Phantom: Covert Ops Is Unlike Any VR Game You Have Ever Played Before
During E3, I was able to get a look at Phantom: Covert Ops, a VR stealth game like you have never played before.
During the first day at E3, I was surrounded by big branded game booths such as Watch Dogs Legion or Ghost Recon Breakpoint. However, there was only one game I had my eye on today and that was Phantom: Covert Ops, a tactical stealth VR title that has players taking control of a military kayak. Yes, you read that correctly. You must paddle your way through marshy waters and avoid or take out enemies along the way.
Now I know what many of you are thinking. This sounds like a pretty wild idea, and you wouldn’t be wrong. This definitely is one of the most interesting takes on the stealth genre I have seen. But, I am glad to say that after about a 25-minute session with Phantom: Covert Ops, it completely delivers a unique and exhilarating experience. It sold me on the game as well as an Oculus Quest, but that is for another time.
During my demo, I first got a bit of a tutorial to start. Text appeared on the screen showing how to grab my tranquilizer gun, submachine gun, as well as my sniper rifle. It seemed easy enough and pretty intuitive. Just reach on your chest for the tranquilizer, reach behind your back to take out the submachine gun, then the sniper is attached to the side of the boat. Pretty regular stuff you would find in a VR experience.
Then you reach for the paddle and everything just clicks and you think “how has nobody done this yet?” To move forward, you would paddle exactly how you would in a real kayak. To stop, just stick one side of the paddle in the water to slow down until you reach a halt. Turning is exactly how you’d expect. Start paddling on one side to turn and hold down the quick turn button to easily make quick adjustments. I even had one moment in the demo where I was near a wall and needed to pop back out away from it and I thought “Can I just?” Sure enough, I pushed the paddle against the wall and pushed myself back into the middle of the water. I like to believe a good VR experience makes you forget that you are playing a video game and perfectly immerses players in it. Phantom: Covert Ops does just that. I forgot I was at a video game conference and I was kayaking through marshy waters while avoiding or taking out bad guys.
What nDreams have created has sort of made me rethink my stealth tactics a bit. Since you are in a kayak rather than on land, there is no taking out enemies from behind cover or sneaking behind their back to choke them out. Enemies will often be elevated above and shining their flashlights into the murky waters to keep a lookout. You must navigate around these lights to stay covered. If there is another boat making its way down the water, there are usually some tall grass on the sides of the water that can be used for cover. What I loved about this game wasn’t just the stealth, it was about how thoughtful the stealth was and how there was usually multiple ways to sneak through an area.
Most of the time I didn’t even need to try to take out the enemies. I could shoot out lights to give myself some cover while simultaneously confusing the enemy forces and paddle through the shadows to avoid detection. If there was a tunnel undeath an enemy I could take them out and sneak through it. One section in my playthrough missioned me with destroying an enemy transmission tower. Before I reached the tower, there was an abandoned crash ship that piqued my curiosity, however, I decided to take another route and paddle around it. Well, to my luck, this side was swarmed with enemies and I eventually died and restarted. This time I decided to traverse the inside of this absorbed ship and was met with some tight corridors and more enemies that could be dealt with by any way I chose.
To top this all off, this game does an incredible job with comfort levels. I never felt nauseous or queasy during the playthrough. Traversing through the waters was as easy and relaxing as it would be in a normal kayak. Although, my arms did start to get a bit tired after a while since I was technically rowing a boat. But, would my experience be authentic if they didn’t get tired?
Phantom: Covert Ops is doing something quite different and I couldn’t be more excited about it. While titles like Superhot and Blood & Truth will get your adrenaline pumping, this title makes your heart race in a different way. The thoughtfulness of the stealth action gameplay and the uniqueness of the overall concept has me eagerly anticipating its release.
Phantom: Covert Ops is set to release sometime later this year for Oculus Rift, S, and Quest.