Not to get all political right out the gate, but Communism is a cool idea, right? At least, in theory. However, in reality, we would all probably be eating gruel and burning our cherished possessions to survive the harsh winters. Just to be clear, the closest I have ever come to having a debate about Communism is the debate I had with my spouse on whether A Bug’s Life is Communist propaganda. So I’m far from an expert.
However, I have, on more than one occasion, jumped into a communism-fueled video game world, and soaked in the hammer and sickle vibes. After all, there are plenty of options, whether that be the recent Atomic Heart, the brilliant Hearts of Iron, the Workers and Resources series, or, if you are willing to root around in the narrative, Bioshock.
However, if we look specifically at the world of VR, there isn’t a lot of Soviet-themed fun to be had. In fact, you have to exit Earth’s atmosphere if you want anything of the sort. Thankfully though, Red Matter was an outstanding VR action-puzzler that gave players the ability to explore the galaxy, solve intricate puzzles, and experience a compelling interstellar campaign with twists and turns aplenty.
It would be fair to assume that, with a team of just two developers working on the sequel, it would be hard to imagine a world where Red Matter 2 would exceed its predecessor and wow the crowd once again.
Well, despite the odds, Red Matter 2 is a real standout title, and a brilliant showcase of what the PSVR2 has to offer. I’ve been starved of what I would call a fully fleshed-out VR campaign since Horizon: Call of the Mountain.
However, it seems the wait was worth it because Red Matter 2 might just be the brightest star in the PSVR2 solar system to date. Want to know more about this new space epic? Then join us! This is Ready VR One’s Red Matter 2 review, conducted on PSVR2.
Beauty in the Big Empty
Let’s begin with the visuals on offer in Red Matter 2. Let’s not beat around the nebula thunderstorm here. This game is staggeringly pretty, right from the offset and beyond. The game’s assets are all wonderfully rendered, with incredibly impressive textures, remarkable lighting, and animations that are very much on point too.
Speaking of the interiors first-off, each segment of the assorted space stations that players encounter is distinct and beautifully crafted.
Whether that be a lab dedicated to testing botanical regeneration when exposed to Red Matter, or a simple crew locker room, the player is treated to a cavalcade of interactable objects, detailed assets, and thanks to your handy hook hands; you can scan almost everything in sight for more info too.
Then when you step outside the airlock, you are treated to a selection of incredible, intergalactic vistas sure to have you stop and stare for a while. It would have been very easy to just slap a starry skybox as far as the eye could see and call it a day, but the developers created authentic environments based on the planet or moon in question.
Granted, most of the action happens indoors, but it’s nice to see the added effort when you do step outside, or when you pass a window as you explore each station.
However, what I appreciate more than all of that, is that the world isn’t just a ‘look but don’t touch’ affair. The player is welcome to grab each asset and play around with it, scan it for more info, and truly feel like they are a part of this world that feels lived in despite the otherworldly setting.
What I will say is that the game does feature a comfort vignette, which I’ve never particularly been a fan of, and it can become a little troublesome when you get close to walls and objects, as it will black out the screen completely. However, aside from this small issue, Red Matter 2 achieves its goal of offering intergalactic immersion.
John Williams, Can I Copy Your Homework?
I also need to briefly touch on the score here, which is pretty masterful in its own right. Red Matter, this game’s predecessor, had a slightly different vibe to its sequel. It was a game that had a pseudo-horror feel and would use its sound design to create that sense of dread and tension.
Red Matter 2 decides to pivot away from that approach, offering a game that is more concerned with creating a sense of mystery and intrigue.
Through this, the game has the flexibility to provide backing tracks that convey a variety of different themes, such as wonder as you stare into space or make a new discovery, or curiosity as you land on a new planet to explore.
How does it do this, you ask? Well, to give credit where it’s due. It’s by offering a wide range of ambient tracks, knowing when to pipe in the noise, and when to let the environment and the narrative do the heavy lifting.
However, you can’t help but feel that the devs have taken a lot of notes from John Williams’ work on the Star Wars Franchise. There are a number of the more jovial tracks that have that quintessential Star Wars feel.
I don’t have the musical brain to give you a detailed comparison, but if you go listen to the more ambient tracks within the Star Wars franchise, you’ll hear what I hear, I promise you.
