Audica has been available for PC VR headsets for a while now. First as an early access title and, as of the last few months, an official release for both PC VR and PSVR. This week the rhythm shooter from Harmonix has finally arrived on the Quest with full cross-buy support with the Rift. Does it live up to the high standards set by previous rhythm games from Harmonix? That’s would be a tall task, indeed. Let’s see how they did.
First of all, I played the PC VR version of this game quite a bit and have to say the Quest version stacks up nicely. Aside from the obvious lack of sharpness to the visuals, the game plays and feels identical. In that way, it’s a successful port. With it being a cross-buy, Oculus owners with access to both headsets (or a Link cable) will probably differ on which headset to play. With the already simplistic visuals, I found the Quest to be the most enjoyable way to play. There isn’t much moving around so being wireless isn’t a deal-breaker, but it’s still nice and the downgrade in visuals with this style of game, for me, is a complete non-issue. Your mileage may vary on this.
There has been a glut of rhythm games in VR recently, and with the juggernaut known as Beat Saber, it’s no wonder. Games like Synth Riders and Pistol Whip offer their own take on the genre and succeed in their own way. In style and form, Audica is more like Beat Saber than those other two and why wouldn’t it be, Beat Saber is only using the formula Harmonix mastered with Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Instead of sabers, you have two colorful laser pistols in your hand which you’ll use to shoot the corresponding colored notes. These notes fly at you from any direction and you blast them to the rhythm of the music. Some require you to hold the trigger as the note rings on, making you feel like you’re trapping them in your very own Proton Pack, and sometimes you’ll need to hold the trigger and drag that note through a tail of other notes. It’s times like these that make you feel like a music conductor, but you need to stay on your toes because some notes fly directly at you requiring you to knock it away pistol whip style.
It’s a tried and true formula that is both familiar and approachable while remaining difficult to master but fun to play. Like every VR rhythm game to date, the music is dominated by EDM and pop music. There are 33 tracks in the base game plus loads of DLC, four of which are free bringing the number of tracks up to 37 without dropping any extra money. I don’t listen to EDM or pop music outside of my love of VR rhythm games so I would greatly appreciate some diversity, but EDM music undoubtedly lends itself well to this style of game. Which, I suppose, is partly why all of these games use it. To Audica’s credit, there are some very popular and mainstream tracks for purchase including hits from Billie Eilish, Post Malone, and Ariana Grande. Of the tracks that come with the game, I only recognized Titanium, and that’s only because my girlfriend Anna sings it in the shower.
The most fun I had with Audica was in the free play. I started in the campaign as a habit, but some of the modifiers that they lock in aren’t a lot of fun. Some of them add some spice and ratchet up the difficulty like invisible guns, but others, such as moving your arms a certain distance or no-look shots just made it frustrating or confusing. Choosing your song, choosing the difficulty plus any modifier you like is the best way to play the game for me and kept me blasting away for hours.
Aside from a bunch of music that isn’t my cup of tea, there were some other issues I had with the game. It often felt like my field of vision was insufficient. I didn’t always see the notes until it was too late. That sort of thing is common on expert difficulties, but I even noticed it on the standard difficulty some times. Plus, it’s not very comfortable holding my arms out ready to fire for hours. You can shoot accurately from the hip most of the time, but on high difficulty, I had to hold my arms out to stand a chance. I know, I know, if I wanted to sit on my couch and be lazy, I’d play a flat game. My last real issue with the game is something I’ve feared going in: for me, shooting notes to the beat leaves me feeling a little disconnected from the music. Without direct contact with the each note, it loses some of that visceral joy and excitement. But for the most part, Harmonix found a way to solve this issue. They have some notes that you pistol whip and those notes really pack a punch. And lastly, the Proton Pack style laser beam allows you to hold and drag the notes around, directly connecting your gun to the beat. These two features managed to mostly solve the issue of feeling separate from the music and made it feel like I was a part of the process; like I was the musician, and not just a guy shooting/dancing awkwardly in my living room.
In the end, it’s Harmonix. If you like rhythm games in VR, I don’t see how you wouldn’t like Audica. It sucks that it costs so much to license music, cause I’d love to play some of these games with a different genre of music. Any different genre of music. But I have to admit that these games always seem to make the EDM tracks work. The futuristic settings and themes mesh nicely with that style of music, even if I would never just listen to it for fun.
Audica Oculus Quest Review
Overall - Very Good - 7.5/10
Harmonix isn’t reinventing the wheel, but it does deliver its familiar but fun rhythm action with Audica. Any different music beyond the typical pop music and EDM would have cut through the competition like a stiff Nor’easter but recent DLC from massively popular pop artists suggest the best may be yet to come.
- Shooting mixed with the familiar rhythm action mixes surprisingly well
- Plays just as well on the Quest
- The gameplay is challenging but fun and begs to be mastered
- Lack of musical diversity is typical but still disappointing
- It’s uncomfortable to hold your arms out for long periods
- It’s a little pricy
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game bought at the expense of the reviewer. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using Oculus Quest
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January 28th – Oculus Quest