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Boneworks Review

Shadowmask72Shadowmask72 Posts: 4,046 Valuable Player
Posted on my website here

But if y'all want to read it here instead then here it is.

Stress Level Zero released their eagerly anticipated physics-based VR game Boneworks. It comes after plenty showcase videos and touted as a must-have VR experience. Well, having played the game and after some 15 hours is it worth the jaunt. We dived-in using a HP Reverb for reference and we’re using a top end PC.

To begin, Boneworks is a bit of an odd experience. It offers three modes of play of which two are unlockable. The first port-of-call for anyone diving-in will be the Story mode which comes divided into several chapters. With a bit of reading online on how to unlock, the Sandbox Mode where you can play with the physics and everything else to your heart’s content. Finally, the Arena mode which players can mess around with once you have completed the Story mode. All good then.

Looking primarily at the Story mode, what starts as an interesting introduction to VR physics and lateral puzzle-solving soon becomes a bit of a scrambled-mess. The sad thing here is it’s a mish-mash of ideas that never fully realise the potential. One moment you’ll be creeping through sewers with a flashlight and spooky robots for company. The next, using crates and other items to climb over a fence or using objects to navigate to the next area. It’s wildly fascinating at times but just a tad disjointed overall.

The story is kind of non-impacting and easily ignored. It’s told via monitors with live-video footage of characters aiding your escape. Aside from these interactions (if you can call them that) there are no NPCs which makes the experience feel quite solitary. This doesn’t work in the game’s favour in terms of any narrative unfortunately as you move from one zone to the next with little in-between.

What stands out though is the shooting and weapons handling. This is rather cool in VR where players pull out clips and reload them as you would in reality. A handy, but limited inventory screen aids in keeping keys, weapons and other items available for easy-access. It’s possible to grab weapons from the holsters on your body but this is a rather hit-and-miss action though which doesn’t always work.

Boneworks provides a fun experience across its levels but sadly the developers didn’t think too much about those playing. One massive annoyance is the lack of checkpoints or saving the game. Some levels take quite some time to complete on a first-play. This means if you don’t have 40 minutes to an hour to play or have some interruption you need to replay the entire level from the beginning next time. The same if you die, the checkpoint system isn’t massively forgiving. The game isn’t always clear in what you need to do either and for some, needlessly overthinking things can lead to bouts of spending far too much time working things out. More than is necessary to the point it becomes frustrating and chore-like. Apparently manual saving comes in a future patch but as of now that’s not available.

Looking at the visuals , Boneworks offers some flat tones with splashes of colour scattered around the levels. Some neat posters adorn the walls and the brightly coloured blood stands-out. whilst presenting some good texture detail close-up it’s not the most detailed game. The lack of full dynamic shadows hurts the game especially as pre-release this was shown as a feature.

Performance-wise the game runs smoothly using the HP Reverb, but there are few graphics options to tinker with which is a shame. A dynamic resolution option is all you’ll get if using a lower-end system. However, the lack of masses of characters and overall low detail means it should run well enough on lesser systems.

A Boneworks review wouldn’t be worth its salt without talking about the physics. They are the game’s greatest strength but also its biggest downfall. Physics and interactions are a key component of the experience, and overall it’s perhaps too-clever for its own good. It’s impressive how you can interact with objects in the world, but things like melee weapons have no weight behind them and often feel like you’re hitting enemies with a feather. The same for grabbing heavy objects which don’t slow your movements as you would expect. When objects or your character’s body collide, the physics engine can go haywire or wonky and it’s just not fun. Possibly the worst aspect of the physics engine is how the players legs move. Sure, you can run, walk and jump as you would expect, but mantling or climbing up onto things is a royal pain. Whilst it’s possible to do a free-running type move (which the tutorial never explains) it’s overly difficult. Espire 1 managed to handle this aspect with ease by allowing players to pull themselves up and then the legs automatically followed the movement. Hopefully Stress Level Zero will take a look at that as an option.

