The Line is a game published by Oculus Studios, developed by Flight School Studio. The game was released on the Oculus Quest on May 21st for $19.99. The game can also be played on the Samsung Odyssey and other VR headsets via SteamVR. It begins with an introduction to two main characters, Raz and Lina Navarro, who are trying to survive in a destroyed city that’s overrun with black smoke, dust storms, cultists, infected civilians turned into zombie-like creatures called “Shades”, armed survivors looking for blood-and even more lethal are the robotic weaponized “Hunters” patrolling said ruins of civilization-as well as areas filled with laser tripwires which immediately triggers gun turrets, and if the robotic Hunter is destroyed, its pilot will eject from it-producing another enemy to deal with in close quarters combat.
The city is a combination of urban decay and steampunk, with old factories being repurposed into high-tech military installations housing powerful turrets. Raz has a prosthetic arm holding a grappling hook which he uses for traversing rooftops or other hazardous areas far out of reach. The grappling hook can also be used to take down Shades by latching onto them and pulling Raz towards them, then impaling them on his bayonet at the end of his arm for an instant kill (depending on how you hit the Shade). Meanwhile, Lina’s brother Earyis is acquainted with one of the shady leaders of the Resistance, who sends him on a mission to uncover information related to the black smoke-and eventually sacrificing himself for Raz and Lina’s sake.
Their adventure places them into contact with several different groups of survivors, some more trustworthy than others-including an all-female group of psychotic anarchists led by Lana “Fringe Lady” Kane (whose character design is admittedly rather interesting) or Alice Argus, who is trying to escape Paradise City with her daughter via helicopter before she gets caught in the crossfire between organized factions of survivors who are fighting each other for dominance over what remains of the city. Their journey also takes them into underground tunnels where they encounter new enemies that will require teamwork to destroy them efficiently. Eventually, they reach their goal: the city’s main power plant and discover the source of the black smoke: a mysterious cultist named Pax who worships an unseen presence called “The Voice”. They rally other survivors to their cause, including Lina-but not before sabotaging the city’s defences, allowing the Resistance to invade it. After fighting off hordes of infected civilians and Shades during their escape from Paradise City, Raz and Lina journey into the rift that The Voice resides in with backup from Earyis’ friend Drifter (seen in early concept art), who sacrifices himself so that Raz has enough time to stop The Voice using his own body as a conduit.
After they defeat The Voice, its shell breaks apart revealing none other than Lana Kane herself-and she is not happy about being used as a pawn, which results in Raz and Lina having to kill her. The game ends with Lana giving Earyis coordinates so they can meet up later-leaving the two protagonists to their own devices.
The gameplay is a first-person shooter. Players have to take down three types of enemies: Shades (zombie-like enemies), Hunters (weaponized robots), and infected civilians called “Shades” who attack by throwing molotovs or swinging melee weapons at you, forcing players to flee until they’re dealt with via heavy firepower; additionally robotic gun turrets will automatically begin firing at players once they see them depending on what type of turret it is (pulse turrets fire homing projectiles that lock onto the player, laser turrets fire a constant stream of bullets and rocket turrets fire rockets).
Players have the ability to lean around corners to avoid being hit by enemy gunfire or just to get a glimpse of what is ahead. In addition, players can also hide behind cover from attacks which allows them to regenerate health. However, there is no regenerating health for Raz himself-which forces players to look for health packs scattered throughout the levels in order to restore their health meter instead (or at least make it manageable). Sometimes they may find themselves in a one-hit kill situation when taking damage from enemies due to low HP.
Raz starts out with a standard assault rifle with infinite ammo, but more weapons including grenades and a melee weapon called an “E-gun” can be found throughout the levels. Another interesting thing to note is that players also have a psi-meter which is used up when using Raz’s psionic powers (more on that later). Players are allowed to carry up to five weapons with them at any given time, including the E-gun.
As mentioned earlier, telekinesis plays an important role in gameplay as it allows players to pick up items lying around levels and hurl them at enemies. This includes environmental hazards like gas canisters or even enemy projectiles. Psionic abilities are unlocked gradually through story progression–ones such as kinetic blast which lets out a powerful force projectile capable of damaging enemies weaker than Shades easily. Special abilities for both Raz and Lina are unlocked and can be switched between freely-which includes invisibility and a bullet-time effect.
