Harmonix knows what it’s doing when it comes to rhythm action videogames. Having created Rock Band and its immersive kin Rock Band VR, the studio has the sort of legacy that firmly puts it at – or near – the top on the genre. So when Audica was first announced there came a natural wave of excitement to see what the developer had come up with. Now available via Early Access on both Steam and Oculus Store, Audica offers up a distinctive gameplay experience that could well be the marmite of the virtual reality (VR) world.
That’s because there’s no getting away from the fact that it’ll be compared to Beat Saber whether the studio likes it or not. The sword-wielding rhythm title has set the VR world alight – it’s easy to assume most owners of a supporting VR headset have played it – namely due to one overriding factor, its gameplay was ludicrously easy to pick up and fun to play, yet the Expert difficulty levels are mind-bogglingly difficult to master.
Audica, on the other hand, isn’t so intuitive from the off. Using a pair of coloured guns – one blue, one orange – the title is about shooting targets in time with the music. Miss the beat and the shot will miss the target. Yet this isn’t just about shooting boring targets, Harmonix mixes things up with standard single shot targets, ones which require multiple hits by holding the trigger, sideways gangster style shots, and massive chained targets.
So even on the second ‘moderate’ difficulty setting, for first-timers, Audica can be a bewildering experience, as the targets aren’t coming straight at you. The majority of them are actually flying in from either side, so you can’t focus on one point, instead, you need to be aware or your periphery vision to keep up.
Not keeping up in the physical sense – you won’t burn as many calories on this as you would Beat Saber – it’s the myriad of different target options that fly at you, and remembering what target requires what action. Which all means Audica takes time to settle into, way before you start considering highscores. However, for fans of rhythm action videogames Audica provides an experience like no other, and could certainly be described as unique.
Being an Early Access title does mean that it stills needs work and does lag in certain areas. The first and most importantly is the track list. You’ll quickly get through the ten that come supplied, and while they are all of high quality, they do feel somewhat samey with only a couple that really stand out as consistently repeatable.
Actually, production values across the entire videogame are top notch, from the way the guns handle to the visual effects when targets are hit or successive combos are achieved. Audica may be being made by a small team inside of Harmonix but it certainly doesn’t look like it.
Audica is a bold experiment by Harmonix, trying to mix up the rhythm action genre with mechanics that only VR can truly provide. It really does sit on a knife edge between standout gameplay design that keeps you on your toes and just being overwhelmingly complicated, assaulting your senses from every direction. Audica is not to be taken lightly, yet with that difficulty comes intense satisfaction on completion. It’ll be exciting to see what else Early Access brings.
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