Skip to main content

‘Archangel’ hands-on review

Playstation VR's 'Archangel' puts you in a mech, with humanity on the brink

archangel review cockpit
Image used with permission by copyright holder
One of the best game genres for virtual reality as it currently exists is the shooter, where headset views and motion controls translate fluidly into looking around to find things to blow up — and then blasting them. That’s basically the focus of Archangel, the upcoming mech-based shooter from developer Skydance. The game puts you in the cockpit of a giant walking battle tank with the help of PlayStation VR and lets you go nuts.

But virtual reality as we know it is still grappling with a few issues, like “simulation sickness,” the nauseous feeling that comes with your eyes interpreting your body moving when the rest of your senses don’t. A lot of games get around that sensation by limiting how much you can actually move in the game with controls like thumbsticks.

Every fight came down to quickly and strategically taking out enemies while also trying to block incoming fire

In Archangel, shown at Sony’s Playstation game showcase at E3 2017, the solution comes in making the game something of a rail shooter: You don’t control the motion of your huge bipedal death machine as it works its way through the game’s levels. Instead, you’re focused on the weapons in a game that’s more akin to the turret shooter genre, in which players man a stationary gun turret and deal with attacking enemies, than your standard first-person shooter.

Where Archangel looks like it’s going beyond traditional turret shooting games is in the character and detail it brings to that idea. The mech you drive in the game is equipped with an artificial intelligence that serves as your second in command, for instance. The result is something like the symbiotic relationship of Titanfall 2, where the mech is both a vehicle and a robot character unto itself.

Blasting (almost) everything that moves

Each of the mech’s arms comes loaded with different weapons, and it’s your job to make use of them. You’ll blast away with a chain gun on the right wrist, while you can paint targets with your left to fire homing missiles. In the short demo we saw, moving through a destroyed, sand-covered city to fight off incoming airborne fighters and tanks, combat was all about mixing weapons effectively to destroy threats before they became overwhelming, and before one of your guns ran out of ammo and left you momentarily defenseless.

Picking targets is key. As groups of fighters swept in from overhead, we had to target their leaders, explosives-laden kamikaze drones aiming to dive-bomb us. Take out those, and the explosions would catch their wingmen, too, or even larger “dreadnaught” drones that could otherwise dish out huge punishment.

Each of the mech’s arms is also equipped with a shield, which protects about half your robot and only lasts for a few seconds. So every fight came down to quickly and strategically taking out enemies while also trying to block incoming fire. Archangel does a pretty good job of forcing you to keep your attention shifting. While rail shooters are commonly about quick reactions as targets pop into your field of vision, the VR elements of Archangel mean that you’re mostly trying to keep an eye on everything coming at you, deciding which weapons to use against which threats while protecting yourself as best you can.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

In practice, it means laying down chain gun fire on a tank to your right while shielding against the ones shooting at you from the left, then quickly swinging your missile launcher skyward to take out banking fighters before more fire comes your way. Since you can’t move, your only means of survival is offensive, strategic thinking to neutralize threats as quickly as possible.

You’ll also have flying units flanking you that make up your squad. The other characters and their vehicles will require your protection, and they’ll take part in the battle to aid you — even providing healing power-ups at key moments.

The human element

The big thrust of Archangel is the feeling of being a human in control of a giant robot. You’re manning the cockpit of your mech more than just being a giant robot. Put another way, your movements aren’t one-to-one with the mech’s actions — it’s more like you’re running the controls.

That little bit of separation is by design, Skydance Interactive President Peter Akemann said. Skydance wants the game to feel like you’re a pilot of something incredibly powerful, but as much as blowing things up is essential to the gameplay, Archangel is focused on the human side of the story as well.

The idea is to tell a sci-fi story that focuses on both the way technology can overtake humanity, and the way that it can elevate humanity.

Archangel drops players into the middle of a war between an all-powerful, mechanized corporation called HUMNX that’s taken over America, and a small band of fighters trying to take back the government and control the destiny of humanity.

As Akemann put it, the idea is to tell a sci-fi story that focuses on both the way technology can overtake humanity, and the way that it can elevate humanity. The automated, totalitarian HUMNX are a tech gone awry, dominating life and taking away freedom. But the mech, and the artificial intelligence that’s taking part in the story, represent the way technology evolves and the way humanity can learn from it — and it from us.

