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Broken Spectre Review: A Cosmic Horror Experience That Stays With You

EDITORS' RATING : 9 / 10
Pros
  • Hand tracking system creates effectively immerses you in the world
  • A looming sense of dread and foreboding does more than any jump scare could
  • A gripping narrative that keeps you wanting to learn more
  • No VR sickness experienced during our playthrough
Cons
  • The hand tracking system can sometimes be a bit finicky
  • Some of the themes can be especially triggering

A Meta Quest 2 review code for "Broken Spectre" was provided to Zaaz for this review. The game is available now on Meta Quest and Quest 2.

In the vast landscape of virtual reality gaming, where jump scares and cheap thrills often dominate the horror genre, "Broken Spectre" emerges as a refreshing and immersive gem that taps into the depths of cosmic horror and dread. This captivating VR game takes you on a haunting journey through the mountains of Northern Canada, unraveling a mystery shrouded in darkness and foreboding. With its innovative hand-tracking system, constant feeling of dread, and absence of VR sickness, "Broken Spectre" redefines the VR horror genre and delivers an experience that will stick with you long after you finish it — for better or for worse.

You take on the role of Casey, a troubled young woman who returns to her family's remote mountain cabin in the woods and follows the cryptic, otherworldly messages from her missing father. As you explore each environment and slowly piece together the story of what happened to your father, you must keep an ever-watchful eye out for the unseen horrors that lurk within. The game draws heavily on classic Lovecraftian cosmic horror storytelling tropes such as ancient curses and sentient abominations. Add to that the fact that the game also comes from one of the creators of "The Blair Witch," and you have yourself a title that features an atmosphere full of suspense and dread that carries throughout the game.

Immersion beyond controllers

One of the standout features of "Broken Spectre" is its hand-tracking controls, which offer a level of responsiveness and intuitiveness that is rarely successful in most VR games. From the moment you embark on your journey, the hand gestures become second nature, allowing you to seamlessly navigate the game without the need for a controller. It remains an option to use them, but going all-in on hand tracking surprisingly feels more natural. The game's commitment to utilizing hand-tracking to its fullest extent creates an enjoyable VR experience, surpassing the immersive limitations of traditional controllers.

Playing without controllers is about as close to an integral part of the experience as you can get. It emphasizes the feeling of being truly present in the world of "Broken Spectre." Instinctively reaching out with only your hands and interacting with objects becomes the norm pretty quickly. What makes the experience even better is the fact that the game is very generous in how far it lets you explore the area that you are in without having to stand in one spot or "jump" to the next location on the path. Pro-tip: Be sure to have a pretty large area to play in so that you can have space to actually walk around. It will make your experience even more immersive. 

It's not necessarily a perfect system — some awkward or unresponsive controls may occur more than a handful of times. However, this level of immersion is a testament to the game's meticulous attention to detail and its commitment to pushing the boundaries of virtual reality storytelling.

Horror beyond jump scares

The roughly three-hour experience is a carefully crafted blend of exploration, puzzle-solving, and atmospheric storytelling. Traversing the forests and caves of the mountain, you uncover items and other clues that breathe life into the narrative, guiding you forward. The puzzles, while not overly challenging, strike the right balance without overstaying their welcome. This thoughtful approach ensures that the focus remains on the cosmic horror and dread, rather than frustrating roadblocks that can break the pacing.

What sets "Broken Spectre" apart within the realm of VR is its ability to create genuine horror without relying solely on jump scares. The game delves into unsettling themes (which the game clearly warns you about at the very beginning), as well as other dark elements. These moments contribute to an overwhelming sense of dread, isolation, and cosmic horror that lingers throughout the experience. While there are a few well-placed jump scares, they serve as punctuation marks rather than the main source of terror. This narrative-driven approach elevates the game to new heights, captivating players with its atmospheric storytelling and highly-physical immersion.

Several scenes require you to reach into things that you probably wouldn't want to do even in real life. The sheer sense of unease and vulnerability created by these interactions is very effective. This innovative use of body horror adds a new dimension to the genre. To be perfectly honest, it wouldn't be uncommon to find your shoulders and arms constantly hunched up in terror as you make your way through the dark and foreboding corridors and paths — or when running from something that's chasing you!

A haunting and immersive experience

"Broken Spectre" pulls you in through its art design and storytelling prowess. The visuals, though not the most impressive in terms of realism or fidelity, possess a distinct comic book style that evokes a sense of mystery and otherworldliness. The cartoonish models, while not groundbreaking, do not detract at all from the overall experience. Instead, they contribute to the game's unique atmosphere, enhancing the immersion in its haunting world.

Finally, "Broken Spectre" also executes its audio design well. The spatial audio and ambient surroundings are finely tuned to immerse you in the game's universe. The occasional music adds a bit of stark drama, heightening tension and complementing key moments of the narrative. Even the voice performances manage to eventually impress. At first, some of the dialogue is a bit cliche and easily ignorable. However, as you become fully invested in the story's mystery and its resolution, the vocal performances become a lot more convincing and add to your desire of wanting to get to the ending.

For fans of VR horror seeking an immersive and narrative-driven experience, "Broken Spectre" shouldn't be missed. It breaks free from the shackles of traditional horror titles that rely on jump-scare and offers a far more profound and interactive VR experience. Cosmic horror and dread permeate every moment, and the game's innovative hand-tracking system amplifies the sense of presence and agency. With its generous allowance for player exploration and the absence of VR sickness, Broken Spectre pushes the boundaries of virtual reality horror, setting a new standard for the genre.

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