Tacoma launched to a favorable 79 Metascore August last year on Xbox One and PC. This PlayStation 4 review isn’t a port report. Written from a first-time player’s perspective, how does Tacoma stack up to other walking simulators, including Fullbright’s own Gone Home?
Tacoma‘s bog-standard premise is its first strike. You control Amy, a subcontractor, hired by Venturis to extract a defunct space station’s AI core. The fate of the station’s six crew-members in their final days is the game’s driving force. Much like other walking simulators, how much you learn is contingent upon how much effort the player puts in. Amy acquires an augmented reality device before boarding the station, allowing her to view holographic recordings of past events. If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Tacoma treads worn-out ground that you can find in just about any science fiction story or video game with an autonomous AI. Gone Home, on the other hand, set itself apart with the mundanity of its setting.
In typical genre fashion, characters in AR recordings are represented by human shapes and colors rather than fully rendered models. Amy can fast forward, rewind, and pause recordings at any point while traversing a recording’s area of effect. To prevent from overwhelming players, Tacoma clearly delineates sectioned off zones. Crossing a static mesh in a hallway means you crossed the bounds of whichever synced up recording you were observing. This makes following the more complex scenes manageable. A recording may begin with all six crew-members crowding around a centralized spot, but they’ll soon veer off into their own directions. Conversely, members may begin in isolated areas, then gather in a group as the recording finishes.
Cordoning off recorded zones prevents the experience from feeling overwhelming, funneling players to the next plot beat. Following each character’s story from recording’s beginning to end is engaging. Piecing together an entire scene bit by bit provides a more substantial level of interaction than walking simulators are known for. Through the level design, color direction, and signposting, it’s impossible to get lost. Because of this, Tacoma‘s narrative doesn’t suffer from the pacing issues you’d come to expect. You won’t witness awe-inspiring plot points, then spend twenty minutes wandering aimlessly until you forget the scene that compelled you to move forward in the first place.
At specified recording points, Amy can walk up to characters and view their AR visors. These optional moments provide meaningful character insight. Sifting through messages and browsing histories isn’t as excessive as other games with environmental storytelling. An influx of characters is an issue many games of this nature suffer from, making it difficult to follow straightforward events. Most messages remain between the six crew-members, leading to an intimate experience. While it allows the story to flow from plot point to plot point with ease, it also means repeat playthroughs are unlikely to reveal vital information. There’s little a second playthrough would accomplish.
Different characters’ rooms and offices appear reasonably lived in with books, posters, and other miscellaneous items that tell so much about a person. While individual characters aren’t incredibly in-depth human beings, everyone has a distinct personality with character traits you’d only pick up on if you carefully examined their rooms. The information you learn isn’t superfluous as once you see someone’s room, certain character traits/quirks begin to make sense. Contextualizing characters through optional environmental storytelling is where Tacoma shines. Just be sure to ignore that horrendous plot twist anyone with a brain would have seen coming the moment they started a new game.
Tacoma crashed twice during my roughly two to three-hour playthrough, introducing an omission on the ps4 pro after its second crash. The game features a “4k rendering” box that can be ticked in the menu. This doesn’t seem to increase resolution, though it does improve the following visual settings:
- Shadow maps
- Draw distances on light sources
- Ambient occlusion
Disabling the “4k rendering” box allows an unlocked framerate with a reduction in the aforementioned settings. After Tacoma‘s second hard crash, checking and disabling “4K rendering” did nothing. As something I have never experienced on either the PlayStation 4 Pro or Xbox One X, Tacoma could have used a bit more time in the port optimization oven.
Tacoma is a decent walking simulator made only for extreme fans of the genre. It’s short and fast-paced, but the narrative and game structure are so straightforward that it won’t make the player think critically about anything. It is a fine way to escape real world obligations for two or three hours, but its easily telegraphed plot twist and hand-holding narrative are disappointing. Tacoma is good if you’re into games like this, but I wouldn’t wholeheartedly recommend it to non-genre fans, in the same way, I would with Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture or What Remains of Edith Finch. It’s a competent, but safe effort.
Disclaimer: A review code was provided by the publisher