Apex Construct is an unpolished view into the future of VR gaming. It offers an engrossing FPS combat system, but falls flat in just about every other aspect.
Fast Travel Games’ Apex Construct focuses on the feud between two sentient AI. The AI Mothr is the main antagonist of this story. As revelations continue to unfold you — the last human on Earth — begin to realize that you may just be a pawn for the AI Fathr. Your trusty bow is what will lead you to victory against Mothr’s army of vicious robots.
Not a Looker
I know people like to say that something “looks like a PS2 game” if they think it looks bad. I almost started to think that until I looked more closely at the textures.
Apex Construct has a handful of textures that resemble something you would see on a PS2. Most of these textures are text on signs or labels on bottles. Nothing that is of too much consequence looks noticeably bad. There’s plenty of readable text on other items and objects. This makes it clear that they were more focused on making the important items look nicer.
One of the first things that I love to do in VR shooters is take a closer look at the weapons I’ll be using. I’m almost always impressed by what the PS4 Pro can do when it comes to VR fidelity. The grooves in the flathead screws on your bow are well defined. They also shine like the bow has never been used. It doesn’t give you a sense of use for your main weapon, but at least it will always look as good as new.
I wish I could rave about the world around you in Apex Construct, but that’s not the case. Everything looks decent at best, and it’s all exceptionally polygonal. The sharp angles and straight lines fit the industrial feeling of the game, but it leaves much to be desired. Apex Construct is quite clearly an early VR game. Environments have mostly drab textures and enemies aren’t anything you’ll find in the Louvre any time soon.
I feel like I could write an entire review on how Apex Construct breaks immersion. It’s difficult to expect a fully immersive experience since VR gaming — PSVR especially — is very much in its infancy. I’m not too worried about jittery hands or clipping since that’s just where we are with VR right now. However, this game just seemed like pulling me out of its world was Fast Travel Games’ mission.
The water in Apex Construct is a little thing that bothers me maybe too much. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for at least a ripple texture on the surface of a body of water. The few waterfalls in the game look atrocious. The sinks and toilets make sounds of rushing water. Alas, your porcelain throne will be dry as a bone. It’s very clear that Fast Travel Games’ hasn’t quite mastered the art of water physics. The water might as well be air except for one situation. The electric arrows can electrify a body of water and damage the enemies. This is a useful tool for some later levels that have large water areas.
While the electricity can be used to hurt your enemies, you are completely immune. This goes for any possibly attack that could cause damage to yourself. You are impervious to your own grenades, explosive arrows, and regular arrows. Doing self-damage would certainly ramp up the difficulty, but it’s something that would add more immersion. The lack of danger not only makes the game easier, but it pulls you out of the world. I have played enough VR to know that when you turn your weapon on yourself that they have the technology to make it damage you.
Even though everything may not look beautiful in Apex Construct, the combat is great. The sensation of nocking your arrow and pulling on the string is unmatched by any VR game.
Every other VR shooter I’ve played is gun-heavy. The idea of using a bow was a fantastic call. While shooting robot creatures with a bow may bring back memories of Horizon Zero Dawn, this title has a markedly different feel. The hand tracking is a little suspect at some times, but is always spot-on for combat.
I’ll never get over the sensation of using the points of the arrow head to line up a shot with one eye closed. It all works like you’re using a real bow. This is where Apex Construct shines. Switching between arrow types, pulling back a nocked arrow, and truly immersive aiming combine to make combat exhilarating and addictive.
Copy and Paste
Luckily Apex Construct’s combat is so fun, because you’ll be facing the same enemies quite often.
Moving from level to level you’ll find “new” enemy types. In reality it’s essentially the same models with slightly different gimmicks — shields, rapid fire, teleportation. Some enemies don’t even get different abilities. Instead, these enemies will just look the same as before, but they have more health now. This is one of my biggest pet peeves in gaming. Why make unique enemy types when you can plaster the same robot everywhere?
