Hubris is a VR-led action game, where you play as a futuristic agent exploring a unique but deadly alien world. It mixes everything from climbing, to shooting and operating unique vehicles with a sci-fi narrative wrapper.
We were very excited due to how good the game looked in trailers and screenshots, with the variety of action promising an immersive experience. Sadly, whilst it definitely looks good, it doesn’t quite get there in terms of gameplay.
The issue isn’t that the game is lacking content, in fact far from it, it does seem to have a lot of interesting ideas that it wants to explore. The problem really sums up due to various unpolished gameplay features that come together to frustrate more than they exhilarate. There are interesting mechanics here, but they feel unpolished.
For example, during the climbing sections, the game does not allow you to snap turn like it usually does with the right stick, which means you have to keep physically spinning around, trying to orient yourself towards the next ledge. On top of that, you have to very specifically grab the ledges or pipes from a certain angle or your hands won’t attach. This means you have to keep looking where you are grabbing, and your peripheral sense feels underused, breaking the immersion.
It is very rare for me to get motion-sick whilst playing VR games, but even I felt my stomach churn after the climbing sections and had to take a break. This is a shame because if it did allow you to climb seamlessly, it really would be a highlight of the game due to the variety of stunning vistas you scale throughout the game.
Furthermore, VR games should make things as interactable as possible, to truly immerse you in the action. Even the small steps that are understandably cut from traditional games, are essential to grounding you in the experience. In a traditional game, you would just press a button to reload, rather than unload the mag, insert the new one and then cock it if needed. But in VR, you want to do all that, cause it sells you on the immersion and physical roleplay, which Hubris is missing.
I would have loved to see more physical interaction with your weapons through reloads or modifications, as just holding the gun to your head to reload doesn’t have the same appeal. With it being sci-fi, there were tons of liberties they could have taken with the interaction as well, really making the guns feel interesting.
Even the environmental interaction is rather limited, as you basically tap hud icons to open or close doors most of the time. I was excited when they first gave us control of a crane, and I assumed it meant that I would somehow use it to open the locked doors by solving an environmental puzzle. Sadly, that wasn’t the case, and all it led to was moving it out of the way so I can jump into a small manhole.
I can understand the sci-fi explanation for it, but as mentioned, you want to make as much of it as interactive as possible for immersion. In fact, it’s one of the reasons Alyx excelled, different weapons were interactive in unique ways. The same thing for the environments, you had various systems in order to unlock or open doors which kept your hands busy. Hubris could have taken a page from their playbook.
The gunfights themselves are fun for an hour or so, but become repetitive after a while, as most enemies can be killed in just a few hits, with the challenge coming from the quantity of enemies rather than their quality. The combat boils down to a cycle of holding the gun to your head and taking a few shots, with barely a need for taking cover.
I was hoping the humanoid enemies would provide an interesting challenge, but they were easily exploitable and went down in a few hits. Not to mention, because they evaporate into the air when you kill them, you don’t really get to see a lot of impact from your gunplay. To top it off, the guns don’t have a reliable aim-sight, so a lot of the time you are taking potshots and adjusting after each hit.
Other than the gunplay, the game’s main gameplay loop boils down to finding and recycling items into materials that you then use to upgrade or create equipment. This might be the most interesting part of the experience as it stands, providing an interesting interaction with items around the world. I do like that I was looking around corners and objects to find what I need, sometimes even climbing to find hidden spots.
The only thing that lets it down are some questionable design choices with some of the earlier levels, where it throws you against a drone you can’t fight at that point. It became frustrating when I couldn’t defend myself or hide from it reliably, especially since it would wipe my progress to the last checkpoint on death and I had to keep scavenging items over and over again from the same place I did last time, hoping I would have enough for the first upgrade before I got killed. It would have been fine not to have an enemy in that section and give players breathing room to explore this new crafting mechanic.
The story is interesting, but it doesn’t have a lot of depth, with objectives and context being just enough to carry you from one set piece to another. The character models look great, but when it comes to their animations or voice acting, they can be hit or miss. The vehicle sections are interesting, but they feel too constrained and scripted.
In hindsight, it might sound like I am being harsh with the review, but it is only because of how much potential Hubris had. If they had really honed in on good game design, more physical interactions and a balanced combat experience, it could have been a memorable experience. The £36 asking price might not be approachable for everyone either, which means it needs to do a harder job of selling itself.
As it stands, it is visually stunning but mechanically shallow, which makes this feel more like a rollercoaster experience than a memorable video game with strong gameplay loops. It is currently available on Steam for $39.99/£34.99