Controls are mapped to the Oculus Touch controllers in a similar fashion to how it is done with other VR games. The UI consists of an ammo counter, psi meter (or health when playing as Lina), and mini-map which the player can use to see where they’ve been before. They also provide players with information on how much noise they’re making or if their weapon has become scoped in-which serves as a warning that enemies will hear them coming if they keep it up. Ammo pickups for weapons like grenades and rocket launchers show up in the form of floating “ammo boxes”.
Multiplayer consists of two modes: cooperative play and competitive multiplayer. In cooperative multiplayer, players can team up with another player to take on the game’s single-player campaign together. Competitive multiplayer places two teams against each other in order to achieve specific goals such as capturing beacons, defending certain areas, or just plain killing the opposing team.
There are four guns that spawn randomly throughout levels and can be picked up by both players (passed back and forth) for use during gameplay. Players also have access to a powerful “Psionic Pull” which draws enemy projectiles towards them before exploding-which serves as an effective counterattack if they find themselves overwhelmed by enemy fire.
The game takes about five hours or so to complete depending on how much time players spend looking around for secrets (and time spent looking for health).
Overall, I would say that The Line is worth playing if you have an Oculus Quest. It has some issues here and there with the odd bug or two, but fans of VR shooters should enjoy it even if they’re only interested in the short story mode. As stated earlier, this game can also be played without needing to purchase a separate headset which may attract more casual gamers looking to try out virtual reality.
Despite being available on other platforms for PC/Oculus Rift/HTC Vive players since 2018, this review will focus specifically on the Oculus quest edition since it’s still relatively new among its peers at the moment
The Line takes place in 2021 after terrorists detonate several nuclear warheads off the coast of the USA, which causes widespread destruction on a global scale while turning parts of southern California into an irradiated wasteland. Players control Razputin “Raz” Aquato, a young psychic who has been away from his home in Psychonauts headquarters for too long after being sent to work at Whispering Rock Psychic Summer Camp as an undercover agent.
It is there that he learns about the nuclear detonation and must find out what happened to Lina-his fellow secret agent at the camp. This leads him into the wastelands of California where he teams up with her to fight off against mutated beings called “Shades” whose minds have been warped by the radiation. The story unfolds over several chapters full of short dialogue exchanges between characters with voice acting during cutscenes.
The story is quite interesting at the beginning with an intriguing cast of the characters – including fellow psychic agent, Lina who also constantly reminds players that she’s a “teenager” due to her bad temper and overall attitude towards being told what to do by adults. The tutorial introduces Raz right before he is sent out on his first mission which takes him through Whispering Rock’s forest area filled with dangerous wildlife and other supernatural phenomena caused by the camp’s head psychic instructor, Oleander.
Each character is fully voiced-which includes not just dialogue but battle cries as well during combat against enemies or when picking up psi orbs/health ups. I have no complaints about these aspects of the game since they made the story more immersive and enjoyable.
As stated earlier, this review will focus on the Oculus Quest edition of The Line since it’s still relatively new among its peers at the moment. This isn’t a full-priced game like other triple-A titles such as Beat Saber or Superhot VR, but I would say that it’s comparable to Robo Recall in terms of having fun combat while also keeping players engaged with an interesting story. Don’t get me wrong, Robo Recall does have a pretty mediocre storyline (at best) but it has some memorable moments and wonderful setpieces for those who enjoy exploring and finding secrets scattered throughout levels (some of which aren’t obvious)
The Line doesn’t do much outside of what we’ve already seen from VR shooters like Robo Recall and lightgun games like the House of the Dead series. Players hold two buttons to move around with their hands or teleport (if you choose) while shooting enemies by pointing at them with one finger (for primary fire), moving your head to aim (for secondary fire which uses up psi energy-which can be regenerated by finding orbs, killing enemies or using crates to recharge), and zooming in/out for more accuracy.
There are also three difficulty levels which include separate leaderboard functionality for each difficulty level so that players can compete against others online. There is no local co-op so this function only works if you have an active internet connection even though it’s possible for friends to download the game onto their own quest units.