You might think that this is a criticism, but far from it. Even to somewhat replicate what John Williams is capable of is a pretty mean feat, and this game’s soundtrack is a very fitting sci-fi score, adding to each story beat and new discovery tenfold. So again, top marks for effort.
Your Stas is in Another Castle
Jumping into the story of Red Matter 2, it essentially picks up after the events of the first title, as you take control of Sasha Riss once again after escaping the simulation, and with your mind transferred to a new body, you’re off on another adventure.
Your goal, with the help of Volgravian Agent, Beta, is to make sense of the mysterious substance Red Matter and follow the trail left behind by colleagues from Sasha’s past. It’s all pretty straightforward, but as you dig deeper down the rabbit hole, the mysteries you uncover will keep you riveted to the very end.
What’s impressive about this setup is that the game does a very elegant job of inducting newcomers to the series through an introductory segment where players can explore their surroundings for as much exposition as they feel they need. This, along with intermittent conversations between Beta and Sasha over comms, helps bridge the gap without ever making returning players suffer through a ‘last time on Red Matter’ sequence.
As mentioned, the game drops the horror-esque approach of the first game for a more sci-fi thriller format this time around, and it has to be said, it’s for the better.
The game starts slow, drip-feeding you info on your former colleague’s whereabouts and antics when you were out of the loop. All the while slowly expanding on the role Red Matter and the player character have in the story, all culminating in a fitting ending to a thriller of this nature.
The story is masterfully woven, and in terms of length, it is probably bang-on to avoid overstaying its welcome. My only criticism is that the player character merely feels like a bystander that just happens to be stumbling upon all of this info.
You always get the impression that you are the least interesting thing going on in this fictional world. However, due to the quality of the writing and the world around you, this is definitely something that most players will be willing to overlook.
A Focus on Variety
Then we move on to the gameplay, which is a real smorgasbord of mechanics, which all come together very nicely to create an engrossing sci-fi experience.
Beginning with the player’s grapple guns, these are very satisfying to use, allowing the player to pick up and toss objects, force pull objects into reach, and also allow the player to scan objects for additional info, all from the word go.
However, the more impressive aspect of these pinchers is the fact that they continually become more useful as time goes on. The game provides new features like flashlights and flares, a pop-out plug-in to operate and hack terminals, and eventually, you’ll be able to use them as laser pistols too.
These multi-functional tools are incredibly well implemented and offer the foundations for the game to build on with more complex mechanics, so there are no complaints on that front.
With these core mechanics nailed down, the game then adds some new dimensions to the game when compared to the last entry in the series by offering players a jetpack to traverse the environment.
This effectively adds a certain level of verticality to the game that was much appreciated, and while the more dedicated platforming sections did feel a little bit tacked on, they weren’t overutilized to the point that it was agitating.
The platforming is used to break up the mass of early game puzzles, which are what make up the bulk of what Red Matter 2 has to offer. I would love to say that the puzzles have the same level of AAA polish that the rest of the game has, but in truth, I don’t think they are all that special.
Initially, I think I was enamored with the glitz and glamour of the presentation and gripping story, but when you extract the wonderful world-building aspects of the environments which contain puzzles and just look at them as problems to solve, they are just fine.
There are a couple of real standout puzzles, like the RC Blimp, or the lab where you need to mold a replica eyeball. However, for every great puzzle, there is a hand crank, a lever puzzle, or something equally gimmicky.
The good news is that, just when the puzzle burnout is setting in, the game ups the ante by introducing gunplay which will see you fending off a series of security drones as you work to solve puzzles in tandem. This is a really welcome addition, and one that is technically sound too.
I’ve encountered many VR games that just throw in janky gunplay because it’s such a staple of the genre, but fail to make it satisfying or reasonably accurate.
Red Matter 2 doesn’t fall into this trap, offering gunplay that is just as solid as any mid-tier FPS VR game, and for a game that doesn’t make gunplay their primary gameplay mechanic, that’s something to be proud of.
Impressive, But Linear
As you might have gathered, even with its small stumbles, Red Matter is a wonderful VR gameplay experience that focuses on variety. However, one of my biggest gripes with this game is that I always felt like I was in a funnel.
