REVIEW: New VR game puts you into spy film death traps

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By nakedly referencing a famous “James Bond” movie quote in the title, “I Expect You to Die” gives you an idea of what to expect: super-spy action, with the caveat that you’re tied to a chair.

In this new virtual reality game – out now for PlayStation VR, and previously available for the Oculus Rift – you’re a secret agent that must solve and survive four deadly situations. Can you figure out how to escape from a leaky submarine stuck at the bottom of the ocean? In “I Expect You to Die,” you’ll find out.

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One of the albatrosses around the neck of this new generation of VR is that, for some people, fast virtual motion can make gaming a nauseating experience. One way around that is to set the game in a stationary (or mostly stationary) environment. Early PlayStation VR must-haves like “Batman: Arkham VR” and “Job Simulator” proved that you can sit still and feel perfectly immersed without feeling perfectly ill. “I Expect You to Die” continues on that thread; you must solve each life-threatening, world-saving puzzle using your wits and the tools scattered around you.

For example, you’re holding a bomb with three exposed wires. Every action movie you’ve ever seen tells you there’s a specific order to cut the wires. Somewhere around you are the clues you need to determine which wire to cut first (there’s an instruction card hidden nearby), as well as the knife you have to pick up to do the actual cutting (it’s in the car’s glove compartment.) Clip the wrong wire, and it explodes. “I Expect You to Die” requires a lot of learning and memorization in order to complete the mission as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The game pulls another trick to improve the depth of the puzzles, in case you were worried that this was just “James Bond in the Adventure of the Desk-Bound Puzzle Clerk.” You have a telepathic power that allows you to reach for objects far away, so you could, say, yank a book off of a shelf on the other side of the room. This ability also means you can hang objects in mid-air, which is the kind of thing that sounds really goofy but makes a lot of sense when you’re inside a three-dimensional virtual world with the space to float a screwdriver within easy reach.

“I Expect You to Die” does a great job of nailing that classic spy vibe (while staying family-friendly… this game is not simulating the openly murderous or sexy portions of the Bond library), from 1960s furniture to the game’s design elements. “Die” kicks off with an excellent homage to the animated “James Bond” title sequences, with the amazing benefit of dropping you directly into it via the magic of VR. There’s even a sultry theme song that you could probably get 4 out of 5 casual fans to swear is actually from a Bond film.

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The problem with “I Expect You to Die” is that there’s simply not enough of it, and once you’ve solved a scene there’s not much incentive to replay it. The game is so slick that reaching the finale in merely four levels can’t help but feel disappointing. There are no checkpoints, so every time you die you must start the scene from scratch. This sounds obnoxious, but, again, once you’ve mastered the solutions you can roll through each level in minutes.

The fun of “I Expect You to Die” is in that mastery. You stumble through dangerous chemical reactions and laser trip wires (don’t forget to actually duck your head to avoid the laser beam!) until you divine a path through to survival. That’s when you feel like a true super-spy movie star… who got everything right the first time.

This review is based on product supplied by the publisher. Images courtesy Schell Games.