Are you afraid of the dark?
Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before. A group of scientists working in a secret installation have managed to open a gateway into another dimension. Now, otherworldly monsters are pouring through the rift and ripping apart anyone unfortunate enough to get in their way. Sound familiar? It should. Some of the most iconic shooters of our time such as DOOM and Half-LIfe have used this simple narrative device to great effect, pitting man against hordes of inter-dimensional nightmare creatures in a fight to save humanity.
Phosphor Games’ latest release, The Brookhaven Experiment, is another title that treads this familiar path. However, while the previously mentioned games provided the player free reign to explore their derelict military bases and laboratories, what we have here is instead a stationary wave shooter that puts a premium on resource management and superb audio direction to create a tense and engaging experience that’s a perfect fit for virtual reality.
The controls are simple to pick up and get the hang of. The game uses two Move motion controllers, one to aim and shoot your gun and hurl special weapons, and the other to use your flashlight and combat knife. The PSVR’s motion tracking works great when it comes to aiming your guns and flashlight. And swapping between your weapons and different types of ammo and sub-weapons is effortless, leaving you to focus on what’s important – turning alien invaders into puddles of twitching meat! And trust me, you’re going to come across plenty of bloodthirsty monsters during your stay in Brookhaven.
The game’s roughly two-hour campaign mode is the star of the show. It’s here where you’ll fight for survival in a variety of gloomy locales. Your tour of duty will take you from dark fields to abandoned factories, ruined labs, and other inhospitable settings. At first, simple enemies like zombies and weird mutated creatures will shamble slowly towards you from all sides. However, before long much more dangerous creatures are introduced who can quickly overwhelm the player if they’re not careful. These baddies range from fast-moving zombie babies that attack in swarms and scorpion-like enemies who can blind you with balls of webbing that you’ll actually need to shake off. I found the most intimidating of the bunch to be these towering monsters who share a striking resemblance to DOOM’s Hell Knights. These mountains of muscle shake the entire screen as they stomp towards you, and have the power to kill you in a single blow. Thankfully, these new threats are added to the mix in a slow drip, allowing you to get a feel for each enemy type’s strategies before the next one is introduced.
While most wave shooters are fast-paced thrill rides, The Brookhaven Experiment is a more methodical affair. This works to its advantage though, as it allows the player to become immersed in the game’s eerie atmosphere. Each area is incredibly dark and foreboding, and you’ll often have little more than your flashlight to illuminate your surroundings. The thing is, your battery only has a limited charge. So you’ll instead want to keep an ear out to hear where your threats are approaching from. There were times where I literally jumped when I heard a branch snap or grass shuffle behind me, betraying the location of a monster just several paces away. This pervasive darkness combined with very limited ammo come together to create an experience that can be genuinely terrifying at times. The first time I found myself out of ammo, fending off hordes of zombies with just a knife I swear I could feel my heart beating in my throat. It’s moments like these when you feel the most helpless that The Brookhaven Experiment shines its brightest.
Thankfully, you do get a pretty sizable arsenal of weapons to help even the odds against these alien invaders. Shining your flashlight around each stage will reveal hidden supply crates which can be shot to unlock new weapons, accessories, and types of ammo that you can equip between rounds. Your pistol may be fine in the beginning, but before long you’ll want to upgrade to machine guns, a magnum pistol, or a shotgun to beat back the more powerful enemies you’ll begin to encounter. You’ll also unlock a number of different types of grenades and mines which can be used to set up a defensive perimeter to give you some more breathing room. I often found myself lobbing several chemical grenades around me at the start of each round because their sticky, corrosive puddles do a great job of slowing down monsters while chipping away their health. Flare guns also prove to be a godsend, as they deliver an incredibly powerful blast that can illuminate an entire area of the stage for an extended period of time, allowing you to conserve those precious flashlight batteries.
Unfortunately, while these sub-weapons are incredibly useful, using them can be a bit tricky. All too often did I find myself accidentally dropping a grenade at me feet when I meant to send it rolling down the corridor towards a horde of flesh-eating ghouls. Other times I’d do nothing to change my throwing technique only to have the next throw whiz far beyond my targets. Considering how vital to your survival these items become later in the game, this inconsistency can prove to be a real headache that can turn what would have been a near-perfect run into a messy disaster in no time. Despite these occasional control issues, The Brookhaven Experiment still manages to be a very enjoyable addition to the PSVR’s library. Clocking in at about two hours, the main campaign is a blood-soaked romp that will keep players on their toes from beginning to end. The game also has plenty of replay value thanks to the hidden weapons to find in each stage along with the addition of a welcome Survival Mode to test your monster-slaying mettle.
When all is said and done, The Brookhaven Experiment may not be the deepest shooter out there, but it doesn’t need to be. With a satisfying campaign and plenty of firepower to experiment with, the game does plenty to justify its $20 asking price. Just be sure to stock up on night lights. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed) ; Publisher: Phosphor Games ; Developer: Phosphor Games ; Players: 1 ; Released: October 13, 2016 ; MSRP: $19.99 ; ESRB: M for Mature
Full Disclosure: This review was based on a PS4 copy of The Brookhaven Experiment provided by the game’s publisher.