I Expect You to Die was the first VR game I ever played. I'd tried experimental VR films and "experiences" at festivals, but I vividly remember sitting in a car on a cargo plane, feeling like I'd stumbled into an escape-the-room flash game come to life. The immersive environment, amusingly violent deaths, and fully interactive environments made me see VR's potential, setting me on the path to becoming the VR nerd I am today.
So while my colleague previewed the game demo, I wasn't going to pass up my chance to review the full sequel and see how it lived up to my nostalgic expectations. Having only just finished Arcsmith, which I called the best VR puzzle game of 2021, I hoped that I Expect You to Die 2 would give it an immediate challenge for that title.
I Expect You to Die 2: The Spy and the Liar is more of a AAA game, with a more dramatic, action-packed story to accompany the puzzle solving. It has better graphics, more varied gameplay, big names like Wil Wheaton and Puddles Pity Party attached as voice talent, and other perks that give it the edge over Arcsmith. On the other hand, it has the trial-and-error puzzle solving I dislike, where finding solutions often requires a combination of luck, guesswork, and banging your head against a wall. Nevertheless, it's bound to be one of the best Oculus Quest 2 games of the year.
I Expect You to Die 2
Bottom line: Truly I Expect You to Die 2.0, this game will thrill fans of the original with more of the same mechanics, absurd deaths, and characters — augmented with better acting, graphics, storytelling, and gameplay variety. Like the original, it's fairly short in length and counts on you replaying levels over and over to improve times and find secrets. But we can hope the developers will add DLC levels down the line.
- Environments as interactive, creative as original
- "Eureka" moments incredibly satisfying
- Controls are intuitive, built for seated play
- Excellent voice acting
- Hidden achievements add replay value
- Campaign short with padded runtime
- No save points frustrating
- Solutions can be too linear, obtuse
A spoof turned serious
I Expect You to Die 2: What you'll love
I Expect You to Die 2 (IEYTD2) picks up where the original left off: you're a taciturn secret agent, back from the dead to take on evil corporation Zoraxis, and guided by a bumbling British Support Agent on a series of missions. Once again, every mission is its own setpiece, with new puzzles to solve, location-specific items to employ, and deathtraps to overcome. I barely remember the original's plot, but that didn't stop me from fully enjoying the sequel.
Who doesn't love a psychadelic, James Bond-esque opening number?!
I mean, it starts with a James Bond-style musical number and brings back the world-saving antics of the original. Unless you like your spy stuff super serious, you'll find a lot to love here!
The six main levels run the gamut from methodical puzzle-solving to thinking on your feet to all-out intensity. Each has its own distinct ambience and puzzle conceit, making the gameplay much less repetitive or dependent on unfair difficulty spikes than most puzzle games.
I Expect You to Die 2 adds new gameplay mechanics and a more compelling narrative, giving it a leg up on the original game.
My personal favorite was Mission 2: Operation Jet Set, in which you accept an invitation to a trap-laden private jet. It starts off with plenty of obvious, over-the-top death flags you'll want to trigger just to see what happens; but then it shifts into a more challenging, engaging segment against a ticking clock, as if you were warped into Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. Other missions have their own short, genre-bending challenges to overcome, ranging from cover shooting to point-and-click puzzles to some light strategy.
Like the original game, each IEYTD2 level starts with you at your home base, where you're debriefed about the mission's purpose. But most IEYTD2 missions now include voice acting from friends and foes within the levels themselves. Wil Wheaton headlines the cast as John Juniper, a "celebrity extraordinaire" whose role we won't spoil. In general, he and the rest of the cast give great performances, adding campy energy and higher stakes as you rush to solve puzzles. In particular, Wheaton's acting carries the thin plot.
The seated gameplay may be old-school, but it keeps your mind focused on the tricky puzzles.
IEYTD2 keeps the same seated gameplay mechanic as was popular with classic VR headsets. You use telekinesis to pull objects towards you or push them towards objectives. For the most part, controls worked seamlessly; if objects fell behind something, they're immediately highlighted blue, so you don't lose track of anything important. Gameplay works best in a spinning office chair, as some useful items end up behind you and you won't want to strain your neck.
I'll admit that I initially found the return of classic seated VR disappointing; I'd hoped the sequel would let your spy walk about, with some stealth or shooting mixed in with the puzzling. On the other hand, the game was challenging and enjoyable enough sitting on the couch, where you can see everything you need from one vantage; having to walk around a room to find hidden clues or tools likely would make things more complicated rather than more fun. So I won't hold its old-school game design against it.
Trial and error...and error...and error
I Expect You to Die 2: What will frustrate you
Never before has a game title been quite so on point; you should expect to die a lot. Early on in missions, these deaths are a useful learning experience to teach you the rules of the map. And they're often hilarious and forseeable, so you almost want to walk right into one horrible fate after another. The problem is when you progress 90 percent through a level, hit the challenging ending, die, and go back to the start. You won't find any auto-saves or manual saves in IEYTD2.
I very much wish your initial playthrough of levels supported auto-saves after making key progress.
A lot of your playtime in this game is spent replaying the first half of each level over and over. Then you'll hit a new obstacle that insta-kills you, or hit the "action" portion of the level where you have less time to react to a deadly trap. Then you start over again, repeating the same puzzle solutions and hearing the same dialogue until they feel pedestrian. I can't help but think Schell Games could have easily added auto-saves at key points of the level; the charitable explanation is that a clever spy should navigate an entire mission in one go; the less charitable thought is that they wanted to pad the game's runtime.
Puzzle solutions are really satisfying to solve, but on replay, I wish there were more variety.
I also wish Schell Games had added some variety to the puzzle solutions. Here's an example: the first task in one mission is to send the right bottle of wine and matching wine glasses up a dumbwaiter. If Schell had varied the type of wine you send up per playthrough, you'd have to check each time and make sure to pick the right glasses. The same applies to the cool bomb-defusal section of another level; while tense the first couple of times, it becomes a simple memorization game.
Finally, I wish there had been more "alternative" solutions to certain problems. It seemed like every level was fairly linear, so if you couldn't track down a particular item, you'd be stuck in your tracks for long stretches. I spent 40 minutes trying to find a single key, with no other way to progress; it was awful. Some of the level challenges do encourage you to find other ways to get past things, but these were the exception, not the rule.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it
I Expect You to Die 2: Should you buy it?
Many of my complaints with I Expect You to Die 2 are nitpicks, rather than game-breaking issues. The only real downside to the game is its short length, particularly for those who don't like replaying games after their initial playthrough ends. Its replayability caters more to perfectionists who can't rest until they unlock every achievement.
But given the game follows a particular storyline from one mission to the next, it's probably for the best that Schell Games didn't stretch the story out too far. You'll have a blast as a telekenetically powered spy unearthing a vast conspiracy from cartoonishly evil villains, relying only on your wits to get out of serious jams. Puzzle solutions rely more on trial-and-error than logic sometimes, but it's still exceedingly satisfying once you progress.
Thanks to its entertaining story, sandbox levels with tons of interactive objects, and reliable controls for a nausea-free seated experience, I Expect You to Die 2 will be a great buy or gift for virtually any VR fan — except for younger players who may be scared by all the semi-violent, cartoonish deaths.
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