Jet Cars, Dark Alleys, and Holograms: Flying High in Metacity Patrol

Some of the coolest experiences I’ve had in my years covering VR have been the ones that are set in futuristic and sprawling cities filled with towering skyscrapers, neon lights, and flying cars.

Ever since getting my first taste of these early techno-dystopian worlds in VR titles like Blade Runner 2049: Memory Lab or TECHNOLUST and Aircar on the Oculus DK2 and Rift CV1, I’ve wanted to experience more games like this in VR. Well, flash forward a few years and now we have even more great titles that look to bring us back to that gritty cyberpunk aesthetic. 

Recently we have seen some great releases like the Luke Ross Mod that allows the flatscreen PC game Cyberpunk 2077 as well as others to be playable in VR, and then there is the upcoming LOW-FI, the next game in the pipeline from Blair Renaud, developer of the VR cyberpunk classic, TECHNOLUST. These recent releases require a powerful PC to play though, so what about standalone VR headsets? Well, there is indeed an intriguing Blade Runner-esque title for Quest on App Lab that might be just what you’re looking for, and that’s Metacity Patrol from Norainu.

 

Gameplay and Features

Players will pick up a badge and gun and take on the role of a futuristic law enforcement officer patrolling the streets and skies of Metacity.

The gameplay is centered around exploration and interaction where players navigate the city using their flying patrol vehicle. Receiving missions from HQ via the in-car radio, they will embark on a series of tasks which include courier missions as well as engaging in combat with criminals and rogue synthetics. The city is vast with several waypoints to explore, each with its own look and central attraction. One that stood out for me was the TECHBLEU Bar, where the crowds on the dance floor looked mesmerizing in the pulsating lights and wading through them across the dance floor with the music pumping louder as I approached the DJ booth blew my mind. This section in particular transported me to this world with a surprising degree of presence.

Recently, the game had a big update and one of the things that came with that was enhanced graphics for Quest 3, and it shows. The overall look and feel of Metacity Patrol is fantastic with all of the boxes ticked that we might hope for in a cyberpunk fantasy such as this. For a title that runs on a stand alone VR headset, Metacity Patrol looks great and delivers the atmosphere one would expect from a futuristic mega city. Now, good visuals are one thing but without great sound games like this would fall flat and I have to say, the audio design is equally impressive in this game. Walking the streets of Metacity listening to the nice ambient sounds and music filling the games backtrack just blends with the visuals nicely to present a dreary yet believable world. 

Comfort

Since a majority of the game’s missions involve navigating around a vast city in a flying car, we will caution that this one might not be for those who don’t yet have strong VR legs. While its true that the car will auto orient itself if the player loses control, this can still be a pretty intense experience for those not used to flying games in VR. As for the street level sequences, the game switches to fairly standard first-person VR control scheme with the option of either smooth or snap turning. Having snap turning is great help for some folks who suffer from VR motion sickness but unfortunately as of the time of this writing, the game only has the option of smooth forward locomotion with no choice of teleportation, so the first-person walking sequences might also be a bit rough for some players.

Comparison with Similar Games

Metacity Patrol shares many similarities with other VR games that came before it, such as Aircar and especially LOW-FI. Some might even say Metacity Patrol borders on being an imitation of LOW-FI, and it’s easy to see where some folks might think this after seeing both games side by side. After playing it however, I have to say Metacity Patrol does set itself apart in a few areas. 

Aircar – Metacity Patrol

Aircar

Like Metacity Patrol, Aircar is a VR game set in a sprawling futuristic city. However, in Aircar the game focuses more on the singular experience of flying a hover car through the cityscape, putting less emphasis on interaction and combat. In contrast, Metacity Patrol offers a variety of activities and challenges outside of the flying sequences. 

LOW-FI – Metacity Patrol

LOW-FI

LOW-FI from Blair Renaud is a game that shares a very similar aesthetic to Metacity Patrol. Both games feature cyberpunk-inspired cities steeped in atmosphere and filled with neon lights clinging to towering skyscrapers, and both games have you in the role of a future cop patrolling your city in a flying car, so there is no doubt that Metacity Patrol is similar to LOW-FI in many ways. From the design of the city with large holograms on some of the rooftops right down to the gameplay mechanics, there are numerous parallels between the two games, which of course both bring to mind Blade Runner. To my eyes, the source of inspiration here doesn’t matter so much as the fact that Metacity Patrol seems to stand on its own merits.

I will say, seeing these two games side by side really made me appreciate running LOW-FI on my high end gaming PC, especially due to how detailed and atmospheric the graphics are in the game. It’s clear that Renaud has put a lot of work into polishing the look of his game right down to the smallest details.

However, considering it’s graphics, scale of the city and everything else that Metacity Patrol has going on under the hood, the fact that it runs on well on a Quest 3 as a standalone offering is a testament to it’s technical prowess.

Conclusion

Overall, Metacity Patrol is a compelling early access VR game that already offers an immersive and engaging experience and, to be fair, that’s true of LOW-FI on PC VR too. With a vast explorable city and a decent variety of missions all coupled with first person combat sequences and interactive elements, the overall experience in Metacity Patrol just comes together nicely. The game is currently in early access and the developers seem to be active with updates and community engagement so we look forward to seeing what Norainu adds to the game as it makes it way toward a final launch.

You can check it out on Quest App Lab.

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