The VR game Mannequin delivers thrills with a brilliant idea
Fast Travel Games' new online multiplayer VR game Mannequin could be a unique VR hit. My preview shows why.
Gamescom 2023 was a few weeks ago, but one VR game has stayed with me ever since: Mannequin. At the booth of VR publisher Fast Travel Games, I was able to play a few rounds of the unique multiplayer game behind closed doors.
What is Mannequin?
Just before Gamescom 2023, Fast Travel Games teased an unknown VR game. The publisher was cryptic about it. Now, however, the facts are known, and I was allowed to play the VR game extensively during the show. "Mannequin" will be released next year for Meta Quest 2, Quest 3, PC VR and Playstation VR 2.
T̸h̶e̵ ̶[̸r̷e̴d̴a̶c̷t̷e̸d̶]̸ ̶h̴a̶v̶e̴ ̴f̵r̷o̵z̶e̸n̵ ̵t̸i̴m̸e̵.̴ ̶I̵ ̵d̶o̷n̸'̵t̶ ̶k̵n̵o̶w̶ ̷h̸o̶w̷ ̵i̷t̴'̶s̶ ̶e̷v̴e̸n̵ ̸p̸o̶s̴s̷i̵b̷l̵e̴.̶ ̵W̸e̶ ̸n̸e̸e̶d̴ ̶t̷o̴ ̵w̷o̵r̸k̷ ̵t̴o̶g̷e̵t̷h̵e̴r̸ ̶t̶o̴ ̶[̴r̷e̶d̷a̷c̸t̸e̴d̷]̶.̴ pic.twitter.com/Jdn5nBfSfl
— Fast Travel Games (@fasttravelgames) August 22, 2023
The plot, like many PvP multiplayer titles, is quickly explained. In an undefined future, the world is infiltrated by aliens and mysterious incidents are occurring. As all attempts to contact the aliens fail, humans send in rescue squads to eliminate the threat once and for all.
The PvP games are designed for up to five players, who must side with the aliens or the military rescue forces and defeat their opponents. So far, so unspectacular.
What makes Mannequin different?
What sets Mannequin apart from other multiplayer titles are the special abilities of the aliens. In the levels you play in Mannequin, time has stopped. Anyone who moved there was frozen from one second to the next. So the environment is full of frozen people.
The Gamescom map was a research station full of frozen scientists. As an alien, I can turn into a frozen person at any time by pressing a button and thus become virtually invisible to my opponents.
At the same time, a single touch is enough to freeze and defeat soldiers as well. The result is a clever game of hide-and-seek that quickly becomes a thrill, especially for the human faction. Between all the frozen figures, as a soldier, I never quite know whether I'm dealing with a harmless human or a belligerent alien.
Human vs. Alien in VR
As a human, I have a scanner that unmasks my opponents. But it only works when I approach the "disguised" alien. So I cautiously creep through the winding environment, my gaze nervously shifting between my scanner and the many people around me.
When I am sure that I have unmasked one of the creatures, I attack. However, there are deductions in the B grade for accidentally killing people. While as a soldier, I have to press a button to turn my scanner into a weapon, as an alien, a single touch is enough for victory.
In addition, I can use a kind of fast teleportation, similar to the one in Vampire: The Masquerade - Justice. This dash allows me to glide through anything human in front of me. I even manage to take out several soldiers at once, just before I'm spotted.
Mannequin has a lot of potential
Mannequin is a very good example of working game design in virtual reality. The thrill comes only from the fact that I'm actually moving among potential aliens in virtual space. Basically, it's a game of hide-and-seek for adults in sci-fi costumes. Doesn't that sound fun?
My nearly hour-long play session with the developers left me wanting more. Especially on the alien side, there is an almost thievish joy in pouncing on enemies out of nowhere. Soldiers thrive on the ever-present tension of the unknown.
Mannequin still has time before next year's release, and it needs it. At least on Quest 2, the game can't always convince visually. Orientation on the map is sometimes unnecessarily difficult, and one or two stutters were still noticeable.
Nevertheless, Mannequin could become a real VR hit – at least in the PvP corner.