I love a good local co-op experience to play every now and then. Having a reason to get a friend to join you in a game is always welcome. When I heard about White Elk Studios’ Covert, my interest was piqued. A local co-op VR game isn’t very common considering many only have online multiplayer. Covert takes a different route, incorporating a tablet or mobile device app for the second player. While this is an interesting concept, there lies one major downside: Covert is ONLY co-op. While you can technically play it online, it has a disconnect when playing with someone that isn’t in the room.
This co-op only concept made it difficult to get this review going at first. Finding someone to play games with isn’t usually a problem, but considering this game dropped on PlayStation during a global pandemic, it became an issue. When I finally had a chance to play it with another person, I was able to experience both sides of the gameplay. The idea is that the person with the VR headset is a thief, and the mobile device user is your hacker partner. Both roles are vital and can’t progress without the other. While the VR player sees their heist in a 3D environment, the mobile player will have a 3D blueprint view of everything.
Admittedly, it’s great to see a co-op game like this, putting reliance on your partner. The thief will be able to grapple to various platforms, use stun bombs, and even scan artifacts as they progress. Of course, their main purpose is to get through each mission and reach the end goal. The hacker’s role is just as necessary, as they are the ones that can see what the thief cannot. Guards and their visibility, missiles, electric floor paths and more are all available for the hacker to see. They can utilize their hacking to activate electronic mechanisms, opening doors or even causing a distraction. They’ll even be able to neutralize missiles as they aim toward the thief. Really though, the hacker has the easy job, as they simply have to use touch controls.
The thief is more of a physical requirement, needing the room to maneuver the levels. They’ll have to hack devices by aiming at them with a laser beam, but the target is often moving. This can create some difficulty, but makes it so the game isn’t too easy. The thief controls cause issues in a few places really, most apparent when scanning artifacts by moving the controller slowly over the object. It’s not impossible to get through levels at least, and the game does well to at least be comfortable. I never felt motion sickness when playing Covert, which is always a win in a VR title.
As mentioned earlier, this is an experience best played in the same room as your partner. Communication is key and both partners must cooperate if they want to get through any missions. Unfortunately, even when trying to cooperate, there are still moments of frustration. The biggest issue I had was with activating switches simultaneously. For whatever reason, the window for this is very small, despite the difference in interactivity. The VR user has to physically move their hand to push the switch while the tablet user just has to press a button on the touch screen. You can eventually get it, but this is where online multiplayer falls apart. It helps most when the hacker is able to see the VR player hit the switch. Without this capability, it’s going to be a lot of poorly timed presses.
When it comes to the presentation in Covert, there’s definitely some strong points and weak points. The voice acting is surprisingly solid despite using lesser known actors. As for the music, it’s nothing to write home about but it still manages to match the overall heist theme. I even like the little jingle that plays when you die. When it comes to the graphics however, they’re pretty simplistic. I suppose it helps to make the game easier on the eyes in VR, but some elements feel like they could have just a little more detail. It definitely keeps a consistent style with its art direction, but it still feels a little underwhelming. Perhaps it’s better this way since the game is still comfortable to play.
I would probably like Covert more if there was a single player option. As it stands, being a co-op only game limits my ability to even play the game. If the co-op were a bit easier to set up, then it would be forgivable. With local co-op basically being a requirement, even having an “online” option doesn’t save it. Unfortunately, as it is, it’s something I can only recommend for people that have someone on hand to play with them at any given moment. This means roommates, spouses, or even family members that don’t mind playing a VR co-op game with you. It’s not a very long experience, only consisting of eight missions, but it’s enough for a fun exercise to build teamwork at least.
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