When we’re sitting in lockdown (and in some cases, worried about the next lockdown), it’s natural to look for a bit of escapism. Video games absolutely do that, of course, but there’s something particularly transportative about VR. I put on my headset and instantly, I’m somewhere else that’s not my house… the same house that I live in, work in and spend 24 hours a day in at the moment (no, I don’t go for a one hour exercise walk, don’t judge me).
Additionally, there’s nothing that reduces my stress more than shooting at stuff. Not in a weird murder-y kind of way or anything, just in the sense that it relieves some tension after a frustrating day at work or an irritating conversation with an anti-vaxx relative. You know the one.
So, here is a list of 7 VR shooters that will help ease some of your lockdown frustration; we’ve played them all and think this is a great place to start if you’re a recent Oculus Quest adopter looking for your next adventure.
Zero Caliber: Reloaded
Kicking off with one of the more traditional style of shooters, Zero Caliber: Reloaded brings the co-op FPS fantasy by giving a variety of missions in a short but fun campaign that can be played alone or with friends. Originally launching via Steam VR back in 2018, it hit Oculus Quest just a few months ago, and after completing the story missions side by side with a mate I can confirm that it’s definitely a fun romp.
While other shooters focus on the competitive multiplayer scene, Zero Caliber: Reloaded is all about the campaign, with about 23 missions to play through which take around 5-15 minutes each. Navigating each area and clearing it of enemies starts off simple enough, and there are some additional objectives littered throughout under the veil of a pretty paper-thin story full of clichés and inevitable betrayals.
What makes Zero Caliber: Reloaded truly stand out though is the weapons, how you can customise them, and how good they feel. Completing missions allows you to quickly unlock modifications and cash to buy better guns, and they all feel appropriately punchy when out in the field mowing down various goons. Those who like to tinker can spend a lot of time personalising their guns so that they are as unique as possible, with a variety of scopes, stocks and more. They’re all detachable mid-mission as well, which means upgrading your gun on the fly is easy and satisfying.
It’s not the perfect experience; climbing feels a bit janky (and the game repeatedly forces you to do so to access certain objectives) and the enemy AI is dumb at best, but in terms of capturing the co-op shooter magic, it’s more than worth the ammo required to have a good time.
Zero Caliber: Reloaded is available on Oculus Quest here.
Phantom: Covert Ops
Imagine a stealth shooter. Now, imagine that stealth shooter taking place entirely from a kayak. That’s what you’re getting with Phantom: Covert Ops, and while it sounds ridiculous on paper, it just might be one of the smartest ideas in terms of properly translating shooters into VR overall. See, moving around normally – with your legs – has an associated level of strangeness, in the fact that you’re often standing still while the character moves through. Playing from a sitting position, being in a kayak just makes sense, and feels fantastic to play.
It’s not pure concept alone where the game succeeds though. The kayak allows for a sense of true immersion as your paddling from area to area, sneakily taking down enemies and popping headshots from the dark distance. It uses stealth cleverly in terms of using your environment to your advantage, and the guns themselves also feel very satisfying to boot. Sure, my arms kind of burn after an extended session of rowing, but as I’m slowly shifting my paddle through the water while eyeing off my next target, it’s easy to forget I’m actually sitting on my couch with my dogs next to me (watching me and being quite confused, I’d imagine).
Some quick reverse turns might make you a bit woozy like a slow-paced rollercoaster, but like all good stealth games before it, Phantom: Covert Ops does a wonderful job of making you feel like a badass when you can make it through an entire mission without being spotted. There are smart on-screen indicators to let you know when you’re at risk, and distracting enemies while avoiding their menacing flashlights is some of the most intense and exciting VR moments I’ve encountered.
So climb on board with one of the most intriguing shooters on the list; it’s short but incredibly sweet, with content updates since launch providing some more challenges to sneak your way through.
Phantom: Covert Ops is available on Oculus Quest here.
This is perhaps one of the riskier games to play if you’re prone to a bit of nausea when living your best VR life, but Swarm manages to be an incredibly fun shooter that forces you to grapple-hook your way around an area, shooting aliens and never hitting the ground. The action itself of swinging from point to point while shooting aliens gives it a Spider-Man kind of vibe at times, except replace the webs with guns.
With a wave-based enemy structure, it’s easy to get lost in the loop of trying to clear levels over and over; and while you can turn on an easy mode that doesn’t penalise you for hitting the ground, there’s something incredibly satisfying about completing a mission without falling once. What starts off feeling a little tricky quickly becomes second nature as you’re swinging from point to point, with gameplay across the board feeling intuitive and slick.
Additional power-ups in Swarm allow you to take extra advantage of your swinging fun, such as features that allow you to slow down time or grapple directly towards an enemy to propel you in that direction. With a cel-shaded style that immediately grabs your attention, Swarm is one of those simple-yet-addictive experiences that is challenging and exciting from the moment you load it up.
Swarm is available on Oculus Quest here.
