As another first-person puzzle game set in a mysterious lab complex, The Assembly doesn’t stand out all that much. The puzzles are ok, the narrative ticks along nicely and it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. It’s just not particularly memorable.
However, as a launch title for PSVR one needs to consider whether the game benefits from being in VR. Unfortunately, in The Assembly’s case it doesn’t add anything to the experience, in fact I’d even go so far as to say that it detracts from it. This is quite a problem as The Assembly’s main selling point is the fact that it is in VR.
Players assume the roles of dual protagonists Caleb Pearson – an employee of the mysterious group referred to only as “The Assembly”, and Madeleine Stone, a disgraced researcher who undergoes “trials” as part of the hiring process at the shady research facility where the game is set. As the game progresses it becomes clear that there is some incredibly suspect research into killer viruses going on, as players are asked how far they are you willing to go for the greater good
As Caleb, players break into computers, uncovering more information pertaining to The Assembly’s shady research as he tries to escape from the facility. Meanwhile, Madeleine makes her way through a series of challenge rooms, Well, five of them, with very little challenge since the solution to each is heavily telegraphed. They may not be challenging, and there isn’t enough of them, but they are fun. The highlight of the five, though is the one where players need to get the synapses of several artificial brains firing.
The biggest issues for The Assembly on PSVR are technical. It’s clear that the PS4 cannot render the game to anything close to the same standard as its PC counterpart. In most PSVR titles thus far, this doesn’t matter as they stick to a cartoony aesthetic or focus on some other sense of otherworldliness to carry them. However, The Assembly focuses on attempting to bring a more grounded, fuller experience to VR than the numerous shooting Galleries and fun party games, that have made up most of PSVR’s line up thus far, and In order to maintain the high frame rate that VR games demand it’s clear there needed to be heavy compromises made to the games graphical quality. Though characters are fluidly animated, overall it looks like a launch title for the PS3, or maybe even a late PS2 game, not a brand-new title three years into the PS4’s lifespan.
Surprisingly, the graphics are so bad that they may make players feel nauseous. Unlike other first person VR games that can cause sickness via motion (though that is a possibility too if the traditional twin-stick controls are turned instead of the easier going bink method of turning) The assembly’s blurry, low resolution textures can give players VR sickness merely by looking at things. The best way to describe it is that it is like playing through the eyes of a drunk with the world around the player pulsing, blurred and always slightly out of focus, making Caleb’s sections in which the player needs to read messages scattered around the environment and on computer scenes particularly challenging and traumatic. In fact, the VR sickness encountered while playing for review, was so severe that it took several sittings to get through the game, despite its brief four hour run time.
As a game, The Assembly isn’t too bad. A generic lab based puzzle romp with some good ideas that don’t pan out, and an entertaining, though ultimately forgettable plot. On PC it may be worth a look once it ends up in that inevitable Steam Sale. However, on PSVR it should be avoided, it’s technical shortcomings not only make it look terrible but makes the player feel terrible too. There have been times where this reviewer has thought about hyperbolically exclaiming that a title’s visuals were so bad they were nausea inducing, but The Assembly on PSVR is the first time that has literally achieved this dubious accolade.