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Archangel Let Me Live Out My Battle Mech Fantasies

That's the great thing about about SXSW. One minute you're just walking along minding your own business, and the next you're piloting a 50-foot mech. At least that was the case for me when I came across a demo for Archangel, a virtual reality title set to launch this summer for Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR for a yet-to-be-announced price.

A seated VR experience created by developer Skydance Interactive, Archangel puts you in the driver's seat of a gigantic robot, complete with helpful artificial intelligence, on a mission to stop a hostile military force.

For the demo, I was tasked with trying to sneak to a specified location in an effort to strike a blow to the opposing force. And while the irony of trying to sneak anywhere in a 50-foot tall mech isn't lost on me, I was quickly absorbed with completing the mission wearing a Vive.

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Needless to say, I wasn't able to go unnoticed for long, as scads of enemy fighters -- including armored tanks and kamikaze spacecrafts -- were soon buffeting me with missiles, bullets and entire ships. That meant it was time for me to whip out the heavy artillery located in the right and left hand of the robot. I had several weapons at my disposal, including machine guns, missiles and a laser that would mark several targets before unleashing a large swath of destruction.

The large circular touchpad on the Vive controllers acted as face buttons, allowing me to switch between weapons on the fly. The side-mounted grip buttons threw up a sizeable shield to deflect attacks. You can't just leave the shield up indefinitely, as too many shots will cause it to shut down momentarily. I found the best strategy was throwing up a shield on one side and using my free hand to blast my way through the opposition.

As I made my through the level, what sounded like the main antagonist continually hacked into my AI to do the typical bad guy taunting. Whoever this guy is, he seems bent on either world or galaxy domination and definitely has to be stopped. I made it through the lion's share of the board hoping to do just that, when I noticed that I had taken way too much damage during the previous skirmishes. I tried to fight off a fresh armada when my hull integrity meter dropped to 0, causing my mech to shut down and my demo to be over.

Archangel has the makings of a solid AAA title, something VR platforms like the Vive sorely needs. Fortunately, I never experienced that brief nausea I get when moving in a VR game while seated. Switching between weapons was a smooth experience, and even though I typically hate when Vive games map commands to the side buttons, I found the shields were very easy to deploy.

My only complaint would lie in the rather drab red, brown and gray color scheme, but I only played a small piece of the game. Either way, I'm looking forward to exploring Archangel further when it launches.