Shooting galleries at funfairs were one of the best reasons to go no matter what the weather was like. Pitting those aiming skills against stationary objects just waiting to be knocked over, hopefully winning a prize in the process. Nowadays those types of amusements are in decline because videogames – virtual reality (VR) in particular – can offer so much more entertainment. The closest example to those classic games are wave shooters, where you don’t need to worry about movement, it’s all about survival and accuracy. The latest example of this is Scraper: Gauntlet by Labrodex Studios.
Having previously released Scraper: First Strike back in 2018, a free-roaming first-person shooter (FPS) with role-playing game (RPG) elements, the studio wanted to continue that universe but offer a far more arcade-style experience. So there’s no running around, looking for supplies and crafting items, you’re now armed to the teeth with enemies to slaughter.
The premise behind the Scraper storyline is that in the future humanity is fighting for survival against an AI and hordes of robots at its command. In this title, you’re sent to a secret underground facility to retrieve plans to a secret weapon codenamed TWS (Tri-Weapon System). It’s essentially a gauntlet worn over your lower arm bristling with an assortment of firepower. Upon arrival, however, the blueprints are found to be corrupted with the only way to restore them is to step into a computer simulation and fight through waves of enemies. Sounds completely plausible…
As the name suggests the TWS houses three core armaments which can be upgraded and modified (more on this later) as you progress. You start by actually building the thing, which might be a minor task yet offers a nice touch to the proceedings, getting you acquainted with the weapon. There are other little additions which show Labrodex’s attention to detail, from the way modifiers work to the enemy roster in the AI Lab.
So the core features are the mini-gun style Interrogator, a bouncing grenade called the Trajector and a charged energy beam dubbed Pulsar. These cover all your basic attacking needs in one, the Interrogator for peppering an area and taking down close to medium range enemies. The Pulsar is great for long-range situations and the Trajector is perfectly suited to those robots which like to hide behind cover – and they do. All their stats can be heavily upgraded but you don’t need to stop there as they can be swapped out the further you progress.
And why stop there. In addition to those three are the chest-mounted kinetic knife which stuns the robots, a shield on each gauntlet to stop any incoming fire. And a personal favourite, the Fluctuator. Essentially mimicking force grab from Star Wars you can pick them up, throw them across the room, smash them into a wall or shoot them to regain health. While it’s fun to experiment with all of these you’ll soon find a few favourites and stick with them because more awaits.
Options, options and more options. The problem with wave shooters is they can become very repetitious over time, with developers using the tried and tested method of ridiculously upping the difficulty to slow progression and extend the experience. This can turn what was an exciting videogame into a chore, with only the diehard completionists reaching the end. Scraper: Gauntlet has seemingly noted this, offering what VRFocus thinks is one of the best option selections of any shooter of this type.
These can be split into three groups, Stats, Mods and Mutators. The Stats offer your main upgrade paths such as fire rate, blast radius, shield regen and upping your health. The Mods, on the other hand, swap out your core guns for variants. Change the mini-gun to a shotgun, give the Pulsar a hair-trigger or dispense with the bouncing grenade and select the super useful and destructive Vortex Bombs (mini black holes). Lastly, the Mutators help to mix up the gameplay options in each level, enemies are more accurate, have better shields, spawn as elites straight away, you get the gist.
At the main console you’re given three mission options. Each one will offer a set number of waves, a specific Mutator and a single upgrade point for a weapon, shield or core. Once the mission is complete these options will randomly change. Additionally, depending on the number of waves after a couple you’ll be given a choice of two Mutators to change up the gameplay.
That’s what’s enjoyable about Scraper: Gauntlet the variety. Yes, you are standing in one spot the entire time watching as more robots spawn in to attack like a conveyor belt but if that’s all the gameplay was it wouldn’t be worth a second look. Thankfully, as mentioned the robots aren’t as thick as pig poop and do get into cover. Depending on the level they even move cover to get in closer, it’s great to see action then reaction. Some do charge straight in spinning laser staffs of death while others snipe from afar. You’re even treated to boss fights which help bring a sense of grandeur to the end of each segment.
If you’re after a VR title that’s big on adventure and elaborate quests then videogames like Stormland, Borderlands 2 VR, The Mage’s Tale, Asgard’s Wrath and others offer that sort of experience. However, when you can’t be bothered with all that fuss and want a pickup and play shooter Scraper: Gauntlet is a solid option with polished visuals and gameplay mechanics. Plus, it’s not stupidly priced.