Lies Beneath is an action-packed single-player survival horror game published by Oculus Studios and developed by Drifter Entertainment, the same team behind PC VR co-op shooter Gunheart and Robo Recall: Unplugged on Quest. Read our full Lies Beneath review below for more!
The Oculus Quest has a great selection of VR games. But what you might notice when browsing the Store or looking through your Library of content is that there is certainly a lack of narratively-driven single player titles. Other than Vader Immortal, Apex Construct, Moss, Virtual Virtual Reality, Journey of the Gods, and a handful of others the vast majority of content on the Quest is designed to be briefly picked up and played for a few minutes or focused on multiplayer. Thankfully Lies Beneath is here to help alleviate the issue a bit.
Lies Beneath tells the story of a young woman that gets into a car accident while visiting her family in a small Alaskan town. She’s driving in a car with her father when a mysterious figure steps out in front of the vehicle, causing her to swerve off of a bridge and crash, getting flung from inside. By the time you make your way back to the scene, your father is gone with nothing but a trail of blood leading away.
Thus, the mystery begins.
It’s a good hook for a story and the way Drifter Entertainment unravels the threads is very interesting and well-done. Everything in Lies Beneath is presented as if it were a dark, noir-style comic book. The beginning of each “Issue” has you flip through a giant, floating comic complete with panels, descriptive box out text, dialogue bubbles, and more. After getting up to speed, you essentially live out the events of the book.
The art style feels just like a comic come to life. It reminds me a bit of Mad World on the Nintendo Wii, or the similarly-styled VR shooter Dimension Hunter. The main difference here is how well the overall package sells the window dressing. It’s more than just a superficial coat of animated paint. When you do things like hit boxes with your axe, tiny sound effect blurbs like *crack* pop up for a split second and clicking things in the menu show a brief *click* sound blurb. It does a great job of further selling the aesthetic.
As stylish and pronounced as it is, it takes a while before the environments feel very interesting. You spend quite a while lumbering around in the snow where everything looks extremely samey. The foggy blizzard restricts your vision so the game rarely renders anything in the distance and darkness requires using your small lighter to see just a foot or two in front of you. This all helps build suspense, but ends up making it feel truncated in terms of actually being immersive. Hopefully the Rift version that releases in a couple of weeks can sidestep some of these issues.
I also noticed some performance issues on Quest in the form of stuttering here and there, most commonly when approaching comic panel narration in between level sections. For example, every Chapter has comic panels positioned as sign posts inside the levels that articulate your character’s thoughts rather than using voice over dialogue and each time I approached this (every handful of minutes or so) there was usually a brief jitter of frame drops.
Since your lighter can be used to point you in the right direction if you look at where the embers are pointing off the tip of the flame, you’ll never get lost — not that you would have anyway since Lies Beneath is a pretty linear game. Most of the time you’ll walk from one end of a chapter to the other, interacting a bit with objects as you go, running from big bad guys, and shooting your way past ghouls.
In terms of actual scares and building up a sense of horror, Lies Beneath is one of the lighter efforts in its genre. Since you almost always have weapons on-hand there is a lot more combat here than in something like The Exorcist: Legion VR, Face Your Fears 2, or other recent horror games. Rather than forcing you into a state of helplessness you can and will fight back in Lies Beneath quite often.
All told the game is about 6-8 hours long depending on your play style spread across 20 chapters. It takes a while to reach some environmental variety, but once you do the art style becomes more pronounced and visually pleasing. I’m really not a fan of sticking players in a snowy blizzard for the first chunk of the experience, it was a bit of an underwhelming opening for that reason.
There is a good assortment of weapons here from revolvers and hand axes to shotguns and more. When you have your lighter fully lit and out in one hand you can see an aiming reticule where you point and weak spots on enemies are highlighted. It’s a cool system that adds some strategy to tense fights.
Coming off of weighty PC VR games like Boneworks, The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners, Half-Life: Alyx, and even Asgard’s Wrath and Stormland, combat in Lies Beneath doesn’t feel very reactive. Most objects in the game are static, not physics objects at all, and melee attacks usually pass through enemies and objects without making contact. Even gunshots result in mostly canned animations it seems, which is a bit of a bummer.
The scariest moments in Lies Beneath are purely atmospheric. Hearing the sounds of beasts in the forest, just beyond your view, feasting on corpses. Spotting red, glowing eyes peering at you from around a corner only to disappear once you reach the next area beyond the trees. The constant feeling that you’re being watched, at all times, everywhere you go. It’s tense and unnerving and slowly builds over the course of the game.
There were a handful of jump scares, but they’re not super common. Instead, Lies Beneath relies more on a sense of stress and anxiety to justify its horror label. The atmosphere is foreboding, the narrative is dark, and the imagery is often creepy, so when you get overwhelmed by enemies and are fumbling to reload or running low on ammo, that’s when the hairs start to stand up on your neck and arms or you flail in desperation right before death.
Trust me, I speak from experience.
Lies Beneath Review Final Verdict
While Lies Beneath doesn’t pack enough true terror to be considered a new peak for VR horror, it does manage to craft an intriguing story in a stylishly formed world with mostly satisfying combat and palpable tension. It’s exciting to see a developer that was so previously rooted in the fast-paced action shooter category branching out to something more slow-paced, narratively-driven, and visually unique. The gameplay certainly leaves plenty to be desired in the wake of Half-Life: Alyx, but in terms of its story and setting there is enough here to make it worth a recommendation — especially in comparison to similar experiences already available on Quest.
Final Score: 4/5 Stars | Really Good
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