Boneworks comes with some limited audio that pumps some very loud music over everything else. Whilst the sci-fi synth style seems fitting, it’s nice just hearing the raw sound effects. There’s little else though aside from the voice-overs of the characters you see on the monitors.

In terms of longevity, there’s certainly lots of replay value within the story. Items to collect and secrets to uncover. You can also try and best your score. With numerous weapons to play with it’s something you can easily rack up the hours into double figures. The additional Arena and Sandbox offer endless hours of fun and games with the latter requiring a bit more effort.

As a VR game Boneworks comes as a welcome addition and works well on the Windows Mixed Reality platform – despite the controllers. It’s a fun game that really puts you into the moment at times making you feel fully immersed in what you are doing. However, the physics which are the main star-of-the-show aren’t polished enough making for a frustrating experience at times. With a better story this could have been far more interesting. As it stands it feels more like a VR assault course. Is it worth recommending? Yes and no. It’s probably prudent to wait for the patch to drop first (which addresses some of our complaints). But if you’re a sucker for VR shooting experiences then you can do a lot worse than this game.

Score 7/10



System Specs: RTX 2080 ti , i9 9900K CPU, 16 GB DDR 4 RAM, Win 10 64 Bit OS.

Comments

  • RuneSR2RuneSR2 Posts: 4,925 Valuable Player
    Nice review! Agreed, until they add more checkpoints for saving - also when I start the game the next time - I think it's fair to subtract 2 points. Thus 8/10 in my book, maybe 9/10 with more checkpoints - but I have not completed the game.
    Normally when scoring a game, I don't work myself up from a score of 0, but start by asking myself: "Which VR game, within the genre, is better than Boneworks?". If I can't think of nothing better, then of course I'm close to a reference for the genre - and in many aspects Bonework is really close to being a new reference for first person shooters. The game has a lot of 10/10 moments where you feel totally immersed in this strange world, but unfortunately physics also provide some massive frustrations. 
    It's the VR game I've tried with the best ultra-high-res textures, when the devs chose to use them. Unfortunately there are also many semi-blurry (low-res) textures. Yesterday one of the most beautiful things I saw was a bottle of shampoo, lol - but textures simply made it look real due to the res (I play Index res 200%). The shampoo bottle was standing next to other objects with much lower textures res. When Boneworks shines the most for textures, it outshines anything I've seen before in VR. That's something very positive. 
    The story also feels quite weird - but in a positive way. It feels unique, and I rarely get the feeling of playing something I've done before.
    Performance is extremely good - and may explain why Boneworks is so popular. Even with an old GTX 1080 I get solid 90 fps using res 200% (the equivalent of ss 2.0 for Index res) - and that's with 2xMSAA and shadows maxed out (but then again, there aren't many dynamic shadows if any).
    The sound is awesome in the Index speakers - so loud for the gun shots I had to reduce the volume, but it feels real. Music is ok, but sfx is where Boneworks has impressed me the most.  
    Finger tracking works flawlessly after the latest patches - tracking has been rock solid with the Index. 
    I consider the game a first person shooter with some puzzles involved, maybe much like the original Half-Life. The bland gray Boneworks world does remind me a lot of the original Half-Life, and clearly Boneworks has a lot of elements connected to Half-Life - to a degree where I think that Boneworks may be a nice warm-up for Alyx. 
    Intel i7 7700K (4.5 GHz); MSI GeForce GTX 1080 8GB Gaming X (oc 2100 MHz gpu boost, 11 GHz mem speed); 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 3200 MHz; MSI Z270I Gaming Pro Carbon AC (VR-Ready) mainboard; Samsung 960 Evo M.2 SSD + Toshiba P300 HD; Windows 10 OS; Valve Index and Oculus Rift CV1 - the latter nearly always using super sampling 2.0. 

    "Ask not what VR can do for you – ask what you can do for VR"
  • LuciferousLuciferous Posts: 2,315 Valuable Player
    edited January 21
    MowTin said:
    I'm enjoying Boneworks but I feel like it's more tech demo than game. 

