title card. an explosion in a warehouse with our two heroes jumping and shooting surrounded by bad guys

Under Cover -Meta Quest 2- Review

Light gun games or on-rail shooters were a staple of any arcade in the 90s. From games like Mad Dog McCree, House of the Dead and Virtua Cop, one particular stand-out title was Namco’s Time Crisis which included a pedal you used to duck and reload adding a new gameplay element rather than just stand there and shoot. The home market had a handful of these titles but they were often unplayable without a pricey accessory. Now, with the advent of motion controls and affordable VR, I always thought that the time was right for the genre to make a comeback, and I’m not the only one.

first person view from player one. player is hold a magnum in a reception area. Player two can be seen

Available exclusively on Meta platforms comes Under Cover, a VR light gun game heavily inspired by the titles of yore, the most of which is Time Crisis. Right off the bat, you are plonked into an arcade setting with a few cameo titles for the studio credits, with an arcade machine you have to shoot to proceed, and when you get to the title screen it uses almost the same font and style to Time Crisis in a “is this plagiarism?” degree. Fans may even recognise the gun in your (virtual) hand as a very accurate representation of Namco’s GunCon, the light gun they packaged with the home version of Time Crisis.

After a brief tutorial level explaining how the game functions, we are presented with two options: single-player or multiplayer via network/Internet, no couch co-op here folks but given the nature of the hardware I think that would be hard to pull off. Whichever you choose it’s the same adventure as the second person is filled by a bot anyway then you get to pick which of the two protagonists you want to play as, Red-eye or Magnum.

Character selection is more than just “what colour gloves” you wear as there is a gameplay element to it as well. Both are equipped with a standard semi-automatic pistol but you could also pick their signature handguns as well. Red-eye has a fully automatic pistol if you just want to spray and pray and Magnum has, well a Magnum, a heavy-hitting six-shot pistol which kills most low-level enemies in one shot.

player is peeking over a bush while aiming. two enemies can been seen. the area looks like a tropical resort

Controls are just as you expect, point your controller at the enemy and shoot the trigger. This can be left or right-handed as the gun will shift to whichever trigger is pulled. The duck and cover can be controlled in one of two ways, either by pushing a face button or by physically ducking as the game will pick this up. Not being as nimble as I once was, I opted for the button method.

Sitting or standing are both supported as well which is always a nice addition. Movement through the levels is automatic with you just having to look at where the game wants to plonk you, this is highlighted through a handy route on the floor pointing the way and a big circle for your destination.

Gunfights feel nice and responsive, I always felt that (most) of my shots hit where they intended. Some of the environment is destructible and red indicators appeared when a kill shot was coming giving me ample time to duck (although I did come out of cover to a bullet to the face more than once) and I felt the majority of the targets were in a roughly 160° in front of me so I didn’t need to spin in place to find anyone.

Your health bar can take six hits and each level gives you two continues, and health containers are scattered about to keep you topped up. Extra guns can also be picked up by shooting them which gives you a temporary power-up ranging from fully automatic submachine guns and heavy burst rifles, to rocket launchers and the ludicrous ball-pit gun or stereo cannon.

player shoots at combatants in between some bamboo shacks. a sign says Paxcon in the background

Those last two say a lot about the mood of this game, it’s played very tongue in cheek with self-referential humour, and over-the-top villain performances but all wrapped up in a very PG package. They have gone above and beyond to make this game about shooting very, well, non-violent. No blood is on screen, there are a lot of robots and the enemies even say things like “darn” or “drat”. That paired with the colourful levels and comic book art style does make it a nice distraction and it manages to keep its charm throughout my playthrough.

The plot is as barebones as it needs to be, you are two undercover agents who are tasked to stop the bad guy from his plot for world domination blah, blah, blah. It’s just the wrapping for the tasty treat inside. The game is fully voiced acted though, with Metal Gear-style codec calls popping up mid-level to usher the player along, these are all fully optional though with a nice big skip button available.

There is very little character development though with only the most minor conflict between two protagonists which is neatly wrapped up by the end. The performances are well done if a little stereotypical. Effects sound like they were ripped out of Time Crisis, especially the announcer who shouts “ACTION” before each gunfight and music helps invoke a light-hearted British spy thriller vibe.

the player aims a rocket launcher from an elevated position in a warehouse to a group of bad guys below

With there being only sixteen levels, divided up by four chapters, it is a shorter scale game with each level running around the ten to fifteen-minute mark. You could blast through this in an afternoon there is some replay value. Firstly there is the option of starting with pistols from the different characters and the option to play as either side of the path, but throughout the game, your score and accuracy are being tracked as well as a perishable combo metre awarded for landing successive shots, so the high score chasers have something to aim for.

Unfortunately, outside of this, there is very little variety. New enemies do get introduced but all follow a similar theme just with new weak points or timings to dodge. The third level in each chapter is a boss stage and outside of one or two variations, it’s the same giant mech suit with the same mechanics. The levels themselves are varied with each chapter having a theme, from office cubicles or a running train to the final Caribbean holiday resort. I just would have liked some post-game fun, stuff like infinite ammo mode or playing with the special weapons longer.

the player in a warehouse facing down a mech boss. the boss has a full life bar above their head

The game itself is comfortable to play and has some accessibility options like an adjustable motion sickness vignetting and options to turn flashing effects down. At the end of the day, this is exactly what it says on the tin, a call back to the 90’s arcade light gun shooter. Innocent fun that you can just pick up and play, have a blast then put back. No, it’s not going to last forever, but it’s one you’re going to keep coming back to again and again.

8/10 star rating

Developer: Sigtrap Games

Publisher: Coatsink/Thunderful

Platforms: Meta






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