One game I was hoping would bring more to the stealth game genre in VR was Espire, but it really didn’t feel like what I wanted when it released. But, with the release of Espire 2, I was hoping the team to take it to the next level. I have now played the second game, but did they manage this?
n the game you placed back into the shows and VR headset of POE. but this time you have two Espire frame you can take control of, with Sinder returning from the first and smaller frame called Sooty. The story will see you using the frames to try and take down a terrorist organisation know as OPHIS, who want to destroy the world – in a typical espionage game story trope. However, one thing I found is that the story just really didn’t grab me and after a few missions I just didn’t care about this element of the game. It’s one of the first times a VR story-driven game has made me feel I would have to get fully involved in the story to enjoy it – rather than it just getting me invested on its own merit.
As mentioned Espire 2 comes with two Espire frames, which do offer different attributes in order to change the game up a litte. With Sinder you get darts than can knock guards out, but with Sooty you get a distraction device which allows you use your own voice to disctract the guards. Then Sinder has more strengh but Sooty can fit into smallers spaces and sneak a lot better. Although one glaring thing with some of the vents is they are exactly the same size as the ones you enter as Sinder, but they show they are only open to Sooty, which makes no sense. After after this there is no other differences outside of what the two frames can acheive.
You have the option to take two approaches in the game, you can go in all stealth and leave the terrorist organisation with no idea you were there or go in all gung-ho and kill anyone is sight and take down the terrorist organisation with brute force. I found that either approach is very achievable, although on my first playthrough I planned to be stealth I did find it turned into a shootout fest, however my second run was a successful stealth run – I just needed to take a little bit more time and care in some scenarios.
When getting in those gun fights the gunplay is satisfying and well handled in the game, and if wanting to go in more lethal, there is nothing nicer than taking out the enemy with a well placed silenced pistol shot. For me though even though this is handled really well, I did find it felt much more of an achievement completing the missions in true stealth fashion.
There is some nice little touches added to gameplay, in a voice command system, meaning if you sneak up on enemy you can bring your hand to your mouth and speak to give them orders like dropping their weapons and getting on the ground. Which gives you a little bit more immersion in the stealth elements of the game. You can also hide and knocked out or dead guards, but you do need to be Sinder to do this action, and to be honest this really didn’t seem as important as you would hope in a stealth/espionage game.
At the start of each mission you can go in a choose your load-out in the gun-range, but, when first starting out you will only have a choice between a silence and non-silenced pistol. The rest are unlocked by finishing the missions with the weapons you find throughout the levels on you.
Now the game does come with a co-op mode, where you will play as one of the frames each. This mode covers what happened between the events of first and second game. But, after jumping into the co-op it was very hard to play as they have omitted the most important element of a co-op experience and this is in-game VoIP. Outside of this disappointment the co-op does play very similar to the single-player, with the only real difference being some tasks like needing to activate two things at the same time.
Visually the game really is a massive mixed bag, it seems like a lot of work were put into the detailing of the weapons, but then the rest just really did not stand out. With the enemy textures being very laclusture, the textures around all the locations you visit not being great and at one point you will take on a helicopter – but this looks more like a toy than an actual helicopter.
Audio-wise the game again is very mixed, with some of the audio setting the atmosphere for the game well and some not so well. Adding to this some questionable spacial audio making it hard to always understand where the enemies are coming from. Which is a shame as this is very important when trying to take that total stealth approach.
When it comes to comfort, the team have brought all the comfort settings over from the first and added a few extra, meaning that the game offers what it can to make it a comfortable for most people. However, it does not come with teleport movement, but it does offer the vignette option to help in those case – and a slider to make it as big or small as you like.
With the controlls it is what you would expect in shooter, analogues to move, and then mainly using triggers and grips to perform actions. The game does also offer a manual or auto-reload system, but, of course for that full immersion I would recommend the manual reload.
One play-through of the single player takes around four-hours to complete the seven missions – although one of these missions is repeated. As aforementioned I did play the game through twice, but if you do not want to do both types of runs, I doubt anyone will want to return to the game – even with not having unlocked all the weapons that the game offers. With co-op clocking in about two-hours is can add some extra playtime to the game as well.
Reviewed using Meta Quest 2
For the purposes of transparency, this review was created using a review code provided by the company or their respective PR company. The use of a press code does not affect my judgement of the product.
The team seem to have taken on-board some of the feedback from the first game, and made improvements to Espire 2, but, unfortuantely they still have not managed to make Espire the block-buster stealth game it has the potential to be. The open-end approach to the missions is the game and the option of the two Espire frames are the big selling point, and these elements do work in the game favour. I think some people will not be invested enough to revisit the missions after the first playthrough to take full advantage of this. If you are looking for a stealth title Espire 2 could fill that void, as long as you are only interested in the stealth element, but, if you are looking for a full package in a stealth game – I would take a look at Phantom Covert Ops first.