Early access games aren’t always fantastic. Most are janky, rough around the edges and sometimes they just don’t work. Onward isn’t plagued by any of those issues. Instead, it’s good fun at a great early-access price. Onward is a mil-sim tactical shooter currently in early-access on VR headsets. It certainly isn’t as feature-rich as other shooters like Battlefield or Call of Duty on desktop PC. Yet here I am, eager to jump back in at every second. Why? Onward is an excellent co-op experience. It’s tense, it’s thrilling and the immersion makes me forget about the few issues I found. Here are my Onward impressions.
It’s worth noting firstly that I’ve tried Arma, the leading mil-sim on PC, and I couldn’t get into it. I found it it to be boring and hard. It just wasn’t accessible for a fan of more casual shooters like myself. Onward circumvents those issues completely.
Onward takes the standard mil-sim experience – tactical shooting and slow methodical gameplay – but it makes it far more accessible. The maps are smaller than you’d see in Arma, so it means you aren’t spending loads of time walking to an objective. Instead, you spawn on the outskirts of a village or town and are tasked with simply clearing it of enemies. That premise is simple, but it makes for a tense, action-packed ride. Small maps make the game simpler and places more focus on firefights with enemies. This is where the game shines.
VR offers a level of immersion that is incomparable to any other entertainment medium. Onward capitalises on that by focusing the player on clearing out the enemies. Crouching in real life to get behind cover, turning to aim at an enemy, grabbing a new AR mag from my belt. All these things make Onward an incredibly immersive experience. I’m never thinking about the issues, because the game is so damn fun.
Those things that made me bored in Arma, such as long gaps between fights and awkward controls, aren’t present to water down my experience in Onward. Of course, Onward isn’t without issues. It’s early access after all. The graphics aren’t anything special, although that’s likely down to the limitations of VR more than anything else (this game has been out a few years now so VR was still fairly early tech). The maps can seem fairly bland at times. The AI enemies sometimes look a little weird. Onward is so immersive that you forget all that rather quickly. The co-op experience is fantastic and is a shining example of the benefits of VR. It might not be ready to take over gaming entirely just yet, but Onward made me smile more than most other games this year. Fortunately, Onward isn’t guilty of the heaps of bugs usually associated with early-access. My time playing was extremely smooth, and I can’t recall a single bug that I noticed. Of course, there are bugs but the developers are very active in fixing them, as can be seen by their monthly SitReps.
If you’re looking for something competitive, Onward doesn’t disappoint there either. The multiplayer battles feature up to ten people and they are a delight. It can be tougher than Co-op since real enemies are much more unpredictable. This just builds on that immersion yet again. Tactically moving around with your team is fantastic, and makes approaching every objective a tense moment. You never know when a bullet might fly your way and leave you dead on the floor.
Onward is great for two reasons. It changes the traditional Mil-Sim formula to focus on the action and chaos of exchanging fire. Those thrilling gunfights are tense and make every second fantastic. There are no long walks between fights, no boring gaps whilst you figure out the controls. It retains the realism whilst focusing on those fun moments. These changes to the Mil-Sim genre helped me enjoy the game. VR adds an extra layer of immersion and that keeps me coming back for more.
Onward is available on SteamVR, Oculus Rift S and Oculus Quest for £18.99/$24.99. What do you think of VR? Have you played Onward? Let me know in the comments below, or over on my social media! Make sure to also check out some other recent posts across the blog:
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