Population One Review
This game is not perfect by any means and it certainly has a very arcadey style and feels to it that many VR gamers may not love, but nonetheless, it’s extremely fun.
Population One is a VR battle royal game that makes a few major tweaks to the genre. For starters, there are very few people in a match, only 18 players that make 6 teams of 3. So few it’s hard to even consider it a battle royal, but technically it is. The map that the players drop into is rather small being only one squared kilometer, but it still fancies a variety of locations such as industrial, urban, countryside, cemetery, and more. The map shrinks via laser wall or storm like thing exactly like other battle royal games, except the speed and damage does not grow stronger or faster later in the game. It’s always slow and doesn’t kill you too fast. However, the map shrinks at a very fast rate, forcing a match to last around 10–15 minutes. This is a bit too fast because if you land near the corner of the map that shrinks first, you’ll likely spend the whole game just running from the storm wall until finally, you’re in a firefight with your backs against the wall. This can often be avoided if your team is smart, fast, and works together. However, for the common player, you’ll likely feel like you’re just being chased by the storm wall.
Next, is the graphics. Many players have not been a fan of the graphics and personally, I don’t know why. Sure the graphics aren’t super detailed and realistic, however, I don’t think this game would benefit from such graphics. The art style was limited by the fact that this game magically runs on the Quest and Quest 2, and for me on PCVR, it runs smooth as butter. Likely because the graphics lean to a more cartoonish and simple look. The textures are smooth, the lighting is pre-baked but still nice, the geometry is simple, and in general, everything is very simple and plain looking. But for a VR game where we don’t have the ideal resolution in our headsets yet, it makes it easier to see people at long distances. Also, it keeps the game running smoothly which is super important in VR to reduce motion sickness and to maintain immersion. Personally, I love the graphics, I think it’s important for more people to understand that the goal of a video game isn’t to look real but to run nicely, be immersive, and be practical. Very few games benefit from a realistic graphic style.
Population One introduces 2 new mechanics into the battle royal genre, climbing anything, and gliding. Both of these things obviously go hand in hand and work beautifully in VR and in this genre. You simply stretch your arms out like you’re a bird and you glide when you’re off the ground. To climb you simply grab any surface that isn’t the ground (actually you might be able to grab the ground too, I just never tried.) This makes combat very exciting and allows for a lot of creativity, flanks, and even stealth. Combining your ability to climb to high places like windmills, radio towers, and literally anything else, also allows you to glide far distances and dropped down on your enemies from above (which is insanely satisfying.)
There is building in this game, that’s right…. Just like Fortnite. I understand why building in this game is a great idea on paper because you can climb your own building so well and could even technically build a little fort if you have enough supplies. But holy crap do the developers really want players to have the ability to just build a fort around themselves like in Fortnite? That’s the most hated thing about Fortnite. Granted so far no one I’ve seen has treated it like Fortnite building, however, once players begin to get better and more hardcore players to join the game, I fear it might end up that way. In Population One when you build you can only build vertical slabs or horizontal slabs, no need for stairs since you can climb and no real need for the housetop piece either. I personally don’t think building adds much to the game at all except rewards those who don’t move from cover to cover and don’t use their surroundings to create a strategic advantage for themselves.
Lastly, and this is my most harsh criticism for this game, is the in-game inventory and weapon/ammo interactions. This game is almost entirely controlled with buttons. To access your storage you press a button, to drop a gun or ammo you press a button, to open your map you press a button. Most VR games would take advantage of the fact that it’s being played in VR. For example, putting your guns on your body in different places for you to grab from. To access storage you could grab a backpack from your back. To look at your map you could look at your wrist. But no, for some reason the game is watered down to the most basic and boring use of VR they could possibly have. This could very well be because it keeps the game running light for Quest and Quest 2 users, or it’s to keep the game fast pace since once you master these controls, they will almost never slow you down. Either way, a minor slow to the pace of Population One might not be a bad thing since it is easily the fastest battle royal game I can think of.
Customization in this game is pretty sad. Though I never play games for customization and I generally don’t care about these things. You simply select whatever skin you have unlocked at your rank. Ranging through a few different characters in colorful outfits. Myself and my friends expected more customization where we could change our glasses, hats, tops, pants, shoes, and gloves. But unfortunately, we were let down.
In conclusion, this game is really good with only a couple of small weak spots. Easily one of my favorite VR games and is a total blast to play with friends or anyone willing to use their mic and work together. The gameplay is fun and easy to learn but hard to master. The graphics are easy on the eyes and practical despite being very simple. Building mechanics are questionable and so is their button-focused inventory navigation, but once mastered aren’t a deal-breaker. This game is already great, I look forward to future updates with preferably new weapons, and eventually, a new map would be nice too. I’d also like to see customization actually be customization, instead of just flipping through premade characters, but I’m not particularly hung up on it.