I Expect You to Die Review (PlayStation 4)
Who hasn't dreamed of being the daring hero, capable of solving any problem with nothing but the items in a room, and making the world safe with the actions of a single adventure? The life of a spy is often glamorized in media, and particularly in games, but few have ever asked you to solve and survive the treacherous puzzles of a devious foe the same way as I Expect You to Die. Mixing virtual reality and escape rooms with fantastical '60s spy aesthetics makes for a brilliant idea, even if it can be a bit cumbersome to enjoy some times.
I Expect You to Die doesn't have a traditional narrative, and instead places you in several dire situations loosely connected to stopping the Zoraxis Corporation and its plans for world domination. The increasingly challenging scenarios are as ludicrous as any Bondian villain could have ever hoped to create, but within the realm of the game, they work to great effect. Whether you're trapped in a car in the cargo hold of a zeppelin filled with poisonous gas or having your Caribbean excursion ruined by your booby-trapped submersible flooding with sea water, I Expect You to Die will put you in situations only the most capable of secret agents could handle.
What makes these escapes so daring and memorable is the execution. Real escape room scenarios are a bit more limited in what they can accomplish, but with I Expect You to Die taking place in virtual reality, explosions and poison and scorpions are easy to render. They're also easy to fix when you blow something up or cause a fatality. No one wants to clean up the mess after a security laser melts your face in real life, but here you just reset to normal like nothing ever happened. The game's stylized presentation works well too, with everything fitting into a bit of an Archer-esque vibe. It all helps build to the immersion you'll experience when you first slide the headset down, and it's furthered by I Expect You to Die's use of the Move controllers.
You can use the standard PlayStation 4 DualShock controller if you haven't picked up some Move controllers. Since so few PSVR games actually require them, it wouldn't be all that surprising if you didn't get them yet. It's not the optimal way to enjoy I Expect You to Die however, as using the Move creates an even deeper sensation of being there in the moment. You'll reach for drawers or switches and have to press them accordingly. You'll have to fire weapons and handle chemicals. It's all rather mundane when done with the regular controller, but with the Move there's a tactile sensation that is hard to beat.
With that in mind however, sometimes the Move controllers can be a little finicky. Stretch too far in one direction, and the responsiveness completely evaporates. Try to reach to an opposite side, crossing the controllers over, and things get a little mixed up for the PlayStation Camera. These kind of things will eventually work themselves out as more developers craft games for PSVR, but in the early stages, hiccups like this are still fairly common. To combat that a bit, Schell has given players telekinetic abilities that allow you to point and summon items or open doors if they appear to be just out of reach. The reasoning is silly, but it works within the game world, and is a crucial bit of control to make things that much easier for players of all skill levels.
That accessibility to all manner of players is another key to IEYTD's success. Players familiar with button layouts and this kind of puzzle-solving will be able to slip into this world with ease, but after a quick tutorial, newcomers will have just as much capability as anyone else. At this point in PlayStation VR's lifespan, having a low barrier for entry with regards to gameplay is very much welcome. Being able to show off what VR can do to others who haven't invested in current gaming systems --- let alone VR --- has been part of the joy of owning one of the headsets. Games that are just as fun to watch others play help build a strong library, even if the games themselves aren't very lengthy. Sure, there is replay value in finding all the secrets and cutting your escape time in half, but there's just as much in laughing at dads and brothers when things go horribly wrong.
With wry humor, just the right amount of challenge, and accessibility to all comers, I Expect You to Die sets a precedent for being one of the best virtual reality experiences available for PlayStation right now. It's not always perfect, but Schell Games has done so much else right, it's easy to overlook the few flaws that persist throughout the experience. Now if we could only get a follow-up with some more daring missions to save the world.
This review is based on a download of I Expect You to Die provided by the publisher for PlayStation 4.