The Line also has an RPG element to it which includes gaining experience points for defeating enemies, using weapons/psi powers/jumping and getting kills with headshots. The game gives players the option of upgrading their characters (Raz & Lina) by unlocking new skills through the three classes: Brutalist, Shadowalker or Psychic; each giving them different abilities that can be levelled up in order to give them advantages over enemies in battle-such as increasing damage output with certain types of weapons like shotguns or machine guns while speeding up your running speed (which is available to all 3 classes).
Each class has its own set of four weapon types to choose from such as pistols, submachine guns, shotguns and assault rifles which can be upgraded through a skill tree system-which unlocks new abilities by collecting experience points from defeating enemies and ending missions successfully. Upgrading each of the four weapon types also adds another level of RPG element since players can choose to focus on upgrading one type over another for more benefit which encourages replayability.
The Line is set in a small town called Pinwheel which has been affected by an unknown phenomenon that leaves residents as “Shades” or mindless creatures who don’t say anything at all unless they’re hungry, taking damage from falling from high areas, or attacking you. Players can collect psi orbs scattered throughout levels to upgrade their psi powers such as greater zoom distance, faster running speed and the ability to find secrets on your minimap (marked as golden psi orbs).
These golden psi orbs can be found by breaking open boxes and crates like you would find in the Fallout series (a popular Bethesda franchise) and all secrets are marked with a small glowy outline similar to the effect that’s used in Metroid games. However, if you’re having trouble then Raz has an ability called “Sense” which makes hidden objects/secrets appear as glowing outlines like before but only for a short time before it disappears. Since this ability uses up psi energy-it must be recharged at any crate/box you see or use your weapon skill tree abilities to regenerate its meter faster. Players should also feel encouraged to explore since there are plenty of weapons, health packs and secret stashes scattered throughout levels so that if you’re low on health-it’s best to search every room until you find one.
There are also other abilities that can be unlocked like faster running speed, higher jumps and using psi orbs to regenerate health or increase weapon damage for a limited time, but these cost “mana” which is found by finding small mana crystals in crates/secret stashes.
Overall, this mix of RPG elements adds plenty of replay value to the game since players will want to take advantage of it by multiplying their experience gain throughout all three difficulty levels while playing through each class-until they unlock everything which gives The Line more content than most VR shooters out there today (which usually just contain arcade modes with leaderboards).
The Line also has an interesting narrative that’s told through notes and audio recordings scattered throughout levels while passing by some NPCs (Non-Playable Characters) who give players some advice or backstory about certain areas while also commenting on Raz & Lina’s current situation. There are even some moments where you’ll come across a new story event and must choose an option to proceed which can affect the ending of the game positively or negatively; such as choosing whether to kill friendly NPCs, open cargo crates containing enemies or finding food for an NPC. It reminds me of The Last Of Us since there are consequences like this in most situations (which usually affect the ending).
The Line isn’t without its flaws though since it does have some issues that detract from its overall experience: The game’s framerate can drop in certain areas of the game which is noticeable since it briefly shows enemies stuttering until their textures load or when moving. This can be sometimes minor, but annoying enough to mention
The Line also has an issue where some NPCs will move through objects like tables and railings while Raz & Lina are on them. Though I don’t know if this happens only on specific levels, but if so it might have been a bug done by developers. However, this does detract from immersion since you’ll see NPCs walk right through walls from time to time
Despite these issues, The Line still offers plenty of content for players who want more than just arcade modes with leaderboards since it has well-designed gameplay, an interesting narrative and plenty of replay value.
Conclusion: Pros: + Interesting Narrative that’s told through notes, audio recordings and NPCs + 3 Difficulty levels for longevity/replayability + Can use RPG elements to increase your character’s speed, jump height, psi abilities and more. Cons: – Framerate can drop in certain areas like when moving around or using psi attacks – NPCs can walk right through objects (sometimes NPC textures won’t load)
Recommendation: If you’re interested in playing a VR shooter with an interesting story then you should try The Line since it offers well-designed gameplay & has great audiovisuals plus plenty of content like better movement abilities, weapons and secrets. However, its framerate can drop at times, but it didn’t affect my overall experience since I found it tolerable.
Score: 8/10 (Great)