The story of Archangel was only a small part of the demo, but it seems like it could add a layer to the game that might give it some deeper appeal. Mech pilot and player character Gabriel has a photo of his family clipped firmly into the cockpit, suggesting some backstory, and the demo ended with a holographic retelling of an interrogation of a HUMNX officer that adds to the character.

For Playstation VR owners looking for more games to add to the technology’s fledgling library, Archangel should add a cinematic shooter experience without the issues of getting sick while you play. Just how deep the game is remains to be seen, but controlling the big, gun-covered arms of a giant robot at least provides a solid foundation for VR explosions and strategic gunplay.

Archangel is set to release on PlayStation VR in July, and heads to Oculus Rift and HTC Vive soon after.

Editors' Recommendations

Phil Hornshaw
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Phil Hornshaw is an author, freelance writer and journalist living in Los Angeles. He is the co-author of The Space Hero's…
All upcoming PS5 games: 2023, 2024, and beyond
Soliders take cover behind a riot shield in a Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 promo image.

The PlayStation 5 has been out for some time now, and its reception has been mostly positive. It includes lots of quality-of-life improvements over its predecessor, the PlayStation 4, such as faster load times, a solid-state drive (SSD) instead of a regular hard disk drive (HDD), and an improved controller in the form of the new DualSense. However, a console is only as good as the games available on it, and thankfully, the PS5 has you covered on that front as well.

While the machine already has a worthy library of great PS5 games, there are even more to look forward to, with some releasing as soon as this month, while others are still years away. In the video game world, it's not uncommon to be aware of games that are still several years out from release. It's also normal for a new game to be revealed and launched within just a couple of months. In this comprehensive list, we'll go through the major PS5 releases scheduled for 2023 and speculate on future games.

Read more
All suits in Spider-Man 2 and how to get them
Peter and Miles standing on a bridge

In the decades that the character of Spider-Man has existed, through comics, TV shows, games, and movies, he's gone through quite a few suits. Spider-Man 2 keeps the tradition alive by not only giving him a new suit to try out, but dozens and dozens of older ones to let you play as your favorite version of the webslinger. Oh, and did we mention Miles has his own extensive set of suits as well? Just like the first game, you won't be handed the keys to the wardrobe for free. Each suit not only needs to be unlocked but also crafted using City and Hero Tokens, as well as Tech parts to get access to the additional styles most suits have. If you're itching to dress up as the Spider-Man of your dreams as soon as you can, here is every suit in Spider-Man 2 and how you unlock them.

Note: Some suits are unlocked via story progress and could be considered spoilers. You have been warned.
All suits in Spider-Man 2

Read more
All Mysterium locations in Spider-Man 2
Miles posing by a Mysterium.

It seems like a requirement for superhero games to bring in a villain just to set up challenges for the hero to complete. In the first Spider-Man, this was Taskmaster, but in Spider-Man 2, we get Mysterio and his Mysterium challenges. Not only are they simply fun ways to test your spider skills against some unique trials, but you can also get your hands on some Hero Tokens for performing well. Plus, you also get a little more insight into this unique former villain. That's all well and good, but by this point in the game, you should know that you won't be given the exact locations for each challenge right away. If your spider-sense is failing you on where to find all the Mysteriums in Spider-Man 2, we'll mark your map so you can swing straight to the action.
All Mysterium locations and requirements

Mysteriums, also known as mysterium dev diaries, unlock after you complete Chapter 12 of the main game. This is the chapter where you first meet Mysterio at the carnival while playing as Miles and go through his attraction. Once you beat this chapter, a few Mysteriums will appear on your map, but more will pop up as you continue to go through the story. You need to do them all as Miles, and each rank earns you Hero Tokens. Here is where you can find them all.
Under Construction - Harlem
This is a "defeat all enemies"-style challenge, but these always come with a twist. In this case, around halfway through the challenge, poison gas will fill the arena and constantly drain your health. You can heal to recover, but if you're on a good pace and have upgraded your health, then you should concentrate on using your Focus for finishers to complete the challenge faster.

Read more