Into the Radius Quest 2 Review: Immersive Survival Horror, Disappointing Port
First released for PC VR in 2020, Into the Radius is now available on Quest 2. But does this survival horror release from CM Games hold up on standalone VR hardware? Read on for our full Into the Radius Quest 2 review.
Into the Radius, when it’s firing on all cylinders, is an incredibly immersive survival/horror game with some of the creepiest 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 that only helps to bring you further into its bizarre, slow-burn apocalypse of a world. Unfortunately, it also feels like a game that current-generation standalone VR hardware isn’t quite ready for yet. The new Quest 2 port only compounds many of the issues we had with the PC VR release back in 2020.
You play Into the Radius as Explorer #61, an amnesiac who may be the last human left alive in the Perchorsk Radius Zone. An anomalous 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 that can survive indefinitely in the Radius, but that also means you can’t leave. Working alone, you’re given odd jobs via computer by the United Nations task force, who are studying the Radius, to trade artifacts and objects from the Zone for the cash you need to stay alive.
Always Be Prepared
Back in 2020, a lot of people declared Into the Radius as a weirder, VR version of the 2007 PC shooter STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl. That strikes me as doing the game a disservice. Yeah, they’re both about weird things happening in post-apocalyptic Russia, but there’s a certain frantic element to Into the Radius that sets it apart.
Here, you don’t cut any of the usual action-game corners, like all of your ammunition being thrown into a convenient stack or your backpack having a neat grid organization system for loot. Instead, you hand-load magazines, keep track of individual bullets, watch your safety, sort your own possessions and manually chamber rounds. Both magazines and weapons must be maintained by hand with oil, brushes and paper towels. If you want to use something in a hurry, you stow it in one of the many (but finite) pouches your character wears on his upper body.
That, in turn, means that combat in Into the Radius is very much about preparation. You essentially have as much ammunition in any given fight as you do in your current bandolier of spare magazines. When you have to reload in a hurry, you’ll inevitably get a couple of moments of stark terror when you realize you grabbed an empty or half-full magazine you were saving.
It sounds like a pain in the neck, but I ended up finding it weirdly meditative. When you return to your base after a successful run through the Radius – or at least one that you managed to survive – you end up having to empty your cluttered backpack on a bench, sort through what you got, fix whatever’s broken and painstakingly reassemble your kit.
Into the Radius only sort of has a plot. The game has no particular interest in sending you in any particular direction, besides the slight guide you get from high-priority missions, which are the closest thing the game has 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’ll encounter are often dumb but numerous, and they’ll chase you to the ends of the earth once they’ve heard or seen you. A single unsuppressed gunshot at the wrong time can turn a milk run into a rolling 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’ve got a true handle on your situation in Into the Radius. It’s tense, immersive, and often genuinely creepy.
Physics and Interaction Woes
However, the gameplay is also frequently undermined by the game’s controls and physics, neither of which are quite up to the job. Take the virtual pouch system, for example, which is often unreliable. You’ve got places to stow gear on your waist, chest, upper arms and back, but the upper-arm slots in particular were difficult to retrieve items from. I lost track of the number of times I went to grab my knife, map or probes, but ended up with nothing at all.
The same problem applies to interactive items. Opening cabinets or footlockers is strangely difficult, while grabbing items off a table involves working with an unreliable context-sensitive prompt that isn’t as easy to use as I’d like.
The physics are equally difficult to work with. Objects in your environment will frequently shoot off in random directions like they’ve been greased, getting lost in ground clutter or ricocheting off into the distance. It wasn’t unusual to lose an empty pistol magazine or a thrown knife because they struck to the ground and glitched through it.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t ding a game too harshly for physics glitches, but if there’s one thing Into the Radius has going for it, it’s a relentless sense of immersion. Having to scrounge for every individual resource, including items like pistol magazines that other games usually gloss over, is part of the experience. Losing one of those resources to a random glitch or bug, immediately drops you out of the simulation.
These problems were already present in the earlier PC VR release of Into the Radius, but the Quest 2 release also features substantially lower-end graphics. Nine times out of ten, this doesn’t have a serious impact on the experience, but it also means that sometimes small objects will easily blend into their environment and navigating a room in the dark is an exercise in futility. In my playthrough, I also encountered a bug that displayed the visual effects of the Radius’ lethal anomalous zones (which are supposed to be invisible, unless you use probes) at all times, allowing me to circumvent one of the game’s major mechanics.
Into the Radius Quest 2 Review: Final Verdict
There’s a lot that Into the Radius does right, 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 furthers its issues with bland visuals, dodgy physics and imprecise interactions.
It’s a series of annoyances that would be easy to brush off in a lot of other games, but Into twhe Radius’s emphasis on resource scarcity and precision under fire makes them maddening. A few years down the line, tighter physics and advances in standalone hardware could make these non-issues, but for now, it leaves Into the Radius as an interesting but flawed experience.
Despite the hitches, Into the Radius will be well worth your time if you’re looking for a creepy, all-or-nothing survival sim, but its reach distinctly exceeds its grasp.
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