Tuesday, 24 March 2020 18:00

Mental Early Access Review

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Mental by developer/publisher VR Connected, is a VR early access title that combines stylish parkour infused shooting with melee combat in wave-based arenas. The developer should be commended for attempting things few other VR titles do, but unfortunately, much of what’s on offer misses the mark due to lackluster execution.

Off the Mark

t it’s best, Mental makes you feel like a John Woo style action hero, jumping through the air in slow-mo while delivering a hail of bullets. Just as often, you’ll find yourself frustrated at the unsatisfying combat, particularly in the melee department, as well as other little irritants. Fortunately, VR Connected has promised to address the lack of satisfaction with Mental’s close-quarters combat. At the time of writing, the best strategy for dispatching enemies is waggling your controller rapidly in the bad guys’ direction as the force at which a weapon is swung doesn’t seem to make any difference, but rather only the number of times they’re hit. This wouldn’t be as big of a deal if melee combat wasn’t essentially mandatory for much of the game. Ammo is very hard to come by and it can take a while to build up the money needed to purchase weapons and ammo in Mental’s various horde modes. 

Melee isn’t the only area of combat that leaves something to be desired however, as gunplay, while enjoyable, doesn’t fully commit to the action hero vibe the title is going for. When a developer allows you to wall run, then leap off the wall in slow motion while dual-wielding machine guns, then you’re no longer in the realm of reality. What’s unfortunate is that particularly with pistols, the recoil is so high that you can’t fire with abandon, especially in slow motion where recoil is about three times higher than normal. This makes you carefully stagger your shots, rather than allowing you to pretend you’re Chow Yun-Fat in Hard Boiled. Pulling off the feeling of being an overpowered, stylish action hero is something that needs to be doubled down on otherwise there’s a sort of disconnect that happens.

Going Beyond

Other than a few bugs such as getting stuck on geometry, the only other real issue is too steep of difficulty. The various modes are different types of horde modes where you fight a set number of enemies each round. The problem is it takes too long to build up the money needed for the various items, and you’ll usually die before you can make a satisfying amount of progress. That combined with enemies that are often bullet sponges and don’t react in a meaningful way to being damaged can lead to some frustration with the combat.

Where Mental shines though is in quantity however, as well as doing things other VR titles don’t attempt. For instance, the gore on display, cartoony as it is, is something that shows rarely in VR experiences. This can be turned off, along with profanity and drug use if you desire. The parkour element, when it clicks, can be very enjoyable. But my favorite element is probably the weapon combo system. If you’ve played any of the Dead Rising games after the first one, then you get the idea. Put two different weapons together on a workbench and see what crazy Frankenstein monstrosity comes back. I think my favorite was combining a hatchet with a wooden staff, which gave me this gnarly looking stick that had what looked like giant razor blades protruding out of every direction. Examples like that were as effective as they were cool, but some were cool in concept only. Combining a grenade launcher with a dagger created grenades that would burst into a bunch of knives and set the ground aflame, but an unmodified grenade launcher proved to be far more effective in dispatching bad guys. Another system at play is the upgrade system, where nearly every gun in Mental can be placed in an upgrade bin, where it gets tricked out with gold plating, higher damage, and more accuracy which was a nice bonus.


The Verdict: Flawed

Ultimately Mental in Early Access has some great ideas, but where it stumbles is in the execution. The title has an issue with jankiness that never allows it’s various gameplay mechanics to click in a meaningful way. However, the core is there and with continued polish, which the developer seems committed to following through on, it could shape up to be something well worth your time.

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Caleb Bailey

Caleb is a game reviewer who is way more of a nostalgic curmudgeon than any 25 year old has any right to be. He enjoys shooters, open world games and is a huge believer in virtual reality's potential. His guilty pleasure movie of choice is The Neverending Story which he still shamefully watches because it was his childhood favorite. He hopes to one day ride Falkor the Luckdragon in VR because that is what he means when he says virtual reality has potential.


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