Ninja Theory has spent the past decade being one of the most revered action game developers on the market. Their work with DmC showed that the franchise could not only be rebooted — but excel with an even more involved combo system. Now, they’re back with their first VR game — DEXED. DEXED blends bits of a few different games and creates an unforgettable experience that shines in VR. It’s a blend of an on-rails shooter with a bit of relaxation thrown in if you want it, while also using the same fire and ice-based shooting mechanics seen in Ikaruga. Much like the Treasure classic, you have two types of shots to use against enemies. Fire and ice-elemental attacks each do damage to everything — but will do more damage to their opposite element.
While this may seem simplistic, there is a lot of nuance to it and a wide variety of ways to enjoy the core game. If you want to approach it as you would a regular on-rails shooter, you can. Using the motion controllers allows you to make 1:1 movements using the reticle, while you can move the camera around gradually with Square and Triangle to avoid being disoriented. This gradual camera shift ensures that you will not only be able to avoid VR-induced motion sickness, but also keep your enemies on your enemies. Now, due to the nature of the free-looking world in the game, you can still find yourself taking damage — but you can easily move your aim around to ensure you don’t take too much damage needlessly.
DEXED gives you several different play modes to work with. The normal mode takes you through a few stages of on-rails action, with settings that range from a tranquil forest teeming with life to an underwater area full of danger around every corner and areas that fit in nicely with the elements used — a snowy world and then another full of fire flying out of every corner. Success is determined by tagging enemies using the trigger button on the Move controllers, and then releasing it to shoot.
This is similar to Rez and this play style works well for anyone familiar with that game — if you’ve played both Rez and Ikaruga, you’ll effectively be playing something that merges those two gameplay styles together. There’s a sense of tranquility in DEXED that isn’t present in Rez and allows it to stand out that much more.
You have to think your way through things and make sure that you’re on your A game — even if you’re just playing on the normal difficulty setting. When you have fire and ice elements blended into the same attack from enemies, you have to make sure to keep each one of your Move controllers straight and also ensure that you don’t hit the wrong trigger. Doing so will allow an enemy attack to pass through — and you’ll incur damage if you don’t get your shields up fast enough. Fortunately, a press of the Move button enacts the shield for either type of attack — but it will take a couple of rounds to get accustomed to everything. Thankfully, the learning curve isn’t too steep and tutorials for every game mode are available.
Quick reflexes will save your life in the story mode, but also come in handy during the arcade shootout-style mode. Here, your goal is to kill every enemy within an even shorter timeframe than the main game. They’ll lunge out of a spot and you need to kill them before they can escape through another hole in the area. The arcade mode is a bit more wide open than the usual levels, so you will need to make use of camera movement more here to keep track of your enemies. Fortunately, bright glowing circles around them make them easier to spot — and they don’t blend into the background at all like ice-vulnerable enemies sometimes do in the underwater area. Arcade mode is a bit more frantic, but those seeking a relaxing experience should try out Zen mode. Here, you explore the in-game worlds and don’t have to worry about any enemies.
This mode is easily the best one to use when you want to kick back and relax — or just want to enjoy the in-game world itself. Zen mode is really the only way to appreciate all the details within the environments, and even on the regular PS4, a lot of environmental details are incredibly detailed given the limitations of the hardware compared to either a PS4 Pro or a high-end PC running this game via either the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. The worlds themselves focus on keeping a few things active at one time, which manages to make the game feel alive without throwing too much at the player. DEXED‘s bright world reminds us a lot of Child of Eden — another on-rails shooter with some Rez developers at its helm.
Unlike those games and their trance-heavy music, however, DEXED has a surprisingly chilled-out soundtrack. Even when you’re not in zen mode, the music calms you more than anything else. This may seem counterproductive in a shooting game, but we found that it works surprisingly well at allowing you to focus on the task at hand and not get overwhelmed by noise and pure chaos. This effect really shines in the zen mode, where you can immerse yourself more fully in the world. The sound effects in the non-zen modes are solid — with each type of attack sounding a bit different, and leading to either the sound of ice shattering or fire slowly burning out. It’s simple, but satisfying.
DEXED stands alongside Rez Infinite as must-buy experiences for any PlayStation VR users with a love for on-rails shooters. Between its fast-paced action in both the story and arcade modes and the far more relaxed experience offered up in Zen mode, there is a lot of content to enjoy. Every mode has something fresh to change the experience up and the variety gives DEXED a broad appeal. You don’t have to be good at or even like on-rails shooters to enjoy it, and because it’s such a frustration-free experience, maybe it will even act as a great gateway game for the genre.