The developers of Duck Season and Hover Junkers have recently re-introduced Boneworks to the VR gaming industry. Let's just say they've got our full attention. What originally started out as a playground to test various VR gaming physics concepts, has now blossomed into a full featured game, complete with a narrative, combat, weapons and enemies.
Of course, the real star of the show is the physics and interactivity. The Steam page for Boneworks actually warns potential suitors about "advanced VR mechanics and concepts". They recommend players have some previous VR experience, to be able to grapple with the advanced controls. It's these more in-depth control options, combined with Valve's new Knuckles controller, that takes the whole production to never before seen levels. We could be looking at one of the first VR games of a new, more advanced generation.
The other aspect of this game that has the whole industry buzzing, is it's strong resemblance to 3 beloved Valve properties. Half-Life, Portal and The Lab all seem to heavily influence the art style and tone Boneworks is delivering. You've got the crowbar, headcrabs and gravity gun of Half-Life 2. You've got the snarky A.I., "MythOs" that will remind many of GLaDOS from the Portal series. (likely many Portal-esque puzzle scenarios as well) Finally, many of the environments look extremely similar to Valve's own VR powerhouse, "The Lab".
The Valve/Stress Level Zero connection doesn't end there. The two companies seem to be collaborating to some degree, along with development and feedback on Valve's new Knuckles controllers. Gabe Newell, co-founder of Valve, has frequently mentioned how Nintendo designed Mario 64 at the same time they designed their new controller. Development of the two went hand in hand. We know Valve is working on 3 mystery games, but a close 3rd party partner like Stress Level Zero could be invaluable in helping them with feedback on Knuckles. With the new controllers seeming so integral to the core experience, I'd expect both products to ship in the same general time frame.
The animation above does a wonderful job of demonstrating how realistic the interactions appear within one of the Test Lab's environments. First, the player uses two crowbars to effectively extend his reach when leaping to the railing. You also see the realistic physics model in action, as he swings from a single crowbar. The weight of his body mass appears to be too much, for the single crowbar to support, thus he tumbles downwards.
These advanced physics that Stress Level Zero have implemented allow for their universal rules to remain consistent throughout all interactions and environments. This allows players to use their imaginations and experiment with all kinds of tricks and maneuvers. Some of which could work brilliantly or fail spectacularly, but either way the player will be rewarded with unique and varied gameplay. All of which could be even more engrossing when experienced with the added immersion that only VR can provide.
I can tell you this, all of us here at VR Game Rankings are extremely excited and hyped for the arrival of both Boneworks and Valve's new Knuckles controllers. The combination looks like a real breakthrough in next-generation VR gameplay. This is exactly the kind of shot in the arm the whole VR industry needs right now. All we need is Valve to hurry up and launch the controllers already and hopefully Stress Level Zero can put the finishing touches on what looks like an absolutely fantastic experience! Boneworks is currently scheduled to arrive later in 2019. We'll keep you updated.