ADR1FT, the debut game from developer Three One Zero has made its way on the PlayStation 4. The first-person adventure game is clearly beautiful but can it deliver an isolating, truly terrifying space experience?
One thing that ADR1FT absolutely nails is creating a sense of pure dread. Imagine waking up as protagonist Alex Oshima to find the very space station you’re in charge of completely destroyed – your crew that became close friends, are now (more than likely) dead. You float around the wreckage in almost complete silence, which creates an eerie, chilling atmosphere (no pun intended).
Some of the best moments of ADR1FT are those spent outside of the wreckage. Short gaps between the hallways force you to float out into space. These moments create the same feeling when you’re watching films like Gravity or The Martian – complete loneliness. Space is scary. Once you leave the station, you are stranded in the vast void of space with your oxygen quickly depleting. Down below, you see all the billions of lives living on Earth, and then up — nothing. You’re completely alone up here.
Sadly though, these moments are far and few between, and you quickly notice how many of the hallways in ADR1FT are almost identical. It’s actually rather disorienting at times as you think you’ve gone in circles. The game’s design problems don’t stop there however, as even moving around can be an unpleasant chore. ADR1FT runs very well and looks greats, but other than that, simply drifting through identical corridors in space becomes incredibly boring after a while — even the stunning views can’t save it.
The HUD, displaying the crucial oxygen meter that slowly depletes over time, and the map that vaguely helps you navigate ship often shift off your screen with the briefest of turns. Failing to swipe debris out of the way will send you spinning but luckily a swift press of the left analog stick will spin you to an upright position. However, this can be hugely nauseating, especially during a long play session; I don’t envy those that have experienced this in VR on the PC version.
In ADR1FT, your space suit is almost constantly leaking, meaning you have to grab the plentiful oxygen canisters very often. The more you use the boosters on your suit, the quicker your oxygen depletes – so you have to be economic, but other than going between station segments, it isn’t a huge risk. Annoyingly, if for some reason you mess up and run out of oxygen you have to sit through a 45-50 second loading screen until you can try again.
The problem with ADR1FT is that other than the constant task of refilling your oxygen tank, there isn’t much else to do. ADR1FT is very much a “Walking Simulator” but, you know, in space. Your mission is to fix different parts of the space station, but this repetitive oxygen-grabbing, station-fixing scenario would be better suited for a 2-hour experience, rather than 6 hours.
You spend the whole game slowly gliding towards objectives, then hold down a button for a few seconds. The whole game feels like those tedious Mario levels where you have to patiently wait for your player character to float downwards so you can get through a gap.
Other than the constant, slow gliding there are some well-acted and well-written audio logs sitting about the place. In particular, one audio log about a father and his space addiction ruining his family life is particularly interesting, and also harrowing as you slowly come to learn that he never makes it home.
Despite being well-written, these logs are also kind of odd. We’re playing as a woman that has already experienced all the stuff we’re reading about, but she’s taking the time out of a life or death situation to read other people’s emails? Why not have Alex explain the story gradually, or show us what happened with an opening cinematic?
ADR1FT does have some form of puzzle-solving, but only in the form of dodging sparking wires and other hazards. Other than that, there’s no real risk to the player. For a space station that’s just been destroyed and shattered into many pieces, everything is very calm: nothing is moving. There’s no real suspenseful moments, like having to escape a part of the station before it explodes and alters your path: it’s all very straight forward and linear.
Overall, ADR1FT has good intentions, but it just fails to execute them phenomenally. Aside from the stunning visual moments — namely moments where you are in the open and can look down at the Earth as it is lit up at night, ADR1FT is a tedious experience that should have been just a 2 hour ordeal. The game’s lack of urgency — other than the constant cycle of oxygen tank-grabbing, makes it incredibly hard to believe that my character is struggling to survive at all.