Westworld Awakening Review

The world of Westworld has finally made the jump to VR with HBO and renowned VR developer Survios teaming up to bring this universe to life on the Oculus Rift and Steam VR. But, does hit TV show that makes people question is it right to play God?; transfer to the VR medium well?

The story you play out in the game is a stand alone story that runs parallel to the two seasons of the TV show. One thing I think was interesting was the team’s decision to not place you in the shoes of a visitor to the Wild West park, but into the shoes of a self-aware host named Kate. The game opens as you live out you place on of the parks scenes as a victim and prime target to a host called Hank in a slasher-esc film. After each death you are placed back into the Delos laboratory as the staff decide the best ways to improve the scene for the new guests.

After a number of deaths, and if you are a fan of the show as an android you know there will be no way to alter this fate, you wake up the Delos again. However this time you’re not joined by the Narrative Lab staff members, but instead by destruction and dead bodies, in a Season Two style twist.

This is where the gameplay opens up, as you find an ear piece and on the other end is your creator Bren. She claims she will be able to help you as long as you can get to her, and will guide you to one of the Delos tablets from the show, which becomes your tool for the game.

I would describe the game as a puzzle game at heart, but with a mix stealth thrown into it. For the most part the puzzles are straight forward and not going to cause too much of headache to figure out. With them either being finding objects to help you through doors, scanning objects or following paths/pipes with your tablet. However, what makes this more difficult and brings the gameplay to life is the fact Hank is also now self-aware and will be hunting you in the Delos labs or a team with guns looking to shut the androids down.

As previously mentioned the gameplay brings in stealth, and this is done by the fact you have no weapons as Kate, so it is now your job to hide and avoid these. This brings with it a similar dread to what was given in Alien Isolation but in VR. Now, where the hiding and sneaking works to add a level of tension it does comes with one issue. They never really look for you once you are hidden, so if you get under a table for example they will not look under tables. Although for me the most glaring one was getting into a corner in one of the server rooms not really hidden by anything and Hank just went on his usual path without even looking in my direction.

The final element of the stealth side of the gameplay, is the ability to distract them by animating practice scenes within the Delos. This allows you to edit emotions and feelings of the scene resulting in them playing out differently to get your stalkers attention. The team have also used these to build your connection as Kate, because as these play out she might start questioning what is happening as it all plays out so real to her.

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Visually I was really impressed and taken into both the settings of Westworld Awakening. This was done with the high level of details we have become used to in Survios games, and some fantastic character animations. When first going back to the Narrative Lab and Bren is leaning in and talking the facial capture animations really did blow me away. I was also creeped out really quickly, when you are placed back into the scene and an older male character is giving you the eyes and talking about how he will be your hero. The whole character animation and how he scans you with his eyes really did give off the feeling of being uncomfortable – showing how well you are immersed in the game.

Overall the audio is done well to go with the impressive visuals. All the voice acting is to a fantastic quality, to match with the facial animations. But, there was a one issue, which was some of the voice over lines seemed out-of-place. For example; you can have Hank clearly in your sights and Kate might say ‘I think he’s gone’. Other than the voiceovers the environmental sounds are top-notch and bring each setting to life. In your visit to the manor in the opening chapter the creeks and noises about the manor really do freak you out, and build on the tension and feeling of not being alone in this scene.

The game can be played seated, using room-scale and standing, and I found it best played standing for what the game does. With this being from Survios, you have a number of locomotion options to make sure it is available to everyone despite the level of their VR legs – with them also adding the arm swinging locomotion option. Although, this is an immersive control method, after a short while I just went to the full locomotion and smooth turning with the analogues. When it comes to the buttons you will use the grab and trigger to interact with objects, and then the X button to crouch in the game (if not using room-scale).

Westworld Awakening comes with three difficulties with them being more aimed at the hints you will be given throughout. I played through the game on the Adventure (medium) setting for this review, which would highlight the objectives after enough time had passed, but I found at no point did I let enough time pass for this to happen. It does say for the Immersive (hard) setting that the hunter is more aware, but from the part I tested this out in, there didn’t seem that large of an increase. On Adventure settings I managed to get through the game in around two to two and half hours, but this was just following the story line and not looking for the collectables. Getting the collectables might bring it more in line with teams suggested five to six hours, but your only reward for collecting these are achievements, so it all depends if you hunt achievements if you will find the need to do this.

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Pros
  • Builds tension and nerves
  • Full of Westworld references
  • Immersive atmosphere
  • Fantastic voice acting and character animations

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Cons
  • A little short
  • AI can be a little dense
  • Puzzle elements were not used to full potential
  • Price point

Conclusion

HBO selected the correct team in Survios to brings their Westworld series to VR. With a game that is not only great for fans of the series, but even those who have never watched it. This is done through the stand alone story, that does an excellent job of explaining the idea of what Westworld is to the player. With the gameplay elements coming together well to set the tension within the manor and Delos labs with its combination of puzzle solving and avoiding either a serial killer or a group with guns. But, you are left feeling the puzzle elements were not really used to full potential. However, the one thing that I think people will find off-putting is the games £22.99/$30 price point for what could potentially be a two to three-hour experience – which is a shame at games does a great job of placing you into the Westworld universe.

Reviewed using:

HMD: Oculus Rfit S
PC Specs: Intel Core i7-7700 3.6GHz, 16GB DDR4, NVIDIA GeForce 1080Ti 11GB

Available on Steam VR and Oculus Rift
Developer: Survios

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.

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