The biggest letdown when it comes to reusing enemies is the one boss in the game. He looks like a giant robotic bear so of course I love it. However, this is the only boss you’ll ever encounter. You’ll have a few run-ins with Mothr’s Colossus, but they all work the same way. Hit the weak points where they’re exposed and then you win. This boss battle is one of the more entertaining points in the game, but it is fleeting. More unique bosses and boss battles would go a long way if a sequel is in the works. I love the design of the Colossus, but one battle against this robo-bear is enough.
AI (Animated Idiots)
I just want to rave all day about the combat in this game, but then I would never get anything done. As satisfying as it is to stuff the hordes of murderous robots with pointy arrow heads, they don’t give you too much of a challenge.
Most of the time you can just run right by enemies on the way to your goal. Standing still can even be an effective strategy in rooms which you need to defeat every enemy. When you stand still the robots will erratically run towards you while firing off blasts in your general direction. Anyone who is a decent shot should be able to clear enemies as they approach in this manner. If one shot manages to be headed for your body then you can just pop up a shield quickly and get back to shooting in a split-second.
One of the biggest hurdles in Apex Construct is the movement controls. The controls for combat are well honed, but movement difficulty is the only thing that gives these dull droids a chance. Standing still isn’t a viable strategy 100 percent of the time. You’ll die swiftly if you’re not a great shot or if you’re battling the one boss in the game. There are multiple times where you’ll try to move to a different spot and for some reason you just can’t. There’s nothing impeding movement. It just seems the game doesn’t want you to go there.
Don’t Drop the… Anything
This is another sign that we’re in the early stages of VR. If you drop a crucial item have a fun time quitting out of the game to start the level again and pick it up. This may be a fault on the side of the PSVR, but access cards and any other small items are a pain to grab from the floor. The ground is out of the range of the PS Camera so you have to get enough downward momentum to reach dropped items.
The worst thing in the world was dropping an access card. These items are crucial for navigating each level. They’re also incredibly easy to drop. While I can blame PSVR for not having a big enough play area, I still need to put some responsibility on Fast Travel Games.
When you add an item to your inventory you drop it in there and it clicks into place — or at least it’s supposed to. The inventory slot usually lights up orange when you can safely drop in an item. Multiple times I got to drop access cards on the floor thanks to the inventory slot turning orange but not actually grabbing hold of my item. It’s clear they understood this annoyance since most places where you find access cards have a stash of at least four. Instead of fixing the issue they decided to give you a band-aid that you’re supposed to figure out by first backing yourself into a corner. There’s no beating around the bush, this is just bad game design.
Apex Construct Verdict
I don’t like to pull punches for VR games. The only way the platform will improve is through honest criticism. I like Apex Construct, but it’s not a great game. It’s very clear that this developer is just getting their feet under them when it comes to VR. The bones of this game predict a bright future for the developer. It’s not a bad first shot into the VR space, but many improvements are necessary to move forward.
The game as a whole is okay. The combat is like nothing I’ve played before, but the presentation immensely drags down the quality of the game. The repetition of enemies and immersion breaking moments also prevent me from recommending this title. If you’re into VR FPS games then you might want to check it out.
Thanks for checking out our review of Apex Construct. Let us know what you think about the game or my opinions in the comments. Don’t forget to continue the conversation with CoG on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
The game for this review was supplied by Wonacott Communications, LLC.
If you want to check out Apex Construct for yourself, it is available in North America on the PlayStation Store as well as in brick and mortar stores across the continent.
- THE GOOD
- Wonderful combat
- Great detail on weapons
- Good first boss fight
- THE BAD
- Finicky movement controls
- Poor detail on environments
- No water physics, might as well be air
- Recycled enemies
- Recycled bosses
Apex Construct is a decent game. It does some things with a bow that I’ve never experienced before in VR. However, many textures are blurry, the enemies are repetitive, and movement is a pain on PSVR. I wouldn’t recommend it to someone unless they’re a huge VR FPS fan.
Omar is an Editor at Culture of Gaming. He started his covering gaming back in late 2014 and has written for a handful of publications since then. Nintendo is his field of expertise, but he has been seen dabbling in PlayStation and PC gaming as well. Follow him on Twitter for dry humor and pictures of his cat, Jiji.