Releasing back in 2016, The Climb from technological wizards Crytek was in a lot of ways your typical early VR title, as it provided a way for players to experience something that I imagine the majority of us never will, with the game focussing on the thrills of Free-Soloing, i.e rock climbing with no safety measures. Being available originally on the PC before making its way to the Oculus Quest, the first game was a stunning graphical showcase of what VR could achieve, while bringing it to the Quest allowed for that unparalleled freedom the headset can provide, while of course sacrificing some graphical fidelity along the way. Five years on, The Climb 2 has released exclusively on the widely successful Oculus Quest family of headsets thanks to some backing from the Facebook-owned company. Seeking to push the Oculus Quest to its very limits, The Climb 2 offers essentially more of the same from the first game, yet that is not exactly a bad thing.
The Climb 2 does not aim to present the sprawling story of other Oculus titles such as Asgard’s Wrath, rather it aims to be a master of one trade, the art of climbing. Parkour in VR titles has popped up many times across the last few years, often featuring as a quick set-piece in Blood and Truth or a small element in The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners, yet here with it being the core concept of the title, there is just no comparison to be made. Climbing always feels fluent, with you managing to pick up an impressive amount of speed if you find yourself getting into the flow of things.
The process remains simple enough, with your Oculus controllers corresponding with your left and right hands and each grip button being used to grab onto the nooks and crannies on the given level. This is combined with the use of a stamina meter, which will replenish anytime you are holding onto your chosen grip with a single hand, with the use of both hands at once allowing that small meter to replenish quickly. Along with this, your stamina bar will quickly diminish as your two hands become increasingly damaged as one would expect from grabbing on to sharp-edged rocks for a period of time. To compensate for this, you must ensure that your hands are always chalked up to keep that grip from slipping, which can be easily done by squeezing the trigger to a sweet spot found around the halfway mark.
The controls feel great, and with that stamina bar always in the back of your mind, it ensures that your climbs remain tactical due to the challenge that they provide, with alternate routes and a jumping mechanic which can be achieved via a button press or pushing your arms with force also allowing for some ways to beat your records. However, make no mistake you will forget about the stamina during a climb once you feel yourself hit that rhythm, as you speed up faster and faster progressing up a landscape only to quickly find yourself hurtling towards the ground to a quick demise. Thankfully, a casual mode is included, which allows for the same climbing experience (albeit with no stamina to worry about), allowing you to climb as quickly as you can manage before your real-world stamina wears down.
The Climb 2 is by no means a fitness focussed VR game, and certainly doesn’t provide a semi workout that Beat Saber and Pistol Whip can offer, yet after a while of holding your arms above your head you may encounter a slight feeling of fatigue in your arms, as well as tension in your neck if you find yourself looking up to the sky very often. Speaking of comfort, The Climb 2 is listed by Oculus as being a moderate VR experience and that certainly fits the bill. While the motion of climbing itself should not cause too many issues for those who haven’t got their VR legs yet, there are moments in specific levels that will cause discomfort, with the use of zip-lines and other moving objects being a sure-fire way to bring on the queasiness. Yet if you take your time to navigate the courses, The Climb 2 may offer a solid way to ease your way into VR content.
Sadly, like the game before it, there is a noticeable lack of multiplayer content here, with the only real online capabilities coming from your friends and worldwide players times, which can be raced via a ghost-mode that has featured in many racing titles before, with the first Trials HD coming to mind. While it is certainly a tricky task for the team at Crytek to navigate with figuring out the best way to incorporate a more competitive mode, given the price it would seem like something that should be included once the content with the game is all considered.
Being able to scale to the top of a vast canyon or hold on for dear life as you zip across the skyscrapers of a populated city, The Climb 2 doubles down on these highly detailed environments for the second iteration here. There are fifteen maps included, yet it is worth noting that these are fifteen maps are confined within five sub-worlds, with areas such as the city offering three courses varying in difficulty. With levels filled with subtle yet well-appreciated details, from the animal life that is waiting for you as you leap across the alps, or even the traffic jams that lay beneath you in that mentioned cityscape, the game is filled with small touches to make the world feel alive. The maps within the worlds are different enough to keep things fresh, with that mentioned city world being so impressive it is hard no to be clambering for more content like that style of the world.
As beautiful as the other worlds are, there is something truly thrilling about scaling a massive set of skyscrapers, giving you that feeling of a Mission Impossible hero. It would have been great to see The Climb 2 follow the Hitman 2/3 model, with levels from the first game potentially being ported to the sequel being brought up to scratch with the latest graphical fidelity, rather than having to move back to the older title to experience older content.
Regardless of how beautiful The Climb 2 looks on the original Quest, no massive leap within the game came close to the hurdle I had to overcome with the games shocking performance outside of the climbing levels themselves. You would assume the most straining part of the older hardware would be the rendering of the vast environments, yet for The Climb 2, it is the menus that cause the biggest issues here. The menus excessively lag, with the image freezing and my headset no longer recognising what it was looking at. What was even worse was the game constantly crashing and closing upon every time I finished a course. No other title on the platform to date has provided me with such an issue, and to see it here is a real shame, as planned play-sessions were always cut short due to the immersion being forcefully ripped away from me.
If you can avoid these performance issues, thankfully there’s a great deal of fun to be had with The Climb 2. While in many ways it does not feel like a massive leap in content from the first game and still somewhat feels a tad tech demo like for a game released in 2021, for fans of the thrill of free-soling and finding enjoyment in besting others in time records, it will be sure to please and keep you coming back for hours. Perhaps we will this gameplay engine implemented into a larger scope title down the line from Crytek.
[A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes]