Hands on: The Climb

Don't look down. The Climb takes VR gaming to terrifying new heights

The worn, wooden platform underfoot is the first break my chalked, red hands have had in ten minutes. It’s short-lived, however — the rock is calling my name once again. I tentatively lower myself down, pinching a couple of fingers around a small outcropping of rock before shifting my weight over to a wooden beam.

As I reach further out on the beam, it begins to tip, dropping debris and leaves past my face, and it becomes clear my only chance of avoiding a deadly fall is to jump. I do. I leap from the beam to a small lip on the other side of the rock, already marked with streaks of chalk from previous climbers clawing for a grip. But my story, like theirs, ends in tragedy, and I plummet past trees and boulders to certain death in the ocean hundreds of feet below.

The glasses come off, and as if waking from a dream, I find myself standing in the middle of a hotel suite, holding an Xbox One controller.

I’m not hallucinating. I’m playing Crytek’s new VR game The Climb.

What is The Climb?

Some games set out to tell a story, some games create vast worlds, and some games put you behind the wheel of a racecar. Crytek has something different in mind with its newest title, The Climb. It just wants you to free climb a mountain.

That, it turns out, is even harder than it sounds.

Apart from the physical fitness and required equipment, the game demands the same skills as free-climbing. Check the pitch, plan the route, and hold on tight. It even requires you to leap off the rock, or dyno in climbing slang, to reach parts of the rock that are too far away to grab without doing so. These moments are easily the most exciting, because they ask the player to hurl themselves headlong from the relative safety of the wall. For a brief moment, you fly, and if the sweat has worn through the chalk on your hands, you fall.

The Climb

The Climb really picks up when friends enter into the fray, racing each other for the best times, the fastest routes, and the smoothest dynos. At my demo session, I achieved the highest score yet of press members who had played – and I felt the wave of satisfaction that makes high-score gameplay so addicting. There’s more than a score to chase, however. Like a racing game, the ghost of the fastest time’s hands can be seen grabbing rocks and ledges, giving you a virtual opponent to challenge.

It’s made all the more real by what’s below the action. The postcard-esque ocean of the Southeast Asian stage stretched for miles, interrupted only by other outcroppings that are even more intimidating than the one I was currently stuck to. As I’m reminded while I play, free climbing is all about isolation, on the rock, by yourself, with the beautiful wilderness surrounding you. But it’s hard to take the time to look around, because the feeling of vertigo, the real fear of falling from the wall, is so real.

Why does it matter?

The immersive Oculus Rift headset makes The Climb possible. It just wouldn’t work on a regular display. It’s not just the camera following head movements, or the sweeping vistas the wrap all the way around the player, which make the game. That honor goes to the real feeling of vertigo you get from looking down, the unstable feeling you get from standing on a ledge. This is only possible from a VR headset that can fully fool your senses.

It’s also about the controller. While The Climb supports the Oculus Touch controllers, the Xbox One controller works surprisingly well. Each trigger corresponds to a hand, and the grabbing action quickly becomes tied to the hands in the game. While this obviously has nothing to do with the real act of climbing, it’s intuitive, which makes the control’s presence easy to forget.

Games like The Climb represent VR’s turning point.

The Climb is simple, elegant, and convincing, and it doesn’t need to be anything more than that. Massive role-playing games and immersive shooters will come later. For now, this simple concept is executed with care, and it really shows.

And a big part of making sure that VR survives long enough for that to happen is finding a way to strap headsets to faces. I can tell people how great the Oculus Rift is – and it is, it’s so cool – until I’m blue in the face, but the response is always “sounds neat” until they’ve had a chance to actually try one out. Games like The Climb are the turning point, the type of game that makes skeptics forget it’s a game, and fall in love with VR.

For now, VR technology is about just that — showing people something novel, pushing them to consider the new technology, and asking them to make a leap of faith, grabbing for a crack in the rock in face of the fear of falling to their virtual death.


  • Immersive gameplay
  • Intuitive controls
  • Beautiful backdrops


  • Terrifying for acrophobics
  • Steep mastery curve

Once the dust settles, 'Fallout 76' will be a nuclear wasteland worth exploring

The launch of Fallout 76 has been nothing short of apocalyptic, but that doesn’t mean the game is dead on arrival. Bethesda has a path forward, paved by The Elder Scrolls Online, another game that suffered a rocky start.
Home Theater

Looking to cut cable? Here’s everything you need to know about Pluto TV

Pluto TV offers plenty of entertainment in a fashion similar to live internet TV services, only at no cost — you don’t even need to register. Too good to be true? Here’s everything you need to know.

Still have money in your Flexible Spending Account? Head to the FSA online store

Don’t panic if you still have money sitting in your FSA and no doctor's appointments on the horizon. The FSA store has plenty of cool, useful gizmos you’ll want to purchase for your home and your health.

Joker from ‘Persona 5’ will take your heart in ‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’

Joker, the leader of the Phantom Thieves of Hearts from Persona 5, will arrive to Super Smash Bros. as its first DLC character. The announcement was a surprising one, because Persona 5 is a PlayStation 4 exclusive.

‘Magic: The Gathering’ enters esports relevance with $10 million prize pool

Wizards of the Coast is pushing Magic: The Gathering into esports relevance with a prize pool of $10 million across the tabletop version and Magic: The Gathering Arena. Will the game be able to compete with Hearthstone and Overwatch?

The best Nintendo Switch deals and bundles for December 2018

Looking to score Nintendo's latest hybrid console? We've smoked out the best Nintendo Switch deals right here, including discounts on stand-alone consoles, as well as bundles that feature games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Get some bang for your buck with these Nintendo Switch console deals at Walmart

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are in the past, but you can still get some bang for your buck on game consoles before the holiday season is done. Walmart has various Nintendo Switch bundles on sale right now.
Product Review

‘Just Cause 4’ is mindless fun that leaves little room for much else

Just Cause 4 revels in explosions and over-the-top action, but its world feels empty and hollow. With few new ideas and a stale open world, it's a fun but shallow piece of escapism.

‘CS:GO’ goes free-to-play and players are not happy about it

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), has gone free-to-play this week in a controversial move. Players are angry that the problem of cheating will get much worse now that anyone can make a disposable account to play.

The most common Xbox One X problems, and how to fix them

The Xbox One X is a brilliant console, but it's not without its issues, ranging from simple annoyances to severe hardware problems. Here are common Xbox One X problems and how to fix them.

How to delete and reinstall games on your Xbox One

Removing and reinstalling games on the Xbox One's hard drive isn't difficult, but it's a process that not everyone is familiar with. Thankfully, our guide will run you through each step so you'll know precisely what to do.

‘Street Fighter V’ players will get bonuses if they allow in-game ads

Capcom will show in-game advertisements on Street Fighter V starting December 11. Players may choose to deactivate the ads, but they will miss out on some bonuses and content if they do so.

‘The Walking Dead: The Final Season’ returns with Episode 3 next month

Skybound Games revealed the release date for Episode 3: Broken Toys of Telltale Games' The Walking Dead: The Final Season. Clementine's story will be getting the ending that it deserves after all.