All these online, multiplayer-focused military shooters are all well and good but sometimes you just want a nice single-player campaign to delve into. XREAL Games has provided PC VR players with this outlet for several years now thanks to Zero Caliber, a realistic first-person shooter (FPS) with obsessive attention to weapon detail. Now it’s Oculus Quest’s turn with Zero Caliber: Reloaded, rebuilt from the ground up for the standalone platform.
Now we say single-player but Zero Caliber: Reloaded does in fact offer a co-op multiplayer experience for up to four people, so you can bring some mates along. You’ll still be playing the same 20+ mission campaign but at least you can have a laugh with friends, appreciating some of the videogames’ finer and rougher moments.
XREAL Games presents a fairly run-of-the-mill story-driven campaign where you’re dropped into a war-torn, dystopian America fighting a bunch of bad guys. While the narrative won’t exactly keep you gripped until the end – there didn’t seem to be much point in paying attention to it – Zero Caliber: Reloaded’s main draw is its gun handling, loadout customisation options and almost fetishistic attention to detail when it comes to the armaments.
Whether you’re playing solo or with friends completing missions quickly and with high accuracy will award you cash to spend on your kit whilst advancing your character level to unlock new goodies. And there’s an absolutely huge selection of kit to play with, maybe too much. You can head into missions with two weapons, with the usual array of rifles, SMG’s, shotguns, and pistols to play with. Then there’s are the bewildering array of attachments; stocks, extended mags, sights, and grips, you name it it’s probably there.
Such is the amount that you’ll want to come back to the main hub every couple of missions to examine what you’ve got to further improve your chances on the next level. The attention to weapon detail isn’t purely visual either – although that’s definitely where a lot of time has been spent – as every gun excels when it comes to handling. Choose to fire one-handed and you’ll notice the recoil, so the mechanics do lean towards a more measured approach rather than running and gunning. It’s helpful stepping into the firing range after unlocking a new gun, learning where the mags/shells go and how to cock the damn thing, as each one is accurately modelled on its real-life counterpart.
The same goes for the grenades. In fact, unlike some VR titles where grenade throwing feels like an element of luck is involved, in Zero Caliber: Reloaded each throw always landed fairly on point. Plus, being able to pull a pin with your teeth is always fun and immersive.
Another great feature is the ability to hot-swap attachments in the field. Levels will contain the occasional weapon cache, usually containing a gun or two or maybe the odd extra. Find a new (better) gun for the situation and you can quickly and easily take any of the attachments off your previous weapon rather than losing them. If you die then you’ll reset back to your original loadout of course.
Big plus points where the guns are concerned, so it’s a shame that that attention to detail doesn’t come across in every other aspect. Zero Caliber: Reloaded isn’t exactly the best looking VR title when it comes to environments and NPC’s even considering the hardware it’s running on. Outside suffers the most, with some dodgy-looking foliage popping up, while inside buildings or more urban locations do fair a bit better.
And then there are the enemies. Variety and brains seem to be missing here as a bunch of shirtless dudes suddenly react in baffling ways. The AI veers widely from reasonably smart to idiotic. Some will start behind or head to cover taking pot shots then suddenly charge like they’re in a Serious Sam game. Others just stand there in the middle of the road. Get up close and they’ll do a roll for no advantage whatsoever, these are the ‘shotgun morons’ as once they stand up you can have a shotty already in their face.
Zero Caliber: Reloaded also presents other issues. There are definitely still glitches to iron out, enemies get stuck or clip through cover or a padlock on a door appears 5x the size, almost comedic in its dimensions. And then there’s the weapon belt, body inventory. In these types of VR videogames, it’s always nice when there’s no HUD, everything is on you and easy to grab. Yet in Zero Caliber: Reloaded it all felt a foot too far forward, with seemingly no way of adjusting the distance. This meant that when a gun had the grip attachment on, the handle would be in among the floating grenades. Or worse, if a gun has a cocking arm at the front then the grenades were in the way again. At the same time, the ‘weapon belt’ isn’t on your hips which gave a less than realistic feel to grabbing a new mag.
That’s not to say there weren’t enjoyable moments in Zero Caliber: Reloaded. Once you got a nicely tailored setup then dropping into a mission, kneeling behind over and taking some well-aimed headshots was very satisfying. Solo, the missions can get a bit simple and repetitive, clearing your way through an area or defending it, so having a few teammates can liven things up. Missions can last anywhere between 5-15 minutes and there are a few which have you backtracking to extend their duration.
Zero Caliber: Reloaded for Oculus Quest is a very mixed experience. On the one hand, the weapons are great and you could easily spend hours in the shooting range mixing and matching components. The 4-5 hour campaign is ok until you get further in and notice some of the glaring issues and glitches like the AI or the rather bland design choices. Best played on the hardest difficulty setting for any real challenge, Zero Caliber: Reloaded gets enough right to be worth a look, but only just.