I Expect You to Die is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most fun I’ve ever had in a VR experience so far. It could be perhaps I am biased as a renowned James Bond enthusiast, or because I’m obsessed with all things spy-themed, but it’s safe to say that I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game much more than the average gamer would. I’ll admit, I haven’t spent much time with my PlayStation VR since I purchased one last year, primarily because of an ever-growing backlog of games I’ve been chipping away at, but also because the four other PlayStation VR games I own present significant complications. Until Dawn: Rush of Blood makes my anxiety skyrocket, I’m terrified of heights and the dinosaur in the batcave makes Batman VR a bit of a challenge, I haven’t the gumption to set foot inside the Baker manor in Resident Evil 7, and I’ve played PlayStation VR Worlds — namely The London Heist — to death. Nevertheless, I’ve had I Expect You to Die on my radar since its launch in December 2016 and I figured it was high time to have another go at immersing myself in the virtual world.
It’s worth mentioning that right off the bat, I Expect You to Die feels like a bonafide, classic James Bond experience with a reminiscent opening cinematic and ludicrously catchy theme song sung by the talented Bonnie Bogovich. With the introductory cinematic demanding a standing ovation, the game begins with a debriefing by an off-screen director of the spy organization the player-character works for, in a comfortable office resembling that of MI6. The protagonist’s office serves as an interlude space between missions and is the central hub for the game — from here, the player may toy around with objects contained therein, including mementos from completed missions, as well as select and replay missions, the introduction cinematic, spy training, and end credits at will. Aside from that, there isn’t much else by way of interactive elements in the office, and trust me, I spent quite a bit of time searching for Easter eggs and hidden secrets.
The premise for I Expect You to Die is a rather simple and straightforward one — step into the shoes of a well-seasoned secret agent and embark on increasingly challenging missions to stop Zoraxis, a nefarious global weapons manufacturer and pharmaceutical corporation. With a rather disappointing mission list of four operations, you must complete each mission using problem-solving skills and your natural wits, as well as your agent’s telekinesis powers. There’s nothing inherently supernatural about I Expect You to Die, as the telekinesis powers serve as to simply be able to interact with objects out of natural reach, but it thematically works rather well. At times, your agent’s telekinesis powers are useful to aid in collecting or interacting with objects, but at some key moments of the game, the powers become rather necessary to proceed. For example, in the second operation, ‘Squeaky Clean,’ you’re standing on a window washing platform outside a skyscraper and must complete your mission from the outside of the building — this is where the player-character’s telekinesis is required.
Four missions? You caught that, huh? Yeah, that caught me by surprise as well — I Expect You to Die unfortunately suffers from short-game-syndrome — and it wasn’t until I finished the game did I realize that it was offensively short and had a “Damn, that was all?” moment. It’s not inherently because the game was so absolutely excellent that I didn’t want it to end — well, technically that is true — but the primary issue is that the game could have very well been twice as long. I must confess that there is a tremendous replay value given the fact that there’s challenges to complete in each operation and in some operations, more than one way to complete it, but it’s still easy to be disappointed with I Expect You to Die being able to be finished in under an hour. I clocked in somewhere over two hours due to the initial challenge, but upon my second playthrough, I managed to finish all four operations in under 30 minutes altogether. Naturally, replay value is subjective, so I will expect a lot of players to have a hard time justifying the game’s asking price when taking into account its short completion time.
I Expect You to Die is essentially, for all intents and purposes, an escape-the-room puzzle game with absolutely no combat or violence whatsoever. As a matter of fact, there’s really only one mission where shooting a gun is entirely necessary and that’s for breaking a window. It may be disappointing to some, but it serves as a reminder that when executed correctly, these kinds of games don’t necessarily need gun-toting warfare, and I Expect You to Die has its own share of action elements in its own right, albeit non-traditional. It’s a smart, cunning, and creative experience that earned several well-deserved awards before it even launched, and upon playing through the game, the justification for earning those awards are terrifically evident. Each operation grows progressively challenging, but never once truly feels frustrating. With being a fully immersive and interactive experience, it is simply fun and conquering each operation’s puzzles is thrilling and terribly satisfying.
Overall, I Expect You to Die is one of my favorite video games of all time and it’s easily the best experience I’ve had in virtual reality so far. As short as it is, it’s remarkably memorable and terribly entertaining to the point where you want to continuously play it and invite your friends and family over to have a go. While it falls short on things to do post-completion, each mission has hidden secrets and the mission completion screen back in the HQ office will show you any key moments you’ve achieved or missed, and their names serve as clues on how to achieve them. You’re also encouraged to participate in speed runs of each assignment and complete it in the shortest time possible. It’s hard to say that I Expect You to Die falls short on anything — its theme, execution, and methods work wonderfully together — but for a $25 price tag, I was really expecting more gameplay for my dollar.
I Expect You to Die is available now digitally for PlayStation VR and Oculus Rift.
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