Exhilaration, wonder, curiosity, fun – at its best VR, even as an emerging technology and art-form, can elicit emotions like these. It’s to Megaton Rainfall‘s credit that despite its flaws, you’ll feel all of these – especially if this is one of your first PlayStation VR titles. Beginning life as the project of a solo developer over a five-year period, Megaton Rainfall is by no means perfect, or even entirely solid, but it is a confident and at times breathtaking experience.
Essentially, think a first-person Superman title, in VR, and you’ve basically nailed the premise of Megaton Rainfall. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was initially pitched with the hopes of it becoming officially licensed. As a trans-dimensional invincible offspring of an alien god, you fly around Earth fighting off invaders while trying to minimise human casualties. Megaton Rainfall wears its influences on its sleeve, from the general premise of Superman to enemies ripped straight out of movies like Independence Day and Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
Riffing on well-known tropes should allow Megaton Rainfall to easily set your expectations and jump into gameplay, although annoyingly you’re frequently stopped and locked into slow-moving cutscenes, watching a cube spew text and exposition at you. That said, once you’re actually able to play, the game’s tutorial is one of the most impressive VR experiences I’ve had – right off the bat, you’re whisked across the planet, flying across continents, through the Aurora Borealis and past cities. In what seems to be a similar technology to No Man’s Sky, Megaton Rainfall seamlessly transitions from space to Earth’s surface, with procedurally generated environments based on that area’s general geography. If you fly to Africa, you’ll find deserts, and if you zoom over to Melbourne, you’ll get a cityscape.
Of course, with such a huge scope, it’s impossible for the game to measure up in its detail, and Megaton Rainfall is definitely very rough visually. Textures are often low quality, jaggies and pop-in are abundant in VR and models, especially for civilians, are basic. It’s a big picture game, and unlike No Man’s Sky which promised too much in a vague way, Megaton Rainfall’s promise is much more specific – making you feel like Superman.
And there are lots of little moments where the game pulls this off tremendously. After the initial tutorial, about an hour or so into the four-hour story, the entire universe suddenly opens up to you. Now – not only can you fly anywhere on Earth, but to Jupiter and Saturn and other galaxies. “Surely, I can’t land on Jupiter,” you say to yourself – but you actually can. “They can’t let you fly through Saturn’s rings, it’ll just be a flat texture,”- but get close enough and lo and behold you can fly through that field of rocks like you’re in Empire Strikes Back. When your super-powers have been granted, and you realise you can actually deform terrain, you’ll find yourself digging as far as you can into planets like you were in Red Faction. It’s not a polished package, and often your curiosity may only be rewarded with the barest of textures, but it’s charming how much thought has gone into what you, as a player, may do or want to explore, which is vital in making an immersive VR game.
When not flying around, the main gameplay of Megaton Rainfall is based around combat against alien invaders. There’s actually quite a varied number of enemy types, from slow-moving motherships to jittery dragonfly-esque drones, although all of them have weak points helpfully highlighted in red. Unfortunately, this is where the game starts to fall down, with clumsy controls that make it difficult to precisely target weak points, which is especially frustrating given your health meter. Well, to be precise – it’s not your health meter as you’re invincible, but that of the city around you. If you let the aliens destroy too much, or you misfire with your nuclear-powered energy blasts, civilians will die and you’ll be forced to reset to an earlier checkpoint. It’s the same solution that the Superman Returns game on Xbox 360 had when dealing with an all-powerful character, and it works well enough.
The clumsiness of your powers, whether entirely intentional or not, also presents an interesting dilemma as you’re constantly put in the position of, say, Superman in 2013’s Man of Steel. Against an enemy intent on destruction, and with no way to lead them away from a populated area – how can you protect civilians without causing significant damage yourself? How much of the disaster are you responsible for? Again, while the game is unpolished and overall fairly short, the themes present are actually quite ambitious.
Looking at screenshots, or even watching someone else play it, Megaton Rainfall won’t impress, and the lack of polish does hurt. However, experiencing the game in VR is another story entirely. Download it, strap yourself in and give it a chance and you’ll find an average super-hero shooter, but a near-unforgettable VR experience.
-Hugely impressive ambition and scope -Unique first-person Superman simulation -Fun to experiment and chill out in
-Imprecise controls at odds with precision combat -Rough around the edges, at-times basic presentation