Vigor, an early access survival game for Xbox One announced at this year’s E3, is an ambitious new title from Bohemia Interactive. The looting and shooting is a decent amount of fun, but, like Arma 3 and DayZ, the gameplay almost completely breaks down at close range.
Bohemia opened Vigor up to a small group of players last week. The closed preview included access to two of the game’s maps, as well as a sample of the base-building mechanics. In the game’s fiction, players are the survivors of a great nuclear war that has ravaged Europe. Each person is stranded on an isolated island in Norway. Only by foraging in the built-up areas of larger land masses can they gather the resources they need to survive.
I began by choosing my avatar’s face from a few stock options. After a brief tutorial, I arrived at my isolated home, where a modest stockpile was waiting for me, including a pistol, a shotgun and a dated, drum-fed Russian submachine gun. Once spawned into the game round, I had about 20 minutes before a cloud of radiation drifted over the area and killed me dead. Each map has a number of exits, and the radiation funnels all eight players toward the same ones, all but guaranteeing that you’ll need to take someone down to make it home again.
Two locations were available: a coastal defense installation filled with artillery emplacements and military vehicles, and a fishing village with a large area of warehouses. About ten minutes into each round a jet flew overhead and dropped a care package, which was then highlighted on the map. Inside were a bunch of resources and a handful of weapons. Each round I had to decide whether to head toward the drop zone or linger in the many residential and industrial buildings as I made my way across the map. Either way, the goal was to gather up as much as I could carry and escape. In Vigor, anything you have on you when you die is lost, either left behind or taken by other players.
The environments themselves are absolutely stunning. There’s no one in the business that makes realistic, geo-typical terrain quite like Bohemia. Maps were much more dense than I expected, with closely-packed buildings full of spacious rooms. Doorways were conspicuously wide, making them easy to move through with my weapon raised.
Vigor’s maps are much smaller than in past Bohemia titles, which, given the time limit, makes complete sense. But being forced to move quickly through dense terrain, coupled with the rain, fog and other environmental aspects, I also found that long-range observation and sniping wasn’t much use.
Instead, I had to pick my way quickly from house to house, using tree cover and the folds in the terrain to hide myself from observation. Unfortunately, this type of movement is where the cracks in the game engine began to show.
It seems that climbing and mantling is still a huge problem for Bohemia.
At one point, I moved silently into a home, passing a family room with children’s toys scattered on the floor. I found another player scavenging in a bedroom and dropped him with a single shotgun blast to the back of the head. I flowed quickly through the kitchen and out the back door, only to get hung up on the hedgerow in the side yard. I hopped in place three or four times before I simply gave up and walked around it.
Later that same game, another player snuck up on me. He had just a few rounds left in his submachine gun, so he got up as close as he could, trying to put one through my head. He missed, so I turned on him with my shotgun. Due to the length of the weapon, I couldn’t get a bead on him, and I quickly wasted four rounds firing wildly and at close range. Using the thumbstick, I lashed out with a melee attack, landing several. But, before long, he had cut me down with a hunting knife.
Looking back at the video of the match, it’s clear that I landed a few good hits with the butt of my gun, despite having no clear indication where the hitbox actual was. But my attacker wasn’t slowed down in the slightest. Nor was he phased at all by four massive, 12-gauge blasts going off right next to his head.
Melee feels unfair, and like other Bohemia games that have come before it, in Vigor, it looks clumsy as hell.
It should be noted that this is the first time that Bohemia has used the Unreal Engine for a commercial video game. It’s also expected to be out this year. That would make it playable on consoles long before DayZ, the zombie-themed survival game that burst onto the scene in 2012. Unfortunately, it shares much of the same dated DNA with that title, right down to the awkward melee combat.
Here’s hoping something dramatic happens before the game officially launches. A founder’s pack will be available for sale this year, while the game will formally release as a free-to-play title in 2019.