Would you believe me if I told you that this week's episode of Ian's VR Corner featured a stealth game based around a canoe? Oar would you think I'm due a paddlin' for being a big old liar?
Well, water you know! Phantom: Covert Ops is not only a game that actually exists, but it also has a brand new release date too - June 25th for Oculus Rift and Quest.
To celebrate this recent announcement, I decided to record myself playing through the Phantom: Covert Ops alpha demo, something which has only previously been available to try at big gaming events like Oculus Connect 6. You can watch me paddle my way through this short slice of stealthy gameplay in this week's Ian's VR Corner, where I try to take out a giant radio tower after canoeing my way down an enemy-infested river. Will I sink or will I swim? Find out in the video below!
The first thing you'll notice if you watch my video is that, even though I'm playing on an Oculus Quest, Phantom: Covert Ops is a purely seated experience. This means that even those with limited room space should be able to enjoy the game. Couple this with the fact that movement is physically powered by way of using motion controls to propel the canoe and any potential for motion sickness should be lessened for those with less experience in VR.
Most action games in VR tend to be rather intense in terms of motion and visual stimuli, so it's rather nice to see something like Phantom pop up. It feels like it should be comfortable enough for newcomers, but its gameplay is way more adult-oriented compared to the usual family-friendly VR experiences for beginners.
It also looks really nice on the Quest, even though graphical sacrifices have obviously been made in order to make the game run smoothly. There were some places in the demo where I could feel the headset struggling to keep up with the action and some of the textures for the scenery look basic to say the least, but none of this ruined the experience. It stands to reason that these things shouldn't be a problem with the Rift version of Phantom: Covert Ops, but I didn't get to experience that so I can't tell you for sure.
As you'd expect from a game that's basically a cross between Splinter Cell and a kayaking holiday, Phantom: Covert Ops is stealth-based and the majority of your weapons are focussed around that. The scope of your main method of murder, a silenced sniper rifle, will snap to your eye when you aim. This allows you to scan your area from the shadows, work out your plan of attack and dispatch any loan guards you might see.
Your canoe also comes equipped with a silenced pistol, magazines for each of your guns, a set of bombs for taking out environmental obstructions and a sub-machine gun for when things go completely wrong. Combine this with what looked to be quite a few different routes through the linear level and there should be potential for multiple playthroughs for people who want to do full stealth (or full murder) runs of the game.
While the demo I played was rather short and the build was rather old (about 6 months or so), I throughly enjoyed my time with Phantom: Covert Ops quite a lot. Manoeuvring the canoe can be a bit fiddly at first, especially if you've never used a real one before, but the stealthy gameplay is satisfying, the shooting is fun and it's just nice to see another example of VR developers thinking outside of the box and bringing us an original take on a decades old genre.
It's definitely one to set your sights on, especially if you've been looking for something a little different for your Oculus headset.
If you enjoyed this episode of Ian's VR Corner, you can catch up with my previous adventures over on YouTube in our VR playlist, where I've covered Asgard's Wrath, Ghost Giant and Five Nights at Freddy's VR. You can also read our list of best PSVR games.