Onward VR — Gun Games Get Real
VR promises to be the future of gaming, and admittedly, it’s an entirely new experience. I’ve always loved first-person shooters, and while VR doesn’t have a ton of options, the few I’ve played have been a blast. The latest one I stumbled across is called Onward. It is a slower-paced game that focuses more on realistic gameplay than run and gun. I fired it up on an Occulus Quest 2 for the last few weeks, and I’ve been testing my own mettle.
It’s a MILSIM game, meaning it tries hard to be realistic and simulate a military shooting environment. Luckily that doesn’t involve hours of boredom and standing pot. It is an action game that has you playing as one of two factions. We have MARSOC and the Volk. The Volk appears to be a Russian PMC or something like that. Each team has access to different weapons and that’s really the main difference.
It’s limited to three basic multiplayer modes. We have Uplink, where the player has to reach a computer and complete an Uplink while the other team attempts to prevent it. We have Escort, where MARSOC attempts to escort a VIP while Volk tries to prevent it. Special Ops is a mode where Volk only has knives, molotovs, night vision, and flash bangs, and MARSOC has pistols and flashlights. Volk knows where MARSOC is, but MARSOC is basically blind.
We also have player versus enemy modes. Here the players team up. They have Hunt, where you hunt down the enemy bots, and EVAC, where you survive against waves of enemies until a helo gets you out. You can play these two modes in a single-player as well. We also have a shooting range for you to practice and a free-roam mode to explore and have fun. The shooting range might be a must-have for some who are unfamiliar with how certain weapons operate.
Graphics and Story
Oh boy. There really is no story here. It’s just a MILSIM game. I guess the Volk are the bad guys, and MARSOC are the good guys. There isn’t much known about the world outside of the briefings. It paints a picture of a full-on war, but we have nothing else to follow. There is no character customization or anything like that.
Graphics are a mixed bag. VR isn’t up to PS5 standards by any means. The guns in the game are replicated well. The environments are quite plain, and the bot bad guys look terrible. They move awkwardly with some clipping to them and appear to be PS2-era graphics. It might not impress you, but it doesn’t detract too much from the experience.
The levels vary over a few different environments. They are not particularly impressive but are still fun levels with a good bit of variety in size and style. Some offer buildings that can be entered and used as cover, and others have a verticality to them that keeps things fresh.
The gameplay is a bit slow, and it’s meant to be. If you just sprint into an environment, you’re gonna catch rounds left and right. Moving through the levels really encourages you to peak across cover before moving, to avoid danger zones, and even crouch and go prone. I’m sure I look silly laying on my living room floor, but a prone position makes it easy to shoot accurately and easy to hide.
You also can’t blaze away on full auto and hope to hit anything. If you are using an assault rifle, you really want either short bursts or semi-automatic fire. Submachine guns are a little more controllable. You have no ammo indicator, so you need to watch how much you fire, or you’ll run into an empty magazine at the wrong time.
Onward encourages careful aiming and makes a variety of optics available. Once you pull that trigger, you become a target, so it’s best to be sure of what you are shooting at. There is an awesome suppression feature. If you land rounds close to a bad guy, their vision starts to blacken, and their aim gets much worse. Suppression is important in the game.
I typically hate playing online with real people, but I had a great time in Onward. One of my favorite games was playing Uplink as MARSOC. A sniper was held up in a parking garage and covering the Uplink. We got somewhat pinned down, so I pulled out my radio and started talking to a rifleman or specialist next to me. I was carrying an M249.
We had a general idea of where the sniper was, and we devised a plan. He tossed a smoke grenade and crossed to the parking garage to kill the sniper. I would lay down suppressing fire at where we thought the sniper was. If he took me out, the guy could still get to the parking garage and take him out. If he took out the riflemen, I’d lay fire on wherever he was shooting from.
I got in the prone, deployed my bipods, and he tossed the smoke. I began throwing 5.56 at various windows. The sniper never got a shot off. Our rifleman closed the distance and climbed through the garage, and took the sniper out. We won the game.
My second story is more humorous. It was a team of five, and the mics were on. In the background, we heard a woman call her son. He was on our team and said, “Hold on,” To which everyone on our team snapped at him.
They told him to respect his mom and do what she needs right now! One player even said, “She birthed you, dude. She doesn’t wait for you.” He acquiesced, and we waited for him before launching the next game.
Oh boy, Onward has tons of guns! We get the Benelli M1014, the SPAS-12, the AK series, the MK18, the M16A4, the G3, the PKM, and the M249. Plus, real pistols, including the Beretta M9, the Glock 17, the M1911, the Makarov, the TT-33, and many more. There are so many guns, and they are all replicated realistically.
They all include realistic sights, reloading processes, and accessories. If you’ve never reloaded an M249 or PKM, you might not be able to figure it out without some time at the range. As a former machine gunner, I will say they do LMGs perfectly! Guns like the AK have a disadvantage with the lack of an LRBHO device. The M16A4 is faster to reload and easier to reload with the press button magazine release.
The guns and gear are mixed well. You get to choose from a number of optics, including red dots, ACOG-style optics, Eotechs, and more. They are must-haves to make your gun easier to shoot. Additionally, the pistols can be equipped with dots, and this makes them much faster to use.
Getting fast with a pistol transition can save your life. Several times when using the M1014, I ran dry and got really good at grabbing that handgun and retreating under fire. It’s quite satisfying to escape a bad situation because you transition to your pistol quickly.
Onward is a ton of fun if you’re a gun nerd. Utilizing realistic reloads, aimed fire, climbing in the prone, and employing bipods adds this crazy level of realism that’s tough to beat. I enjoyed it immensely, and while I still suck at it, I’m enjoying getting better. This game has a real learning curve and having a little knowledge about firearms certainly helps. My biggest want is the ability to place your magazines and reloads where you want them, within reason.
If Onward did that, it might be a viable way to get some training in. Custom force-on-force servers with handguns might also be a blast….A man can dream.