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What is going on in Drift, the virtual reality assassin simulator?

You're the bullet, but who are you killing?

Drift is available now for the Gear VR. It's $15, although it's certainly not a game for anyone who gets sick easily. The opening cinematic shoots you through the barrel of a gun, and if that makes you sick you should stop playing. If you're fine with the introduction animation, you'll likely be good for the rest of the game.

The game takes place within an AI construct, a sort of training program that's trying to hone you into a state of "perfection." What this actually means is an open question, and I admitted haven't finished the game yet, but in a game where you're literally looking at the world through the "eyes" of a bullet the journey is what's important.

And the journey is amazing. Each of the 15 core stages, although the game also packs in endless modes and six hidden levels, begins when you tap the side of the Gear VR to fire yourself at the target. Unlike a standard bullet, you control your path in flight by looking around and avoiding obstacles on the way to hitting your target.

drift 2

You can hold the touchpad to slow down time, although you have a limited amount of this power to get you through each level. And you'll use it, because the world flies by quickly. There's no penalty for failing and restarting, although by flying through jewels and finding the fastest path to your target you can increase your high score. The question, and I found myself asking this frequently, is what the hell is happening in these scenes?

You know that you're in a simulation, and that an AI is guiding you through the process. What you see may not be happening in the real world at all, or it's possible that it's not an accurate representation of what is actually taking place. You'll find yourself flying through rooms that don't make much sense, or perhaps couldn't even exist in the real world. It all moves past you so quickly as you search for your target, following the trails of your previous attempts for guidance, that it can be hard to pay attention to the context of each scene, although the tiny glimpses you see out of the corner of your eyes are always delightfully strange.

The game's aesthetic, filled with bright colors and blocky models, is reminiscent of Superhot while working well in VR. The game's main conceit, the idea of guiding a bullet to its target, is strong enough, but the layers of ambiguity and often surreal design of each of the levels and the interstitial chapters that tell the story raise everything up an extra level. You don't just care that you're doing something, you begin to wonder why you're doing it.

The game often requires quick but precise head movements, which makes it more comfortable playing while standing up, but once you get the hang of how you need to move it begins to feel natural. This may not be the most welcoming game in VR, it requires the player to already have a finely developer pair of sea legs, but it's one of the most eerily provocative uses of the power of the Gear VR. Highly recommended.

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