First released on PC VR in 2020, Into the Radius is now available on Quest 2. But does this take on survival horror from CM Games fit on standalone VR hardware? Read on for our full Into the Radius Quest 2 review.
Into the Radius, when firing on all cylinders, is an incredibly immersive survival/horror game with some of the most chilling sequences in the genre today. It forces you to keep track of a lot of little details that most other games would gloss over or ignore, but it only takes you deeper into its bizarre, slow-moving apocalypse of a world. Unfortunately, it also feels like a game that current-gen standalone VR hardware isn’t quite ready for yet. The new Quest 2 port only compounds many of the problems we had with the release of PC VR in 2020.
You play as Into the Radius as Explorer #61, an amnesiac who may be the last living human in the Perchorsk Radius area. A freak event in 1987 turned the area into a surreal nightmare, patrolled by monsters and haunted by what might actually be ghosts.
You’re one of the handful of humans who can survive in the Radius indefinitely, but that also means you can’t leave. Working alone, the United Nations Task Force, which studies the Radius, gives you odd jobs via computer to trade artifacts and Zone items for the money you need to stay alive.
Always be ready
In 2020, many people declared Into the Radius to be a weirder VR version of the 2007 PC shooter STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl. This seems to me to be doing the game a disservice. Yes, they’re both about weird things happening in post-apocalyptic Russia, but there’s a certain frenetic element to Into the Radius that sets it apart.
You don’t cut any of the usual corners of action games here, like all your ammo tossed into a handy pile or your backpack having a neat grid organization system for loot. Instead, you load magazines by hand, keep track of individual bullets, monitor your safety, sort your own belongings, and manually chamber cartridges. Magazines and guns should be maintained by hand with oil, brushes and paper towels. If you want to use something quickly, store it in one of the many (but finite) pouches your character wears on their upper body.
This, in turn, means that combat in Into the Radius is mostly about preparation. You basically have as much ammo in any given fight as you have in your current bandolier of spare magazines. When you need to reload quickly, you’re bound to have a few moments of dread when you realize you’ve grabbed an empty or half-full magazine you’ve been keeping.
It feels like a pain in the neck, but I ended up finding it oddly meditative. When you return to your base after a successful run through the Radius – or at least one you managed to survive – you end up having to empty your cluttered backpack onto a bench, sort out what you have, repair what is broken and carefully reassemble your case.
In the radius only kind of has a plot. The game has no particular interest in sending you in any particular direction, other than the slight guidance you get from high-priority missions, which are the game’s closest thing to a critical path. Into the Radius is huge, sprawling, and full of obstacles – it’s very easy to get in over your head. The monsters you encounter are often silly but plentiful, and they will chase you to the end of the world once they hear or see you. A single unchecked shot at the wrong time can turn a round of milk into a meteoric disaster.
Between them, the half-visible anomalies that roam the countryside and the Dali landscapes that make up most of the Zone, you’ll never feel like you’re in control in Into the Radius. It’s tense, immersive, and often downright scary.
Physics and interaction issues
However, the gameplay is also frequently undermined by the game’s controls and physics, neither of which are quite up to scratch. Take the virtual pocket system, for example, which is often unreliable. You have places to store your gear on the waist, chest, upper arms and back, but the upper arm slots in particular were difficult to get back. I lost count of how many times I went to get my knife, map, or probes, but ended up with nothing at all.
The same problem applies to interactive elements. Opening cupboards or lockers is oddly difficult, while grabbing items from a table involves working with an unreliable pop-up prompt that isn’t as easy to use as I’d like.
Physics is just as difficult to work on. Objects in your environment will frequently shoot in random directions as if they’ve been greased, lost in clutter, or ricochet away. It was not uncommon to lose an empty pistol magazine or a thrown knife because they hit the ground and went through it.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t criticize a game too harshly for physics issues, but if there’s one thing about Into the Radius, it’s an unrelenting sense of immersion. Having to scrounge up each individual resource, including items like gun magazines that other games typically overlook, is part of the experience. Losing one of these resources to a random glitch or bug immediately kicks you out of the simulation.
These problems were already present in the previous PC VR version of Into the Radius, but the Quest 2 version also offers significantly inferior graphics. Nine times out of ten this doesn’t seriously impact the experience, but it also means that sometimes small objects easily blend into their surroundings and navigating a room in the dark is an exercise in futility. In my game, I also encountered a bug that was displaying the visual effects of Radius Lethal Anomalous Areas (which are supposed to be invisible unless you are using Probes) at all times, allowing me to bypass one of the game’s main mechanics.
Into the Radius Quest 2 Review: Final Verdict
There are a lot of things Into the Radius does well, but it’s a one step forward, one step back situation. It’s one of the most immersive survival games in VR, but being ported to the Quest 2 only compounds its issues with bland visuals, questionable physics, and imprecise interactions.
It’s a series of annoyances that would be easy to eliminate in many other games, but Into twhe Radius’ emphasis on resource scarcity and precision under fire makes them infuriating. In a few years, tighter physics and advances in standalone hardware might render these non-problems, but for now, that leaves Into the Radius an interesting if flawed experience.
Despite the hiccups, Into the Radius will be well worth your time if you’re looking for a spooky, all-or-nothing survival sim, but its scope far exceeds its reach.
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