From developer, Flight School Studio, and publisher, MWM Interactive, comes War Remains: Dan Carlin Presents an Immersive Memory. It's an unforgettable history lesson and a horrific glimpse into life on the Western Front during the First World War. Whether you're a long-time history buff or have only heard the name Passchendaele in passing, this VR experience is worth your time, if you can bear it. Here's what you need to know.
This is not a game
Growing up Canadian, I'm no stranger to the First World War and the role my native country played. There are names of locations in France and Belgium that ring out in my head whenever the period of history is recalled. One of them is Passchendaele (or the Third Battle of Ypres), where more than an estimated 500,000 casualties occurred over the course of fewer than four months. Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, France, and the German Empire all participated in this horrific conflict that ultimately achieved nothing.
The fertile land and careful drainage of the Flanders region had long been destroyed by millions of artillery shells, resulting in a landscape that more closely resembled the moon. That is, if the moon was covered in corpses, deep, sucking mud, chlorine gas, and worse. Seeing still photos and shaky, colorless video of some WWI battle is one thing, but what about being transported back in time to sit and watch it happen in real-time?
Whether you're a newcomer to or a scholar of WWI history, War Remains should be experienced.
War Remains is not a game. It's an immersive experience intended for mature audiences. It's loud. It's brutal. It's informative. Dan Carlin, the host of the incredible Hardcore History podcast, narrates here, moving from growl to near-whisper in his usual style.
I've read plenty of history books, but that doesn't mean War Remains doesn't have something to offer. Never before have I been perched in an observation balloon above a battlefield. Never before have I been in a trench while soldiers go over the top, only to be mowed down by modern machine guns never before experienced in warfare. And never before have I sheltered myself in a bunker while drumfire artillery rolls overhead, shaking the rough-cut ceiling above me and knocking out the lamps. Whether you're a newcomer to or a scholar of WWI history, War Remains should be experienced.
Some things to consider
War Remains doesn't sugar-coat anything, and it is full of disturbing scenes and situations. Do not go in expecting a watered-down version of events. VR makes everything a lot more immersive, so those sensitive to violence or loud noises should likely steer clear. Carlin has this to say about the VR aspect:
Virtual Reality creates other dimensions. The medium allows the storyteller to engage the audience in a way that previous storytelling genres haven't been able to tap into. The engagement level is so much higher because the audience is 100% involved. It's an active, not passive experience.
At times, it can seem so real that the human body will unconsciously react to what's going on in the experience even though the conscious mind knows that it's an illusion. Someone once explained it to me by saying that this technology can fool a person's "Lizard Brain." Being able to activate that part of a person's sensory system is a fantastic tool to put into the hands of someone trying to make their audience feel that they're inhabiting the tale. It's one less layer of reality, separating the audience from the story.
The experience lasts just more than 12 minutes from start to finish. I wish it would have gone on just a bit longer, though I'm sure some will find the length is just right. At only about $5, it's still a high-quality experience that showcases the power of storytelling in VR.
It officially works with Rift, Vive, and Index platforms, so it should also work with Windows Mixed Reality through Steam. It can be experienced sitting or standing. There's no input required from motion controllers after a trigger pull to start the show; this is an on-rails showcase. I recommend using the best headphones you have available to get the best effect. Skywalker Sound did something great here, and the built-in speakers on something like the Rift S just don't do it justice.
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