Being a huge fan of Splinter Cell, one genre is lacking stand out titles in VR is Stealth. This is where nDreams are trying to plug that gap with Phantom: Covert Ops. We have now snuck our way through the game, did it fill that stealth itch?
Phantom: Covert Ops puts you in the shoes, well kayak of a nameless soldier that has to save world from a vicious Russian and a bio-weapon threat. This story doesn’t really deter from the typical stealth game tropes, that we see in the aforementioned Splinter Cell series. But, the story does the job of keeping you engaged in the game as you make your way through each of the seven missions.
This is where the difference from most stealth games and the kayak comes in. The base that you are looking in infiltrate has been flooded, meaning you are not going in by foot and taking advantage and element of surprise of going in by kayak.
When first finding out that the game would not allow you to leave the kayak during in the missions, it left me with the feeling of would the game actually keep the entertaining element. But, by the end of the second mission the kayak became one of my favourite elements of the game – not only because it was so smooth and well implemented, but it offered so much immersion.
You might be thinking surely you are going to get caught going through the base in a kayak, but there are areas you can get to like long reeds, under bridges and walkways to work out the guards routes and where to go next. However, the game is not all plain sailing, as mixed in with the stealth element is some more action-orientated segments, which will certainly get you rowing faster.
Outside of the kayak movement you are provided with a silenced pistol, sub-machine gun and sniper rifle, although, you are recommended not to be lethal in your approach. Where this will become required if you are spotted, they want as little fatalities left as possible – with the only exception being if you locate high-value targets. So, you might be asking why give me the guns?; this is so you can create distractions by shooting objects and lights out without the sound alerting the guards.
The final pieces of your kit are noise grande you can use to create a distraction, remote detonation charges and your binoculars/camera. These will allow you scope out areas before you move through the area. Taking a picture of the area with these will highlight points on interest in that area. From tagging guards, showing items that can be used as distractions, objectives in that area and a waypoint for your route.
As you go through the missions it will give you a mix of tasks to do, these can go from taking photos for evidence, turning off generators and clearing potential hazards on your routes that could give you away. Mixing these little tasks with the smooth kayaking controls and the game will keep you engaged throughout.
However, to go with all the good fun that can be had in the game, it does show some flaws. With the main offender being the AI, which is very robotic to the paths they have been set to patrol – which unfortunately has been ever present in most stealth games. They then add to this a mix of not being spotted when you are clearly visible and something being spotted when you should not be, it sometimes leaves a bit of a messy feeling to the game.
Where the level design was given restrictions by the nature of the kayaking in the game, this has allowed nDreams to design good looking locations from outside of the base to inside of the base with them working in smaller sections. Overall I was impressed with the visuals of the game, given that military base feeling with the way it was presented, and level of details in the textures and the reflections in the water, allowing you to be taken into the world of Phantom: Covert Ops.
As with the AI, we found the sound left a little to be desired as well, given it was a bit of a mixed bag. There were some sound effects like the ore pushing through the water, the silenced pistol and sniper that were spot on. But, then I found the noise of the sub-machine gun and guards voices were less perfect – however this does not break the immersion of the game.
As you are controlling a kayak the game it to be played in a seated and static position, with the kayaking movement controlled by natural movements like you kayaking in real life, with the grips being use to pick up the ore or the items at your disposal. If you are looking for more sharp turns, you will have to hold A or X buttons depending on the way you want to turn. Where at first controlling the turns can be tricky, you will soon become accustomed to the control scheme.
On another note, where the game has not caused any sort of motion sickness for me, I have heard and read reports around the internet some users are suffering from this.
As mentioned previously the game has seven missions to complete, that will each last around twenty to thirty-minutes for most players. Where this may seem short the team at nDreams have added to the playtime of their title by added free-play modes when you have completed each mission. This will allow players to go back and look for missed collectables, take missions on in a different way and also take on challenges set by the team. Meaning if you enjoy the kayak and the stealth mechanics there is plenty of reason for you to return to the game.
For the purposes of transparency, this review was created using a code provided by the company or their respective PR company. The use of a review code does not affect my judgement of the game.