’re trying to save your dad, you also save a girl, the girl loves you because you saved her, and so on, so forth. The voice actors sound bored and uninspired, which doesn’t help in a bored and uninspired environment. Since this is a science-fiction game, there’s even a self-aware, flat 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) joke quipped to remind the player where they are, and remind the player of better sci-fi stories. (Can you guess which one? It was a HAL 9000 line, of course.)
After playing a bit of Loading Human, I found myself wishing for something better, or at least something more developed. I wished for something more like Gone Home, or the 1990 classic point-and-click adventure game The Secret of Monkey Island (a core inspiration for the developers). Mechanically, I hoped for a game that allowed me to teleport around a room with ease, like in other VR games, instead of walking using the analog stick (as in normal games). Just walking, and the jump-turns that change your direction, became an incessantly frustrating experience that in most cases even made me nauseous, driving me to remove the headset entirely.
In the end, Loading Human has some solid core ideas, being a story-driven, sci-fi adventure game with complete interactivity. It’s unfortunate that a mixture of bland storytelling, two-dimensional characters, and constant motion sickness stops the game from ever feeling worthwhile. It’s possible that future chapters in Loading Human can remedy these mistakes, but I hardly look forward to checking back with the sci-fi everyman Prometheus anytime soon.