When it comes to a realistic shooter portrayal, Onward is the most notable on this list, and is the closest you’ll get to replicating that Call of Duty experience in VR. Released on every VR platform under the sun, it’s considered by many to be the pinnacle of shooters in virtual reality, and there’s good reason for that.
Onward features a realistic setting, deep gun mechanics and hardcore tactical teamplay in 5v5 battles. Complete with walkie talkie on your shoulder and a tablet that can be pulled out at any moment to get a tactical birds-eye-view of the map in each level, you really do feel like you’re part of an intense squad in a serious mission. It’s immersive as heck.
There’s so much on offer in Onward as well, from a single player and multiplayer perspective. There’s a shooting range so you have more than enough chance to get your bearings, and simple game modes where you have to eliminate all AI enemies on the map, which can also be played in co-op with a friend. Then, and this is where the COD comparison kicks in, there is a range of PVP modes where you can test your shooting skills online against other players.
Onward does a good job of translating a realistic tactical squad-like experience to VR shooters, even if the animations are a little bit odd to look at sometimes (we found watching each other just casually moving around the map to be a bit silly even). But with various social modes and a bunch of maps available, it’s hard not to recommend the game for all kinds of shooter fans.
Onward is available on Oculus Quest here.
Apex Construct has been around for a while, but it still stands out as one of the most interesting and enjoyable VR shooters available; although, now we’re shifting away from guns and into bow-and-shield territory. Along with an incredibly fun campaign to play through, it also has the added bonus of looking gorgeous as well.
The game features some impressive environments and mechanical robotic enemies that would fit in with Aloy in Horizon Zero Dawn with a rogue program called Mothr who channels their best evil GLaDOS along the way. Particularly hectic scenarios with lots of enemies are challenging but satisfying to overcome, and Apex Construct has the added benefit of having a genuine story to tell, with interesting moments outside of the shooting that make it really feel like a fully fleshed out experience – as opposed to some other VR games that still come off feeling more like a demo.
I’d say that Apex Construct in particular benefits from a wireless headset, as it allows for whipping around quickly to take down enemies behind you. As you progress, you can use experience points to upgrade your weapons and shield, and you’ll need to be careful about dodging and preserving health (as it doesn’t regenerate on its own). It has almost a Souls-like element where you have to go back to your base to bank points, which respawns the enemies in the area, so there’s a bit of risk versus reward in play here too.
Overall, it’s great to have a game commit to a strong single player campaign in VR, and Apex Construct is one of the more compelling options for that reason alone.
Apex Construct is available on Oculus Quest here.
Wands is another VR staple that’s been around for a while; originally debuting in 2016, it’s evolved and come onto many platforms since, including Oculus Quest. I may be stretching the term “shooter” a little bit here as a terminology, but you do shoot spells at your opponents so I’m going to go with it.
Gearing up and duelling against fellow wand-bearers, you have to use a range of spells and abilities to take them down. It becomes a very unique tactical experience as you navigate each level, with a variety of choices you can use with your wand. Everybody has the ability to teleport, but the other four spells are up to you, with more to unlock as you play. I am partial to a fireball myself, but there’s plenty of crazy options on offer, like sending a spectre flying at your opponent, or putting spikes in their path.
Duels become very competitive once you learn the ropes, and it doesn’t take long for you to start feeling like the badass sorcerer you were born to be. Wands has also made an effort to evolve over the years, including room-scaling and dual-wielding as recently as last year, so you can have two different spells active at once. It’s a pretty cool power fantasy casting spells from the palms of your hands, and that’s why Wands has stood the test of time as one of the true VR success stories.
Wands is available on Oculus Quest here.
In Death: Unchained
Another entry into the bow-and-arrow style of VR shooters, In Death Unchained is incredibly successful at combining the shooter action with the rogulelite genre. Another success story that’s now available across all platforms including PSVR and Oculus Quest, it captures that “one more fun” feeling that the best roguelites out there manage to nail, and feels completely exhilarating.
Another staple of roguelites is their difficulty, and In Death Unchained certainly isn’t easy; but it’s so fun when it’s firing on all cylinders that it never really makes you feel bad about your loss. Set in an afterlife that has been overrun by monsters, the archery combat feels slick and the game isn’t afraid to throw hordes of enemies in your path to make things difficult.
With three different worlds to progress through and procedurally generated levels, each run feels different, and death is really part of the experience, with progression taking time so that you can really hone your skills as you move between each location. It’s also worth noting that In Death: Unchained could easily fall under the fitness category when it comes to VR experiences; it really does take a lot of intense energy to play!
When it comes to addictive experiences that you know you’ll keep in your collection for a long time, it’s hard to go past In Death: Unchained to satisfy those roguelite cravings.
In Death: Unchained is available on Oculus Quest here.
Of course, these are just some of the VR shooters available. For more, check out our coverage of sniping staple Sniper Eilte VR, classic zombie shooter Arizona Sunshine, competitive slick arena shooter Hyper Dash, rhythm shooter Pistol Whip and the dual-tastic Blaston.
What are your favourite VR shooters? Which of these are you going to give a crack while we’re in lockdown?