From the get-go, you know I Expect You To Die 3 is a special game. That's not because it does anything revolutionary or particularly different from its two predecessors — much of the series' formula remains untouched — but because there's just so much charm and polish that most VR games don't have.
You still play as the veritable Agent Phoenix, but, this time around, you begin the game in a brand-new base. After a brief and silly intro to why you were called back into action, you're met with the news that Dr. Roxana Prism has gone missing. As the agency's best agent, you're immediately tasked with finding out what happened to the great Doctor.
What ensues is a series of missions that'll thrill fans of one of the best Quest 2 games' series. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, so you'll still be playing this one seated unless you really just like standing up the entire time. It's one of the most comfortable games you can play in VR because of Schell Games' commitment to making games great for all types of players.
For this hands-on, I was able to play the intro plus the first three missions of the game. Once I got past some initial issues and frustrations — which I'll detail below — I really enjoyed that I played, and I'm really looking forward to finding out what happens beyond the third mission.
The spy who slagged me
While much of the series' formula remains unchanged, Schell Games seems to be pushing players toward slightly more action-oriented, timed sequences. In the three missions I played, things culminated into a "boss battle" each time.
As you unravel the Doctor's plans, you'll scour her home for clues, delve deep into mines, and even face the harrowing halls of a submarine. Each of these levels feels cryptic and mysterious at the get-go, forcing players to look around and use their deductive skills to figure out what needs to be done next.
At its core, the I Expect You To Die series is essentially a spy-themed escape room experience. Each mission can take anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes, depending on how long it takes you to figure out puzzles, and each mission has plenty of secrets to unlock and achievements to earn.
Escape room games are more common now than they were when the series began, but few are able to match the presentation and polish that Schell Games is able to pack into its titles. After all, this is the same developer behind Among Us VR, Until You Fall, and plenty of others.
The intro alone is amazing, and the vocals of Haley Reinhart really help add to that level of polish. Plus, most of the story isn't forced on the players. Folks who want to know more about the lore and characters can find hidden audio messages and other notes scattered throughout the environments that'll reveal more than just the core moments in the game.
Getting long in the tooth?
Many aspects of I Expect You To Die 3's gameplay are deeply rooted in seated VR headsets like the original Oculus Rift. While many facets of this formula are friendly for players who experience motion sickness or haven't spent a lot of time in VR, some of them feel like they need a serious overhaul.
The game is expected to be played seated, which means players aren't tasked with moving around the environment. Even if you opt to stand, you can't walk too far without the game presenting a grey screen telling you to go back to the center of the play area to continue.
I'd love to see an entry in this series with fully interactive rooms that I can walk around in and explore more fully. As it stands, missions still feel like a collection of extremely linear tasks that you'll run through in order to progress.
Some missions are more difficult to deduce, while others are dead simple and left me wanting more.
That formula is fine enough, but it gets extremely frustrating when you fail for any number of reasons.
Maybe you mixed the wrong cocktail, and it exploded in your face in the first mission, or you die during one of the boss battles at the end of a mission. Either way, each time you die you'll have to start completely over from the beginning of the mission.
There are no checkpoints, and it's kind of annoying to have to do the same things over and over again just because I did something wrong. If anything, it makes me less inclined to experiment with the game's many systems that are devised to encourage players to do exactly that — experiment.
I also found that the grabbing mechanics just felt off. Grabbing objects was cumbersome and clumsy, and I had to hold my hands at weird angles sometimes just to grab an object.
This can be fixed by using the telekinesis power — which lets you fine-select objects like a laser pointer — but that doesn't always fix the awkward angle issue. I also found a number of weird bugs where objects would get stuck in walls or floors, and at least twice I had objects disappear on me entirely.
While most of the experience is quite polished and presented well, these kinds of bugs are very unexpected in a Schell Games game.
Uninstalling and reinstalling seemed to make some of these issues go away, but I think some of that was down to me having to repeat the mission several times because I couldn't figure out a killer puzzle or ran into an experience-stopping bug.
This is, of course, an early release of the game and not indicative of final quality, so I fully expect these bugs to get ironed out in time for the game's release later this Summer.
Fans of the series should definitely jump in as they won't be disappointed. Especially if you're the kind of fan that just wants more content rather than some kind of revolutionary entry into a storied series.
I Expect You To Die 3
It's hard to get tired of being a spy, and the third entry into the I Expect You To Die series keeps the existing formula going strong for those who love it.
Preorder now at the Meta Quest store for a 10% discount
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