Developers draw inspiration from all sorts of places with other videogames a common one. One franchise that’s always been admired and gleaned from is DOOM, with its wall-to-wall action, seemingly endless enemies and destructive weaponry. And that certainly seems to be the case with Joy Way’s latest title, a roguelike shooter called Dead Hook. In XR Source’s Dead Hook review, we find that for all the gun-toting action there’s little else driving this.
Joy Way is known for a number of games including Stride, Against and Stack and more. Most never make it out of early access but Dead Hook is different. That’s because it’s clearly built upon a previous game the team cancelled, Outlier. That was another roguelike game set in a fantasy world. But it never made it past an early demo, although it did seem to have potential.
Getting the right hook
While features like buffs and one of the guns have been reused, Dead Hook isn’t a simple reskin. Much in the same way wave shooters dominated the early years of VR gaming, roguelike’s have now taken over. Titles like The Light Brigade and Battle Talent are all fighting in this niche, trying to offer unique ideas and gameplay opportunities.
Like any roguelike Dead Hook covers the basics well. Each ‘run’ offers you new guns to try out, new buffs to augment your character for that particular session, multiple paths to choose and once you die (and you will, many times) a hub to upgrade your core stats.
What Dead Hook brings to the table is VR grappling freedom combined with Doom Eternal-style lunacy. With a basic narrative which puts you in the shoes of mercenary Adam Stone sent to explore the planet Resaract – none of which actually matters – what you’re faced with is rooms full of nasty demonic entities called Eternals. They all need to see the underside of your boot, or more specifically the dangerous end of the guns you’re wielding.
Dead Hook offers up a tasty array of weaponry to dispatch the Eternals, with base abilities like a kinetic push and built-in swords ready in an instant for melee combat. Most of the time though, the guns provide the core firepower. Only two can be held at one time – both over each shoulder, not on your hip. Pistols, shotguns, assault rifles and a host of alien weaponry are at play here, all completely randomised for each run.
I found myself using the guns way more than the swords for one simple reason, a lot of the time I was grappling around each arena shooting enemies in mid-air. There are grappling hooks on each hand so it’s easy to get your Tarzan on and barely ever touch the ground. Dead Hook makes this locomotion mechanic smooth and easily accessible, although some may find the vertical action quite intense at points.
But my favourite mechanic in parallel to the grappling hooks was the reload feature. On the top of each human weapon, there’s a handle. Once the gun is dry all you do is cock the handle and away you go. It’s even possible to reload either weapon whilst still dual-wielding! Dead Hook’s gameplay is electric thanks to this combo. Swinging around hellscape arenas unleashing volley after volley of projectiles at foes. It becomes a lot of fun.
Less is more…
Completing rooms will unlock two pathways, offering different enemy types, challenges and unlocks. One of the most common is the range of powerups and buffs available. Only available until your next death, these can provide health bonuses or abilities like bullets being able to ricochet.
Once you do die you’ll return to a spaceship to upgrade your character or practice using new weapons you’ve unlocked. These upgrades are permanent, improving health, armour and other various stats. The upgrade system, however, is one aspect I’m not particularly keen on. It involves several machines that you swap ingredients between, with each upgrade requiring a different recipe. While I understand Joy Way’s approach is to make this process immersive and clearly tailored to VR interaction, it feels unnecessarily convoluted and too clever for its own good. Dead Hook is a game about getting back into the action, not faffing around with a chemistry set.
Although some may find the upgrade process a welcome break from all the repetition. Roguelikes are always about grinding and repetition, making it that little bit further so you can upgrade and push further still. Yet Dead Hook exemplifies this more than others, made worse by the limited number of mission types and scenery. It’s a blast for an hour but then you’ll want a break because you’ll feel like you’ve seen it all.
Dead Hook Review Summary
If you ever wanted to play a Doom roguelike then Dead Hook is it – just look at the artwork! Dead Hook is one of those games that can quickly put a smile on your face. The gameplay action is intense and exhilarating and it’s easy to wonder why more VR games aren’t like this. On the other hand, with no narrative to drive you and only the desire to complete the game, you’ll start to notice Dead Hook’s basic gameplay facade. Great in small doses but very repetitious in longer sessions, Dead Hook is for those who love a good Rambo or The Expendables movie.