Combat Coaster Review: A Rollercoaster With More Downs Than Ups
Combat Coaster was one of the better games available on the Oculus Go back in 2018. So how does the newly released Oculus Quest version hold up in 2020? Have enough changes been made to give you exciting thrills, or is this a bumpy ride? Check out our Combat Coaster review on the Oculus Quest to find out more.
Everything you need to know about Combat Coaster is in the name — you ride a roller coaster and have to shoot as many targets as possible along the way. The more targets you shoot, the better your score. Enemies will also occasionally race alongside you in a parallel coaster track, and you’ll have to take them out to avoid losing points. Do well enough and you could be rewarded with a bronze, silver or gold medal for your performance at the end of the track.
Combat Coaster is not a fully original game developed for Quest, though. This version is actually a port of the Oculus Go game with some new tracks and minor changes that attempt to revitalize the mechanics for modern VR headsets. The experience is now realized with full 6DoF tracking, which might improve comfort compared to Go and allows much easier aiming and shooting. You’ll also now be dual-wielding guns, in an attempt to take advantage of the two Touch controllers compared to one on the Go. However, the original Go version hangs like a weight around Combat Coaster’s neck.
Location, Location, Location
There’s 5 initial levels available, each set in a different location with slightly different visual themes, but essentially identical mechanics. There’s Pirate Paradise, Himalaya Heights, Volcanic Valley, Cursed Castle and a Tron-esque level, Neon Night, which is new for the Quest. There’s two difficulty settings for each, easy and hard. There’s also a bonus sixth level — Gold Rush — which is another piece of new Quest content and only unlocks once you’ve gained a gold medal in both difficulties on all the available levels.
While the themes of the levels are all quite different, the gameplay itself remains almost identical. Some coasters are steeper than others, or offer a different style of ride, but otherwise the game is unchanged. The themed levels act as a skin for the same basic gameplay — sit in the coaster and shoot at a themed item to collect points. On the Pirate Paradise track, you use gunpowder pistols to shoot gold coins, whereas in Neon Night, you have laser guns and shoot at ‘credits (stacks of cash), and so on and so forth.
The original Go title boasted procedurally generated levels for each theme. While I presume it’s the same here, I didn’t notice any huge differences that made the coasters more replayable on subsequent run-throughs.
However, it’s the combat in Combat Coaster that is the most disappointing aspect of the game. No matter which coaster you’re playing on, the guns are incredibly unsatisfying to fire. It is by far the aspect that lets the game down the most.
There isn’t one single massive aspect that makes the weapons so boring to use, it’s actually a mixture of several small things. For starters, the fire rate feels off and way too sluggish when you’re presented with a quick succession of items to shoot. You would think that the addition of dual-wielding would help assuage this, but it actually does the opposite. Given the second gun is in your non-dominant hand and you’re sitting in a fast moving roller coaster, only the ambidextrous will truly benefit. I would be surprised if someone had good enough aim with their non-dominant hand for it to be useful in Combat Coaster as anything other than a distraction from using their primary hand. Combined with the fast coaster movement and slow fire rate, I found the second weapon practically useless.
There could have been far more interesting ways to use the non-dominant hand, and simply duplicating the gun to give the player dual-wielding ability feels impractical and ill-conceived. While it would have required a lot more work, using power-ups in your spare hand akin to Shooty Skies: Overdrive might have felt more appropriate and useful. There’s so much missed potential to have implemented deeper mechanics using the second hand — something like a slow time power-up would have been useful when there’s lot of items to shoot at once. Instead, you just have a sluggish duplication of your primary weapon, but with less reliable aim.
The weapons’ sound effects are incredibly lackluster, which is only compounded by the massive oversight of having absolutely no haptic feedback at all when shooting. Even just some basic vibration for each shot would help inject a bit more immersion and presence into the game — without it, the weapons feel quite soulless.
Also new to the Quest is the addition of scoreboards, allowing you to record and view your high scores and also compete against your Oculus friends. It’s a nice touch and it’s good to see more games embrace the Oculus leaderboard system, but it’s undermined by Combat Coaster’s very basic scoring system and quickly-repetitive gameplay. This does not feel like a game that you want to return to over several months to see if you can beat your friend’s high score — it just doesn’t have the depth of equivalent arcade games like Beat Saber or Pistol Whip that are available on the Quest.
A Smooth Ride
Perhaps one positive element of Combat Coaster is the performance, which is rock solid. In my time with the game, I encountered no stutters and no visible performance drops. Given the nature of the game — a fast moving roller coaster with sometimes large environments — this is a big win. It’s an experience that could invoke nausea for those who are sensitive to artificial movement, so it’s great that performance is stable, as to not make any potential nausea worse.
On the topic of comfort, there is no getting around Combat Coaster’s fast artificial movement — it’s the nature of the game. I can be quite susceptible to VR sickness after a lot of artificial movement, but I still felt relatively comfortable after a few rides. The development team claims that Combat Coaster is the VR rollercoaster that won’t make you sick, and that was mostly true in my experience. It probably helps that you’ll likely only play Combat Coaster in short bursts, both due to its design and its repetition. That being said, those who are particularly susceptible to nausea should still take care.
Combat Coaster Oculus Quest Review: Final Thoughts
Combat Coaster is another example of an Oculus Go-era game that feels woefully dated on Oculus Quest, despite the additions of some new content and upgraded features. Everything about the game is paper thin in depth — the coaster themes are serviceable but not great, the guns feel incredibly underwhelming to use and the campaign is insubstantial. Much like Fail Factory! and last week’s Wonderglade, this is a game that should have stayed in the past — it has not fared well in its the transition to Quest.
There’s an argument to be made that the meat of Combat Coaster is found in competing against friends for a high score on the leaderboard, either online or in-person. However, the gameplay and scoring system is so bare-bones that I can’t see anyone enjoying playing the levels multiple times to beat a personal record, let alone doing so consistently over a long period of time. There’s simply not enough depth to make the experience enjoyable time and time again — after a few coasters, you’ve pretty much seen it all, with little incentive to come back for more.
It’s a shame and a major missed opportunity — the bones of the Oculus Go version could have been used to develop a stronger, refreshed offering on Quest. There was potential to put out a game that could stand strong against similar arcade titles in the Quest library, but sadly this port just seems shallow and outdated. The minor changes and new content additions are simply not enough. With so many innovative, groundbreaking and inspiring experiences on Quest, there are few reasons to recommend Combat Coaster instead.
Combat Coaster is available from today for Oculus Quest on the Oculus Store. For more on how we arrived at this verdict, see the UploadVR Review Scale below and check out our review guidelines.
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