The United States of America is currently caught amidst a huge gun debate. On the 24th of March it was estimated that between one and two million people took place in a massive protest across the country, labelled ‘March for Our Lives’. The intent was to indicate a desire for gun control. Which the issue very topical, it is almost fitting that ‘The American Dream VR’ would release in the same month. The game is “a satirical virtual reality trip to a ‘brighter future’ where your everyday needs are solved by guns”. Due to the nature of this game and its content, we’ve included a section with the thoughts of an American gun owner, one of the other writers on this site; Charles Kyle. We thought using multiple opinions from people of different background would really suit this game’s controversial subject matter.
Release Date: 14th March 2018
Price: £15.99, $19.99
Genre: On rails shooter/satirical walking simulator (despite you always being seated)
Developed by: Samurai Punk
Published by: Samurai Punk
Reviewed on PS4, PS VR and Move wands required. Also available on Steam with HTC Vive and Oculus Rift Support.
I hope you’ve watched that trailer. If you have you’re probably horrified. How can they get away with this in this day and age? Honestly, when I first started playing, the premise made me relatively uncomfortable. There was something about playing as a baby shooting my mother that just didn’t sit right. Then the epiphany came; it’s a video game. The primary function is to allow a player to have fun. How many times in sandbox games have we shot the person giving us instructions? Preston in Fallout 4, I’m looking down my barrel at you. Once you remove yourself from the initial discomfort of the premise there’s actually quite a clever adventure here. You’re guided by a talking dog named Buddy Washington. Buddy is the quintessential patriot. Everything from his starred color to his excellent accent shows off his Americanism.
Is it the American Dream to have guns for hands? In the current climate you’d be forgiven for thinking that some people would love this, and the game’s story does an excellent job of taking you through a variety of situations that really mocks the absurdity of the premise. Buddy proceeds to lead you through 22 on rails chapters, ranging from a literal shotgun wedding to fishing to burger flipping. I don’t want to spoil too much, half the fun of these is discovering the absurdity of the situation. Once dance off moment is genuinely fantastic. The most important aspect of the story is how your daily life revolves around the usage of guns. Want to knock on a door? Shoot it. Want to flip a burger? Get it shot. Want to choose your crush from the girls living across the street? Look down your scope, pick her out and get the bullet fired. The story’s biggest issue is that it doesn’t go far enough with its message. Every chapter essentially makes the same joke until the end, which tries to make a statement about the nature of the owner rather than the weapons themselves. For me it worked, I understood the moral of the tale perfectly, I just wished the developer had incorporated more aspects of the political situation surrounding the issue in order to keep the jokes fresh through the game’s three to four hour run time.
The game sees you sitting in a cart that is most like a rollercoaster car. At each side you have a button that you can press to shoot out a magazine allowing you to reload your weapons. The cart moves from room to room, each room representing an important moment of an American citizen’s growth. Each area has a variety of shooting challenges that you undertake while Buddy narrates. The game has a small variety of weapons, from pistols to fire spouting pump shotguns. Despite only five varieties of weapons through the game’s 22 chapters, each plays genuinely different. The shotgun feels powerful. Reloading the pistols feels great, you use the move controllers to hit the reload buttons then positions your guns so that the magazine flies straight in. It feels like a moment straight out an action movie. The game’s biggest problem is that the action just doesn’t work. The controls weren’t designed with more high octane gameplay in mind, but are instead more suitable to the simple target range scenarios or even an excellent boss fight encounter that sees you on a boat. The gameplay here is just a means to an end though. It’s designed to give the player something to do while they experience the true star, the comedy. Buddy’s lines are funny, and there’s something about the game that will put a smile on your face.
Graphics and Sound
The game uses its simple aesthetic very well. It keeps the environment clean and uncluttered so that objectives are clear. Each character is a 2D wooden stand. They all look unique and Buddy manages to give them a personality in his description. Throughout the game each different area feels aesthetically unique. As this is a virtual reality game I’d like to point out that I had very little issues. Only the move controllers ever moved around a little unnaturally in game, but with this exception everything was incredibly smooth. I didn’t ever feel like I had to get out of the headset and take a break despite most of my game sessions being upwards of an hour.
The voice acting in the game is brilliant. Most characters only get one or two lines and these are acted well enough. However Buddy Washington is an absolute highlight. Voiced by Michael Dobson; who has an impressive voice work CV including Transformers and Dragon Ball, the talking labrador shines. Every line is delivered with absolute gusto, the performance really brings the satire to life and gives a genuine tone to the humor. Hopefully the actor can become involved in more video games, the narration role suited him perfectly.
The American Dream VR is a decent take on gun culture in the USA. It really does lampoon some traditional American experiences very well, the only issue is that the game only really has one joke. While the joke absolutely works, it also wears thin. The game does try to bring more elements in near the end, shifting the focus to the nature of capitalism rather than the second amendment. However, this felt tacked on and was never properly explored. The gameplay is generic enough that it will get you through each area without a lot of effort or without you feeling bored. Luckily Michael Dobson’s Buddy Washington absolutely pulls you through the game. If you go into this looking for something fun with guaranteed laughs you will be pleased. If you’re desperate for some absolutely biting satire that digs into the roots of the problems in the United States of America while also getting to play an over the top action game like Far Cry, you’ll be disappointed.