Espire 1: VR Operative – a decent stab at VR stealth that's not without issues

Watching the trailers for Espire 1: VR Operative before its release conjured up exciting images of a VR version of Splinter Cell or Metal Gear Solid, just with a generic robot replacing the usual gruff protagonist. There was climbing, sneaking, shooting and even a dash of slow-mo in there for added Matrix inspired coolness.

Basically, Espire 1 looked like it had all the makings of an excellent, immersive, VR action experience and in a way, it does. It’s just a shame then that it’s also rather janky at points, with some unfair AI and a collection of bugs threatening to spoil what should have been a real showcase for VR gaming.

With all that said, I had quite a good time during my first hour with Espire 1 and you can watch my shambolic efforts at stealth in this week’s episode of Ian’s VR Corner.

One of the things I appreciated most about Espire 1 was that even with the linear level structure, there seemed to be a huge amount of freedom to how you could approach each situation. Climbing was normally my go to choice for avoiding or ambushing enemies and you can clamber over a satisfying amount of scenery.

While these climbing mechanics were no way as refined or as accurate as those in Stormland, they were good enough to make me feel like I was role-playing as Splinter Cell’s Sam Fisher. Shimmying up pipes, waiting in the shadows in the rafters and then dropping down behind unsuspecting foes. It’s thrilling, immersive stuff in VR and when it works, it works well.

Sadly, there were just as many times when things wouldn’t work too well. Sometimes I’d get spotted by enemies even though I was crouched up high and it felt like I was way out of their eye line. Then there were other times when blows from my fists would just pass through enemies rather than knock them out, even though I was standing right next to them. There’s an inconsistency here that just didn’t sit right with me after extended playtime.

Even with the rough edges though, I have had a lot of fun with Espire 1 so far. Some things, like the ability to hold-up enemies by shouting, “FREEZE!” at them, or the way you can drag around dead or unconscious enemies had me giggling with glee. It’s just a shame that sometimes these things would work well, while other times they wouldn’t work at all.

I’ve not yet completed Espire 1, but from what I can gather there’s about 5-6 hours worth of game time here, plus some additional challenge missions that seem to be heavily inspired by Metal Gear Solid’s VR missions. Those, plus online leaderboards for speed runners and stealth perfectionists should push your play time well past the 10 hour mark.

One of the best things about Espire 1 is the sheer amount of VR platform it’s available for. All major Steam VR platforms are covered with this release and you an also buy it for the Oculus Rift, Quest and the Playstation VR. I actually played it on the Rift S via Steam VR for my video coverage and that worked absolutely fine. One word of warning though, I’ve seen reports that the PSVR version is rather broken at the moment so perhaps hold off for a patch if you’re planning on picking it up from the Playstation Store.

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.


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