At some point in our seemingly inevitable dystopian future, we’ll all be replaced by robots, machines, and other automatons. Even the written word isn’t safe, as evidenced by OpenAI’s language generator, which wrote a clear and cohesive op-ed on what it means to be a machine. Of course, these machines work for us.
But what if they didn’t?
What if machines didn’t ascribe to Asimov’s Laws of Robotics? It’s an idea that’s popped up in innumerable pieces of popular culture from The Terminator, to Mega-Man, to Doctor Who and countless other compositions of consumable media.
Killer robots are a sci-fi staple, and at the centre of Budget Cuts, they’re a delightful VR experience that has you dodging murderous machines as you try to escape certain death at their mechanical hands. You’ll play as one of the last human workers at TransCorp, one of those great big multinational companies that’re usually filled with dreary office workers going through the motions waiting for it to be Friday.
Here though, the place is staffed with cheery androids. Rumors abound that their human co-workers are going missing – sent to HR, never to return. You get a call from a mysterious colleague who suggests that you’re next in line for retrenchment and outfits you with a translocator (that’s fancy talk for a Portal Gun), that makes getting by the heavily armed and rather deadly supervisor robots a little easier.
While comparisons to Valve’s Portal series are inevitable (Transcorp even feels like a lighter, administrative arm of Aperture Science), there’s a little difference with this portal gun. Instead of a pair of portals for ingress and egress, the translocator shoots a bouncy blob, opening a portal where it lands. You can see through this portal, using it as a window to the room or area you’re staking out. It’s useful for planning routes, dodging enemies, and finding caches of sharp office implements you can use to put the marauding machines out of their misery.
In the hand that’s not holding your translocator, you’ve got access to a limited inventory for storing things like keycards that get you through locked doors and the stabby “letter openers” used for wrecking robots. The whole thing plays out like a stealthy game of office espionage if that’s your thing. You can choose to play it a little more gung-ho, flashing in-and-out of existence, using multiple routes through offices as you stave off your trip to HR. It plays out, in many ways, like a light immersive sim, letting you very nearly forge your own way through its robot-populated hallways that suck you right in with their cartoon realism.
Along with Astrobot and Blood and Truth, this stands as one of the best experiences on PlayStation’s VR headset. Unlike those games though, this one’s an experience you can have elsewhere; Budget Cuts has been available in its full form for a few years now, after being one of the tantalising demos that showed VR’s potential in the earlier days of HTC’s Vive. It’s the same game, with the addition of a level exclusive to the system – but is one of the worst ways to play this. While it’s not as affected by the PSVR’s terrible wand controllers, the lack of room-scale and the inability to peek around corners without it affecting tracking make for a poorer experience than it should be.
It’s also woefully short. Budget cuts is over within a few short hours – and that’s including the bits when you’re lost, with no real idea how to progress. There are also some off-putting load times as you move between areas – and when you sometimes only spend a minute or two in some areas, it drags you right out of the game.
Last Updated: October 5, 2020