The Martian VR Experience, based on the successful sci-fi film directed by Ridley Scott, left me horribly divided. Let me make this clear now, this experience is properly awful. The interactive, ‘gameplay’ moments feel terribly superficial and the whole experience feels disjointed and half-arsed. I cannot confidently recommend this to anyone. However, it has some serious backing behind it – executive produced by Scott himself and directed by Maleficent’s Robert Stromberg – and I kind of want to encourage more VR experiences like it, just better.
The experience follows the events of the film, condensing it down to approximately 30 mins of intermittent gameplay segmented by clips from the film. You load potatoes into a bucket, dig up nuclear waste, load solar panels onto the back of your rover, drive the rover and press some buttons in brief sequences that amount to maybe a little over 5 minutes of gameplay. There really isn’t much to do, and what the experience does give you to do, is downright boring recently.Worse still, everything is pretty clunky. Working the joysticks felt alright, but picking items up, pressing buttons or the final ‘Ironman’ sequence (you’ll know what I mean if you’ve seen the film) all are temperamental.
Cramming in a two hour long film into a VR experience less than a quarter of the length works about as well as you’d expect, that is, it doesn’t. The whole sequence feels disjointed and messy, which combined with rather bland gameplay sections and largely underwhelming visual presentation makes for the experience feel more of a botched cash grab than an authentic virtual reality in experience. Charging $29.95 AUD for something that really ought to be a free demo seems absolutely ludicrous.
Had this game been a small section of the film, following Mark Watney as he completes daily tasks around the HAB in something that felt like a more genuine imaging of life on Mars, I think I would have enjoyed it far more. Instead, I didn’t enjoy it at all. Even as a fan of the film, I cannot recommend this to anyone. It feels unfinished, underdone and straight up boring. There are much better demonstrations of the technology available for free or for a cheaper price.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of nice things to say about The Martin VR Experience. Virtual reality has the potential to be a major entertainment and media platform. For that reason, I want to encourage major filmmakers and storytellers to experiment with the platform sooner rather than later but c’mon, let’s hold ourselves to higher standards than this.
The PS4 version of this game was used for the purpose of this review.