Game Review VR

Westworld: Awakening (2019)

When Westworld came out back in 2016, I was blown away by how superbly the storytelling was done. The whole premise of being in a theme park, where the animatronics are so lifelike that you forget they aren’t real, and you are set free to do whatever you want is a power fantasy of the utmost.

With two seasons of the show already done, and a third in production, now is exactly the right time for a Westworld VR game. You start out in front of a mansion out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of a sun soaked lazy afternoon, where the sun hits the horizon just right, and the sky becomes splattered in an orange and pink hue. You open the mansion and walk inside, trying to find the lawyer who is finishing up the paperwork to hand you over the mansion you inherited.

This is exactly what VR does so well, and how this game accomplished not just the goal of being a VR game, but also being a Westworld game. It puts you IN the setting. You quickly realized there is something “off” about the mansion and it turns into a real nightmare very quickly. As you find the lawyer murdered you try to escape and the killer has locked you inside the creepy mansion all alone with him. He catches up to you and slices you up with a comically large butcher knife. 

As your screams crack and echo, you are pulled out into a modern room, where two lab assistants are poking and prodding and scanning you. You realize you are a host. A little message in the bottom right corner, only visible when you look in that area, shows “motor functions frozen”. Although you are aware of your surroundings, you are only able to move your head around and look, unable to move. 

After being dropped back in the Westworld setting, you are running through different scenarios in the same location. Just like the show, your character, Kate Wesson is starting to realize that something is wrong as everything seems very familiar for an unknown reason. As you encounter the murder, Hank several times, with the end result of you being killed in extremely gruesome ways, you wake up once again in the modern lab room. Only this time the hosts have woken up and are killing everyone. 

The game itself is pretty linear, but does allow you to take your time and explore every little tiny spot of the underground lair. Each room is filled with tons of pictures and artwork that probably was just concept art, since the whole point of those rooms lets the programmers focus on their creations. It’s kinda a really neat way to get behind the scenes are in a game. And with the small amount of hidden collectibles give the game a bit more to do. Unlocking the various tablets strewn around the world allows you to dive even further into the world and read the workers emails and them disscussion the ethics of what they are doing or the various changes Delos is making to the company. Again, it’s all very cool and fits right in with the setting and tone of the game.

The graphics and facial animations are honestly probably the best I’ve ever seen. The few interactions you have with people… are just spectacular. Whatever face scanning and animation tech being used puts stuff like Team Bondi’s LA Noire to shame. 

The only real drawback to this game is that it’s more of an experience than a game. You have full control of the character and can interact with tons of everyday objects, but other than that, there isn’t much freedom. It is extremely linear and narrative. The story is intense but once you experience it, there really isn’t a motive to bring you back again.