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Robo Recall Brings Rock'em, Sock'em Action to VR

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Epic Games has always had a habit of being, well, epic. The world-renowned game developer made a splash last year with its Bullet Train demo, which showed off just how fun Oculus' Touch controllers could be.

Created by a six-man team in five weeks, Bullet Train let you unleash your inner Neo with time-slowing, teleportation powers that let you pluck bullets out of the air and fling them back at your enemies while warping around the board, dual-wielding weapons. If Epic could do that with such a small staff and a short time frame, what could happen with more than a year and 15 people?

The answer is Robo Recall, the spiritual successor to Bullet Train. Epic took everything we loved about the Bullet Train demo — teleportation, dual-wielding and bullet tossing — and threw in killer self-aware robots. When it launches in early 2017, this free, Oculus-exclusive title will place players in the shoes of a recaller, someone who dispatches rogue robots with extreme prejudice.

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During the Robo Recall tutorial, I was quickly brought up to speed on how to shoot and warp from place to place. I enjoyed a quiet chuckle as the female voice that walked me through the basics made sure to note that any malfunctioning animatronics are caused by the human owner's error, not by the company. Satisfied that I was a lean, mean robot-bustin' machine, it was time for me to hit the streets and get to work.

I only got to play about 10 minutes of Robo Recall, but that time was filled with over-the-top action. My first metal victim went down in a hail of bullets from my pair of pistols, which I named Salt and Pepa. I teleported in front of another bot, grabbed it by the handle bolted onto its chest and proceeded to disassemble it by ripping off its head and limbs. At one point, I was beating the hell out of enemies with the legs of their brethren. I quickly learned that captured robots made great shields.

Similar to Bullet Train, activating your teleportation powers slows down time. That really comes in handy when a hail of bullets is coming your way. Exploiting that power, I started plucking bullets out of the air and flicking them back at the horde. Halfway through my playtime, I got to access a pair of shotguns (nicknamed Capone and Noreaga) and started unleashing hell.

The shotties really came in handy when I came face-to-face with a humongous robot. Highlighted in neon orange, I had to take out the behemoth's weak spot, which happened to be its knees. Showing off Rift's body-tracking capabilities, I had to duck for cover when the massive metal monster unleashed a wide-sweeping laser beam. After a few rounds ducking and blasting, the robot finally cried uncle and I was able to board and hack it, using its incredible strength and laser beam to clear out any straggling robots.

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The demo ended when my new powerhouse crapped out as a horde of robots landed. The leader leaped towards me, declaring in a menacing voice, "You can't beat us," before the screen faded to black.

In the midst of all that wanton destruction, I definitely appreciated that Epic put several robot types into the demo. Some only used melee attacks, while other were packing guns of their own. There were even drones and small spider-like bots. But my favorite part of the game was the combo system, which delivered big yellow status updates that punctuated the action. For example, after tearing a robot to pieces, I saw DISMEMBERMENT!, which made me want to do it again and again.

Overall, I'm excited for Robo Recall. It's splashy, over-the-top action that shows off the fluidity and responsiveness of the Touch controller. I'm really eager to dive into the finished product when it debuts.