    One thing I look for in a VR game is how good are the enemy models and animations? In Boneworks, it's pretty awful. It's like they didn't put any work at all into animating and modeling enemies. Usually, you want a good variety of well-animated enemy types. I sometimes feel bad killing these slow drunk enemies who stumble around. The head crab things are the best part of the game. 

    I found some of they physics-based puzzles very frustrating. You make a mistake and fall and you have to start all over again. And they should have done more to explain who to climb over walls, I had to search the internet after some frustrating attempts. 

    It's a weird game because I really enjoy it and I'm glad I bought it but it also feels like a tech demo. If you ignore the physics and think of it as a game, it's awful. The maps are not textured. They try to sell it as a style choice but it's really a way to save money/time by not having very detailed and textured maps. The virtual holsters are also very poorly done. But you can't ignore how good the physics are. And the game has a unique sense of presence. 

    Also, I can't see myself replaying this game unless people create cool custom maps with lots of gunplay.  

    I would give it a 7/10 but at the same time, I would call it a must buy. Numbers don't adequately capture a game. What counts is that it's a fun and cool experience. One of the better overall VR experiences. 
    Spot on my thoughts. 

    I am excited to see the next game from them with improved physics and more story.  I think they spent so much time on physics it didn't leave much time for story. A few patches in the meantime would go down well.

    Still love it though.
  • RuneSR2RuneSR2 Posts: 4,925 Valuable Player
    More about Boneworks. I'm at work and just spotted the video - I have not seen the video with sound on, but it looked interesting:



    Note that if you enable the beta in Steam, you'll get the new version where progress is saved about halfway through a level. I have not tested that yet, been busy doing zombies and I'm not a great fan of beta versions. 

    Intel i7 7700K (4.5 GHz); MSI GeForce GTX 1080 8GB Gaming X (oc 2100 MHz gpu boost, 11 GHz mem speed); 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 3200 MHz; MSI Z270I Gaming Pro Carbon AC (VR-Ready) mainboard; Samsung 960 Evo M.2 SSD + Toshiba P300 HD; Windows 10 OS; Valve Index and Oculus Rift CV1 - the latter nearly always using super sampling 2.0. 

    "Ask not what VR can do for you – ask what you can do for VR"
  • RuneSR2RuneSR2 Posts: 4,925 Valuable Player
    Ah, just got sound on the video - he says the save patch is live today - awesome! 

    But I was kinda planning to play Stormland tonight - nothing but First World problems in my life! :#  :'(
    Intel i7 7700K (4.5 GHz); MSI GeForce GTX 1080 8GB Gaming X (oc 2100 MHz gpu boost, 11 GHz mem speed); 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 3200 MHz; MSI Z270I Gaming Pro Carbon AC (VR-Ready) mainboard; Samsung 960 Evo M.2 SSD + Toshiba P300 HD; Windows 10 OS; Valve Index and Oculus Rift CV1 - the latter nearly always using super sampling 2.0. 

    "Ask not what VR can do for you – ask what you can do for VR"
  • RuneSR2RuneSR2 Posts: 4,925 Valuable Player
    The full Monty:

    BONEWORKS - Cfish

    Overview
    Welcome to the first major update of 2020! We've been working hard to simultaneously add new content, improve the existing experience of the campaign, and strengthen the core tech for you to enjoy in this and future SLZ titles! Today we bring you:
    • New Content
    • Save spots
    • Brawl mode
    • Improved climbing stability
    • Improved hand responsiveness to quick actions
    • Sandbox Gachapons
    • Blankbox, performance light sandbox
    • Adjustments and fixes

    Save Spots

    Savespots can now be found throughout each level. They will save any items in your player inventory as well save-able items placed in the savespot bins. To save your game, hold both triggers while grabbing the save point handles and wait for the save bar to fill up. The next time you start the game, the continue button in the main menu will bring you back to this spot. NOTE: If you complete a level, that counts as a savespot.

    NEW Brawl Mode

    Customized brawl battle in arena mode. Choose types and quantities of enemy waves to fight with and against in the end-game arena. We don't want to spoil too much, so have at it.

