If video game “development hell” was in the dictionary, it would probably feature that infamous ALVO cinematic trailer from 2017. Four years after said trailer, the fact that ALVO is actually here feels like a victory. The fact that it doesn’t suck is just icing on my cake.
Before PSVR’s first and finest first-person shooter Firewall Zero Hour released back in August of 2018, Canadian developer Mardonpol released a trailer for ALVO. As a PSVR early adopter and fan of realistic military shooters, I probably watched that trailer fifty times. Despite a deep suspicion that it was too good to be true, I held out hope that it would somehow live up to the hype of that trailer. Eventually, word came out that ALVO had lost funding and that it had been officially cancelled. I was personally disappointed, but not that surprised. Thankfully for me and other fans of the genre, one dedicated fan with an entrepreneurial spirit decided to raise ALVO out of the ashes and help with funding.
As it stands now, ALVO is positioned as the anti Firewall. While Firewall Zero Hour’s only mode is highly tactical and slow-paced, ALVO delivers a fast-paced Call of Duty style of gameplay over its three different modes. You can play a ten-player free-for-all, 5v5 team deathmatch, and ALVO’s version of the Firewall Zero Hour mode Search and Destroy. But instead of the sometimes painfully slow movement speed of First Contact’s shooter, ALVO has a walking speed that is probably just as fast as Firewall’s running speed. And when you consider you can run, jump, and even slide in ALVO, you can see how they are appealing to a different kind of VR shooter fan.
In fact, ALVO seems to take aim at every Firewall Zero Hour complaint that gamers had with it. For instance, once you select one of ALVO’s three game modes, you’ll be playing a game in seconds, even if that means playing against some bots. Before Firewall’s release in 2018, I didn’t know what host migration was, or how frustrating a multiplayer game is to play that doesn’t feature it. If you don’t know what host migration is, imagine logging into your favorite multiplayer shooter and meeting a really good group of players that you get along with. Maybe you’re absolutely dominating the other team in the best way and then some kid from the other team needs to log off to finish their homework or eat dinner. If that poor kid is the host, the moment he leaves, you and your new friends will scatter to the wind, never to recreate the magic you just had. That may sound dramatic, but I promise you that’s what it feels like when it happens. With host migration, that won’t happen in ALVO.
ALVO was in a position to learn from those that came before them, and it seems they did just that. ALVO is fast as hell, you’ll never be stuck in a lobby unless you want to, and in two of the three modes, you can respawn. They even managed to add a few killstreaks and rifle scopes!
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, however. Mardonpol is a small team, and ALVO doesn’t have near the polish of its biggest PSVR competitor. You won’t find an offline mode, or even a tutorial to get you started. The title screen and loadout screens look like they are still in alpha mode or Early Access. And while the guns look pretty good, they don’t feel or sound as real as most of the other popular VR shooters. You start out with an AK47 knockoff called the Annihilator. It is undeniably fun to use with an Aim controller, but it doesn’t have the kick or recoil that every veteran of the genre has come to expect from the iconic rifle.
It also launched with only five maps. Four, if you don’t count one map coming with a day and night cycle. I have noticed that there is a fair bit of spawn killing, especially on the smaller maps like the Monastery. But it’s typical to add or tweak spawn points once the game enters the wild so I suspect that will be remedied sooner rather than later. The maps are admittedly fun to play, however, and they do offer impressive verticality. The ability to jump has made it possible to find some truly out-of-the-way sniper nests. PSVR players have been clamoring for long-range sniping for years and ALVO delivers a truly fun experience. The “Choco” sniper rifle is a ton of fun to use with or without the scope but it does seem to be a touch overpowered. Although, I appreciate that it is salvaging my K/D ratio nicely!
Whether you’re using the sniper, AK knockoff, a shotgun, or your sidearm, the Aim controller is definitely the way to play. You can use the DualShock 4 using the light bar to aim, and even the Move controllers, but neither offer the immersion and ease of play that the Aim gun peripheral offers. It’s notable that the Move controllers don’t offer the same two-handed freedom that you’ll see in PC VR shooters such as Onward, Contractors, or Pavlov. All reloading and grenade tosses are done with the press of a button. And while I personally love the immersion of reloading my own weapon, I can’t lie that going back to a simple button press reload or switch to a sidearm has been a fun change of pace.
To that point, ALVO feels like a bit of a throwback to multiplayer shooters of the past. It’s best with friends, but with the nature of ALVO’s game modes, that is less important than it is with other PSVR multiplayer shooters. It would be nice if they shipped the game with the zombie mode and private lobby that is promised in a future update, but that is the nature of video games today. Especially for small indie teams like Mardonpol. For forty dollars, one might expect a little more polish, but the gameplay is a lot of fun, and polish can always be added. If you are a PSVR shooter fan who likes to play multiplayer, then you probably already bought this game. And if you haven’t, what are you waiting for? Besides Firewall, this is all you have! Even if you are a PC VR shooter fan like me, if you have an AIM controller, consider giving ALVO a try. For me, it scratches an old-school shooter itch that I didn’t know I had. That said, I still can’t wait to try it out with my gunstock when ALVO drops for the Oculus Quest.
ALVO PSVR Review
Despite ALVO’s flaws, it is a perfect complement to PSVR’s only other VR military shooter. It’s not very polished and the guns and music sound lacklustre, but if you’re looking for a run and gun shooter that feels more like Call of Duty and less like Rainbow Six: Siege, this is the game for you. Here’s hoping that Mardonpol continues to support the game with the promised additions and that the players continue to log in to keep the bots at a minimum.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: PS4. Reviewed using PS5 and PSVR.