Let’s get this out of the way up front – Red Matter is what you pull out to showcase what the PS5 and PSVR2 is capable of delivering in the VR space. A gorgeous puzzler, this game sets a very high bar for everyone else. Take notice – this is how it’s done.
In Red Matter, you are put in the space boots of Agent Epsilon of the Atlantic Union. Dispatched to Strelka N3, a secret Volgravian research facility on Rhea, one of Saturn’s moons, your job is to figure out what happened to its inhabitants. Inside the station lies the data set that will help you discover what happened, but that’s not all that lies inside…
At its core, Red Matter is a linear puzzle adventure game. There are some occasional action moments, but most of your efforts revolve around solving puzzles and discovering the rich storyline.
To help bring the world to life, the team at Vertical Robot has upgraded every single texture in the game to a gorgeous 4K resolution. Using foveated rendering, the team is able to push the Unreal Engine 4-powered game to its limits, and it shows. Better still, for those watching on the TV, it’s still a graphical powerhouse. Another bar raised – the game looks the part.
Red Matter is a highly interactive world. There are a ton of elements that can be manipulated, you can read all of the signs, and there’s a great deal of background information just waiting to be explored. To help with that, you have a device in each hand that can be used as a flashlight, claw, or a scanner. The scanner can read data discs you find, translate signs from Russian to English, and scan the various symbols and objects you find in the environment. To help you keep it all straight, looking at the device itself you can see that your real-world motions affect the device. Pressing up has your Agent manipulate the controls, causing the end to transform. It’s one of a great many small details that raise the immersion to a level rarely seen in VR games.
The game supports both smooth motion or teleportation. The teleportation is handled well as it’s masked as you simply using your jetpack to slowly ambulate into position. You can use both, and I found myself doing exactly that. The blend serves the game well, as I experienced zero nausea while playing. I normally suffer a bit in VR, Red Matter’s unshakable 90 fps frame rate with zero reprojection makes it all incredibly smooth. If you do need additional help, you also have snap movements, vignetting, and of course turning in the real world. Like most games, your mileage may vary, but it’s appreciated that the devs allow you to use any and all of them until you find what you need to enjoy the experience in the space you have available.
Another element Red Matter absolutely nails is its overall atmosphere. The station feels sparse and clinical in spaces, but teeming with evidence of life in others. Cracking open a locker you might find a wealth of backstory on a character. Sure, it’s told in a restrained “but we are Russian” kind of way, but it makes the whole thing feel lived in. The station is deserted for reasons I won’t spoil, but after a while it works in favor of the overall atmosphere. Paranoia sets in, as does dread that something awful is waiting right around the corner. I can say no more without ruining the surprise.
My only complaint with Red Matter came late in the experience. A few puzzles fell outside of the usual boundaries of logical deduction. Honestly, I’m reaching even for that – there’s so much to like here that it’s damned near perfect.
The run time for Red Matter is just three or so hours, and being linear, it’s unlikely you’ll go back for another bite. That said, this is still one to have in your inventory of VR games as the intuitive nature and gorgeous presentation makes it a showcase for the platform. If you happened to have picked this up on PlayStation 4 / PSVR1, then you’ll get Red Matter for free! If not, the full price cost is just $19.99. It’s hard to beat that for this level of quality, and it preps us all for Red Matter 2.
Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming.
Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter.
Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 27 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
Red Matter showcases what happens when you make VR interactivity the star, and lean into giving the player as much control as possible. The interactivity, immersion, and presentation are top shelf, and the atmosphere is one you shouldn’t miss.