    NEW Sandbox items to find


    Additional gachapons can be found hidden throughout the game. When capsules are reclaimed, you can unlock a variety of fun objects to spawn. Try building some giant foam castles.

    NEW Sandbox + sandbox machines

    The Museum Basement sandbox has seen some changes and will continue to see adjustments in future updates. Starting with an ammo spawn machine, a health setting machine, and a few others; the Museum sandbox will continue to improve over time. Museum sandbox is now easier to find in the museum and in it's old place is a completely new sandbox: BlankBox.

    The BlankBox environment provides a completely open sandbox with minimal environment pieces for maximum performance. If you want to benchmark your computer and see just how many enemies you can spawn, use the BlankBox.

    Unlock Display Case

    A new display case can now be found in the main menu and sandbox that displays the items you have unlocked. This will be updated with any items added to the collectible items list in future updates.

    Patch Notes - Update 0.1.3
    -UPDATE NOTES-
    • ADDED: Save Spots
    • ADDED: Save Spot information in museum
    • ADDED: Collectibles Display Case!
    • ADDED: Additional Reclamation Bins to some levels
    • ADDED: Ammo Dispenser Machine
    • ADDED: Health Machine
    • ADDED: Experimental Texture res for low vram GPUs
    • ADDED: Additional claimable gachapons to most levels
    • ADDED: Nullrat claimable gachapon
    • ADDED: Note for stuck on height select
    • ADDED: Main Menu Exit
    • ADDED: Custom magazine for 1911
    • ADDED: New melee weapon, Pickaxe
    • ADDED: New melee weapon, Katar
    • ADDED SANDBOX: BlankBox for high performance fun

    • ADJUSTED: Ladder rung colliders
    • ADJUSTED: Climbing
    • ADJUSTED: Minor text adjustments
    • ADJUSTED: Complex crate
    • ADJUSTED: Ammo display in main menu shows total
    • ADJUSTED: Main Menu UI
    • ADJUSTED: Gachapon glow
    • ADJUSTED: Nerfed 9mm damage (affects Eder22, all MP5 variants, UZI)
    • ADJUSTED: 1911 bullets changed from 9mm to .45 (still uses light ammo)
    • ADJUSTED: Various checkpoint locations
    • ADJUSTED: Savespot text

    • FIXED: Crate in tower
    • FIXED: Vivewand forever haptics
    • FIXED: Several Static objects
    • FIXED: Barrels no longer spawn weapons outside of the Arena level
    • FIXED: Text Errors
    • FIXED: Additional minor bugs

    - PRIMARY BUILD CHANGES -
    • add pick up the place to OST
    • add monomat theme to OST
    • OST changed from DLC to Soundtrack

    We're going to be doing more frequent videos in between updates. What would you like to see / hear about?
    Intel i7 7700K (4.5 GHz); MSI GeForce GTX 1080 8GB Gaming X (oc 2100 MHz gpu boost, 11 GHz mem speed); 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 3200 MHz; MSI Z270I Gaming Pro Carbon AC (VR-Ready) mainboard; Samsung 960 Evo M.2 SSD + Toshiba P300 HD; Windows 10 OS; Valve Index and Oculus Rift CV1 - the latter nearly always using super sampling 2.0. 

    "Ask not what VR can do for you – ask what you can do for VR"
  • RuneSR2RuneSR2 Posts: 4,925 Valuable Player
    edited February 19
    Probably just a coincidence  :D  


    Intel i7 7700K (4.5 GHz); MSI GeForce GTX 1080 8GB Gaming X (oc 2100 MHz gpu boost, 11 GHz mem speed); 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 3200 MHz; MSI Z270I Gaming Pro Carbon AC (VR-Ready) mainboard; Samsung 960 Evo M.2 SSD + Toshiba P300 HD; Windows 10 OS; Valve Index and Oculus Rift CV1 - the latter nearly always using super sampling 2.0. 

    "Ask not what VR can do for you – ask what you can do for VR"
  • LuciferousLuciferous Posts: 2,315 Valuable Player
    Bloody hell that can't be. :)
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