If you pop onto the Internet and ask Google what games you should play for your shiny new HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, one game is going to make its way onto every list — Raw Data. Having just picked up an HTC Vive, and seeing that much positive over a game in Early Access, I figured I’d leap in and see what all of the hype was about.

Raw Data takes place in Neo-Shinjuku in the year 2271. In true Cyberpunk fiction form, a Japanese keiretsu (company conglomerates) named Eden Corporation (and likely sōkaiya – aka Japanese corporate mafia) has taken over the world. You are on the opposite side of that slick chrome exterior, a hacker in a terribly-named group, SyndiK8. Your role is simple — infiltrate, extract data, and then escape.

Ok, so the story won’t win any awards, but virtual reality hasn’t been about story so much as experience.

That’s not jelly on his face…

Raw Data, at its core, is a wave-based shooter. However, leaving it there would be cutting it short and wouldn’t properly encapsulate what the game offers. As you enter the cold and spacious interiors of Eden’s corporate HQ, you’ll see the other feature that makes Raw Data special — it’s co-op.

Currently, there are three characters to choose from — a fourth slot being listed as “coming soon” and sporting a silhouette of a compound bow user. Bishop is a “Gun Cleric” (a nice nod to the movie Equilibrium), Saija is a Cyber Ninja (again, a nod to Metal Gear’s Raiden), and Boss is a Street Merc (somewhat of a heavy gunner archetype). Each one has special powers that makes each of them play in a unique way, growing over time as you level them up.

Bishop starts with a single pistol (grabbed with the side buttons on the Vive controller) on your dominant hip (it’s a toggle to move it to the left or right), and a clip on the opposite. With just 15 bullets, you’ll be reloading frequently. Charged shot lets you power up his gun to initiate some splash damage. Eventually, Bishop gets access to dual pistols and the ability to reload with a quick snap to your hips. Fusion Charged Shot lets you combine the dual pistol charged shot, combining them into a vortex of destruction as you push the two controllers together and aim them downrange. If you are a fan of ripping apart foes with dual pistols, Bishop is your man.

Pistols akimbo

Saija is my personal favorite. A cybernetic ninja, she is armed with only a katana made of energy. This means getting up close and personal for rapid slashes, or throwing it (with a press of the side button) like a lightsaber, though this does mean being without a weapon until it boomerangs back. The blade also has the added benefit of being able to deflect incoming fire, reflecting the shot back at the offending enemy. Eventually Saija learns the ability to throw shurikens — useful for robots who pack an explosive punch when they die. Closing the “Jedi” loop, she eventually picks up an ability called Gravity Thrust, pulling enemies towards or shoving them away as best fits the situation.

Boss is the shotgunner of the group. His weapon is a pump-action shotgun that alt-fires grenades for splash damage fun. This manual reload action of pumping the shotgun builds a real interactive touch, making for some hilarious looking moments for those watching you play. His powers eventually allow a quick reload by tapping your shoulder, and also expanding the barrel to four shells for less frequent reloads.

The game creates a fantastic cyberpunk setting.

All characters eventually unlock a pair of Ultimate abilities. As an example, Bishop has a Timewarp that is essentially bullet time, as well as Bulletstorm, which unleashes a torrent of bullets without depleting ammunition. Saija earns Telekinesis which allows her to lift enemies in the air and then hurl them at their friends, and Levitation Smash which allows her to leap into the air and then smash into the ground, taking out everyone around her. Boss’s Ultimate ability pops enemies in the air and then peppers them with hot burning chunks of metal.

My time with each character was markedly different. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses, and they all felt like they had a sweet spot. Better yet, when teaming up with other players (a completely seamless process, by the way, merely adding your partner and more enemies to the mix) you could feel each settle into a niche role that served the gaps of the team.

Unreal Engine 4 makes this game beautiful.

As the waves progress the robots go from being melee only to armed with guns, escorted by larger armored rocket launching bots, flying drones, invisible sword-wielding ninja robots, lasers that crisscross the environment, and more. Using your hacking skills, you’ll be able to deploy shields, rewire turrets, and turn the tables on the enemy. There are some elements that are still being tuned, but it’s already remarkably polished for a horde-like action shooter.

Like many VR games, Raw Data uses a teleportation method to move around. Called “Teleshift”, the trackpad aims a purple arch that allows you to move around as fast as you’d like. Thankfully, this fast-paced action and movement style caused me no nausea issues whatsoever. No matter how many enemies attacked me, and regardless of how fast I zipped around, there wasn’t even a hint of nausea or headache-inducing issues.

So what’s next for Raw Data as it trundles down its active development Early Access path? Well, the aforementioned hero (Rogue Hunter) is coming shortly, as are new mission types, foes, and powers. While they are also offering up bug and stability fixes, the only issues I saw were related to translating tracked motion for my co-op partner (he looked like a pretzel as his arms twisted about). I never saw any stability, framerate, or bug-related issues.

The bots get mighty big…

Having spent the last few months fully immersed in the VR space, there are a lot of games that boil down to simple tech demos or half-baked ideas. Raw Data stands head and shoulders above, offering up a stable and compelling experience. Developer Survios has knocked it out of the park, and we haven’t even seen everything they’ve got up their sleeves.

Stay tuned for our continued coverage of Raw Data.