nDreams Studios and Oculus allow you to paddle, hide, and shoot in their new military VR Stealth game where you kayak your way to espionage: Phantom: Covert Ops.
Are you a fan of Splinter Cell, Metal Gear Solid, and a nice lazy paddle in your local tributary on a crisp fall Sunday? Well, I just so happen to be precisely that person. I have enjoyed military and espionage games since Konami illegally used the image of Michael Biehn on the original NES box art for Metal Gear in July of 1987! (Oh My that was 33 years ago)
I am also a Navy veteran of the first Iraq war and love kayaking two to three times a week.
Lastly, I am currently addicted to my Oculus Quest and have been spending more time with it than with my girlfriend. So when Phantom Covert Ops tried to fly by my radar a grabbed it with both hands and did not let go.
The Game itself
nDreams Studios has made some fun titles on VR Shooty Fruity and Danger Goat so Phantom: Covert Ops seems to be a step in a more edgier direction for this studio out of England.
Like previously mentioned Phantom: Covert Ops is a VR game exclusively for Oculus devices such as the Rift S and the Quest. The quest version is self-contained on the unit and does not need a PC to play which makes it super portable. Heck, you could play in the break room at work if you chose to. The game is also cross-play so you can, in fact, play it on your full-blown gaming PC with higher graphics and goodies if you choose too. The saves are cloud-based so that you can go freely between the two options which are great. Personally I am completely satisfied with the graphics and gameplay on the quest and prefer not to be tethered to a link cable. After trying a few different things I found that playing Phantom: Covert Ops on an armless swivel stool was the best way to enjoy it.
The programmers define the game as: You are a Phantom: an elite covert operative with one night to prevent all-out war. Dispatched into hostile wetlands in your military kayak, utilize weapons and equipment to neutralize the enemy threat. Engage targets lethally or infiltrate unnoticed from the shadows. This is stealth-action redefined.
This sounds great to me so I fired it up, strapped the mask to my head, and got ready to paddle.
I erroneously first thought that Phantom: Covert Ops was an on-rails shooter as I have played many VR games like this. So I was enormously pleased to see that the motion mechanic was actually paddling the kayak. All of the physics and movement that I use in my own kayak apply to the game 1:1 which is great. I also work up a good sweat and sore shoulders which will keep my doctor happy.
In the kayak, you start with your paddle, an automatic pistol with a silencer, and a sniper rifle that is also silenced. The pistol is slung across your chest and you grab it there to activate it. Your sniper rifle is at your right side and the paddle on the left. To reload weapons you have to literally pull the ammo out of a compartment in the front of the ship and load it into your weapon which helps keep the immersion strong.
Gun sighting in Phantom: Covert Ops is natural even though I had to get used to the scope that was my own fault since when I finally locked it in it made total sense.
The concept of paddling down a river in the black sea around a base not only works but is thoroughly enjoyable. Each new guard tower or area offers a new puzzle to figure out how to handle the situation with minimum exposure and minimum use of resources. You truly cannot just blast your way through this game. Doing so will be disastrous.
Final Thoughts and Reccomendation
Phantom: Covert Ops is the VR game that stealth enthusiasts have been craving! Based on the British SBS (Special Boat Service) It was fascinating just to learn and research more about this military unit.
This game executes on all levels especially for a VR title and the $29.99 price tag is a great value for a cross title game and half the price of a AAA title.
I would say more about Phantom: Covert Ops but to be honest I would rather go back to playing it for a few more hours.
I give Phantom: Covert Ops a 9/10
A code was made available by the publisher for this review. Opinions expressed in the review are that of the writer and not the game publisher or editorial board.