Let’s put that aside right off the bat: yes, Into the Radius is STALKER in VR. There is simply no getting around the comparison. You venture to investigate anomalies in dilapidated environments, discover artifacts that provide gameplay upgrades, and collect your supplies.
STALKER’s influence is undeniable, right down to his look. There are also nuances of Death Stranding and Arkane Studios’ excellent 2017 reboot of Prey – the latter is particularly noticeable, as its iconic Mimic enemies are directly replicated in design and movement.
Does this make Into the Radius derivative and not original? Not really! It’s obviously an amalgamation of other well-known games, but its main loop is engaging and the overall vibe is just plain tense and unnerving. There’s definitely a familiarity to having played a game like this before. However, being inside the game via virtual reality makes the gameplay feel fresh.
Into the Radius uses mission-based progression that requires you to complete various objectives, such as making deliveries or photographing certain enemies. Progress enough to unlock the next story mission, and you’ll unlock new weapons and gadgets to redeem at your base. This structure works in its favor more than a linear narrative would because it makes the journey feel a bit more personal.
There is a first mission that tasked me with bringing back an undeveloped roll of film from inside a large complex that will stay with me for a while. On the way, I stopped to search a shed and peered intently through the doors, a pistol in one hand and a flashlight in the other. My risky effort was only rewarded with a rusty lighter and an energy drink, but I kept going.
I snuck through the compound and into an abandoned building. Immediately horrible noises rang in my ears and forced me to retreat under a desk for fear of being ambushed. After finding the movie, I slowly crept in the direction I came, proud of myself for avoiding a fight – until I was suddenly hit in the back by a stray bullet from an enemy that hit me. literally chased away. I had to take my Quest 2 helmet off when I got back to base and catch my breath.
It’s those unpredictable moments that make missions exciting. And that’s good, because you will frequently return to the scene for various objectives. A handful of early optional missions took place in or around this same compound, and I was worried I’d miss the area.
However, these repeated trips actually made me feel like my growing familiarity was a gameplay advantage, rather than a deterrent. Knowing the layouts helped me complete missions more efficiently and allowed me to chart my own paths and escape routes.
I haven’t been able to log enough hours yet to see how many different areas Into the Radius has to offer, but what I’ve unlocked so far looks quite different from the starting location. It’s much more open and scary. Getting there involved sneaking through a heavily guarded rail yard, and I’m both excited and terrified to see what I’ll face next.
The main reason I loved Into the Radius is how immersive it is. Reloading weapons means having to manually eject the magazine and refill it yourself. To restore your hunger and stamina, you can open canned food with your hands and then eat it using your knife as a fork. Your weapons will get dirty and you will have to clean them yourself using oils and toothbrushes. To clean the barrel, you’ll need to tear off pieces of paper and stick them on a chopstick, then forcefully wedge them inside.
It may seem like tiny details, but when you combine that level of immersion with a genuinely tense and unsettling atmosphere, the result is captivating. Into the Radius doesn’t have the most realistic graphics (which is probably more of an issue due to Quest 2’s hardware limitations, rather than development), but I’m still completely engrossed in its spooky world every time I load up. the game .
When Into the Radius works, it really works. What has hindered my experience so far is a bit of stupidity. Your inventory is tied to your virtual body, which also houses your map and backpack. I can’t count the number of times I’ve tried to check my card, only to pull my backpack or flashlight out of my breast pocket instead.
This is made more annoying by the fact that enemies can – and more importantly will – sneak up on you every chance they get, so being able to quickly reach what you need is crucial for survival. Playing standing up alleviates this problem a bit, but I imagine it will be a problem for anyone who prefers (or requires) playing seated.
What I also want to point out is the game’s approach to difficulty. to like survival games, but their usual level of challenge isn’t for everyone. Into the Radius offers individual gameplay options so players can customize the game to suit their own needs. It also means you can make the game even harder in the specific areas you want. For example, you can reduce enemy detection and the amount of damage they deal, but increase how quickly your hunger depletes.
Preset difficulty modes are also available, and I appreciate that the lowest setting is labeled as a “story” mode rather than an “easy” mode. It’s a very small touch for sure, but when access control is so prevalent in play spaces, it’s one that makes the game truly welcoming for players who want less of a challenge.
I’ve really enjoyed my time with Into the Radius so far, and I definitely see it as my next big VR time waster. CM Games estimates that there are over 20 hours of gameplay, though I imagine anyone trying to rush through the main story will be able to earn at least five hours of it. Obviously, the length of a game doesn’t determine its quality, but if you’re someone who wants to get the most out of your purchases, Into the Radius seems to be pretty meaty. And if survival shooters aren’t your cup of tea, there are always other great games you can find on the Oculus store.