Now, to be clear, this isn’t always a bad thing. Heck, The Last of Us is considered a masterpiece, but it funnels the player through a linear experience, and not everyone likes that. I’m someone that likes some nooks and crannies to explore and some added secrets off the beaten track to enrich my experience.
Well, Red Matter 2 doesn’t really cater to players like myself, offering an experience that has you explore pocket-sized areas which have no depth beyond the task at hand.
There are no additional audio logs, no winding corridors with branching paths, and no alternate puzzle solutions. It’s effectively like getting to a gourmet restaurant and seeing that it’s a set menu.
It may be Michelin Star quality, but I still resent that I’m being told what I want. In the game’s defense, the environments provided are filled to the brim with assets and objects to play around with, and this helps each area feel fleshed out and intriguing.
However, this is merely a trick of the light to hide the fact that the player really has no option for emergent gameplay.
A Hole In My Spacesuit
Then lastly, before we shut the airlock and push you out into the vacuum of space to float around, I need to talk about the overall comfort I felt when playing this game. Now, to give some context, I’m not all that susceptible to dizziness or nausea when playing VR titles. I can Beat Saber and Pistol Whip with the best of them for hours on end.
However, Red Matter 2 really sent me through a loop, and I feel that it was largely down to the high-fidelity graphics, and the smooth camera.
I want to briefly defend the developer for this choice, as having tried both, the smooth camera provides a much smoother graphical experience.
However, it would have been appreciated if the developer made the snap camera the default option, as many newbies hopping into VR with the PSVR2 will not be able to handle this nauseating setting right out of the gate.
It’s a great option, provided you are willing to take regular breaks. However, as a whole, I feel that this game could try to offer comfort as a default, or at least provide a menu that allows players to choose between realism and comfort before hopping into the action.
If you were a big fan of what Red Matter 2 had to offer, and you want to play more games that provide a similar experience. Then you might want to give these a bash:
- Red Matter
- Horizon: Call of the Mountain
- Deliver Us The Moon
- Another Fisherman’s Tale
- The Room VR
I am a huge champion of any VR title that steps outside of the VR comfort zone, which tends to be arcade-gunplay, or rhythm-based mechanics, and actually tries to offer a full gaming experience that hits all the notes of a AAA single-player title.
These are a rarity, and even fewer are good examples of what VR can achieve, but Red Matter 2 is a wonderful example of single-player VR and its potential for storytelling and immersion.
Red Matter 2 builds on its predecessor by offering refined graphics, a Star-wars-esque score, some standout puzzles, a compelling narrative that caters to returning players without alienating newcomers, and competently handled platforming and combat mechanics to boot.
The game does make some minor slip-ups that stop it from becoming an undisputed VR great, though. The game is one of the more nauseating ones I have played, and a lot of that comes down to the default smooth camera, which really should be swapped for a snap camera, as most newbie VR players will go with what is recommended to them upfront.
Plus, from a gameplay perspective, the game is a very linear experience with little to no opportunity to go off the beaten track, and puzzles are hit-and-miss.
That being said, Red Matter 2 is a triumph and one of those quintessential VR titles that you can show to your reluctant traditional gamer pals and say, this is what you are missing. As always, thanks for reading Ready VR One.
- Outstanding visuals and soundtrack
- A sequel that builds on the success of the first title
- Adds new mechanics like Platforming with the Jetpack
- A compelling story steeped in mystery
- Wonderfully varied gameplay
- A mixed bag when it comes to puzzles
- a very linear experience when it doesn’t have to be
- It can be rather nauseating with the default settings applied
Red Matter 2 Review: FAQs
Question: Is Red Matter 2 A Sequel?
Answer: Yes, Red Matter 2 is a sequel to the very successful Red Matter, a game that was released in November 2018 by Vertical Robot.
Question: How Long is Red Matter 2?
Answer: This depends on how long you spend interacting with the environment and your ability to solve the puzzles presented. However, the average player will wrap this up in about 6-8 hours.
Question: Is Red Matter 2 a Horror Game?
Answer: Unlike the first Red Matter, Red Matter 2 is more of a suspenseful thriller. There will be tense and ominous moments throughout, but the game is far less horror-centric than its predecessor.
Callum completed the full story of Red Matter 2 in about six hours. It could have been a shorter experience, but he had to take a handful of breaks due to the dizziness caused by the suggested camera.