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Bonelab Meta Quest 2 Review

BONELAB | Review

Not Quite The Future You've Been Waiting For

Bonelab
Release Date
September 29, 2022
Developer
Stress Level Zero Inc.
Style
Action, Adventure, Shooting
Locomotion
Sitting, Standing, Roomscale
Length
Mods / Sandbox / YMMV
Price
$39.99
Our Score
5
Get it on the Meta Store

If you follow VR news at all, then you can’t have escaped the ridiculous hype juggernaut surrounding Bonelab. It’s been hailed as a system seller, the Halo of VR, the future of VR. Well, it’s out now, and as one of the few channels that haven’t surrendered to the temptation of breaking the review embargo or drowning Youtube with frenzied, frothing clickbait, we’re ready and willing to give you our honest thoughts on the game. 

IT IS WHAT IT IS

First up, a bit of context. Most of us have experienced the syndrome where we don’t engage with a piece of media simply because of hype or popularity. I, for example, have still never watched Game of Thrones. Sometimes this turns out to be justified – my first rodeo as a professional games reviewer was Driv3r, an overhyped mess quickly vilified by the press and public alike with good reason. Sometimes, however, because I’ve been allergic to the popularity around something, as a punter, I’ve missed out on some gems until comparatively late in the day. Fight ClubBreaking Bad, and Super Mario 64 are a few examples from my personal list of shame. I’d already grown weary of the hype train around Bonelab months ago, but knowing I was reviewing it, I tried to remain as objective in my opinion as possible. I set out to review the game as a first-time player with as few preconceptions and expectations as possible.

THE EMPEROR IS NAKED

Well, here goes nothing. I think Bonelab is crap. I think it’s crap for many reasons, which I’ll try to go into here, but the main one is that it feels bloody awful to play. 

bonelab meta quest review

I’m not here to review a game engine, its ‘potential’, or what it might be like in a few months when the modders have taken it apart and reformed it. What we have now is a messy, janky, hugely overpriced sandbox which thinks it’s far, far better than it is. Nearly every single design decision here is wrong-headed, and it all stems from the fact that interacting with the world and inhabiting it is borderline unpleasant. On the Quest, at least, the engine does everything it can to convince you that you aren’t playing it properly or holding the controllers right and that you don’t get it. 

NO NOOSE IS GOOD NOOSE

I don’t really give a shit about spoiling the game because it does that itself. But we won’t show the game’s opening out of sensitivity, so here is a trigger warning. I’m going to discuss the intro level, which contains some content that might be disturbing. If matters around suicide or self-harm might be upsetting for you, please skip forward to the next time stamp. Still here? OK. One of the very first things you do in Bonelab is walk up to a rope noose and physically put it around your neck. No trigger warning, and no option to skip. You don’t have to be a qualified psychologist to ascertain that this might be a pretty irresponsible thing to put in a game, particularly with no establishing narrative context. I am a qualified psychologist, and I can say with some authority that it’s a dick move. It doesn’t contribute anything beyond giving edgelord content creators something about which to say ‘that’s sick, man’ as they pretend high-five their anti-woke fans.

bonelab meta quest review

Even if this doesn’t bother you, the fact is that what should be a showcase tutorial level highlights everything that’s turd about BoneLab. Standing naturally with your hands holding the Quest controllers makes your hands look like they’ve had fingers broken. Using the analogue sticks to move or jump makes you waggle your thumbs, and it looks ridiculous. Movement feels imprecise and unpredictable. Objects have no sensation of mass, and clipping and sticky objects abound, making melee combat a flailing chore. The holstering/inventory system feels inept and counterintuitive. It’s like Stress Level Zero have compiled everything wrong with most VR games and then genericised everything it found until Bonelab became demonstrative of the least enjoyable ethos of any given category. 

ONCE UPON A TIME

Just as the narrative portion of the game gets going, it stops. Then dumps you into a hub where you are forced to experience the different mini-games, moddable content and subsections of the game before you move on. The flow is appalling. Imagine completing the first chapter of Half-Life 2 and then being dumped in a Garry’s Mod bowling level. According to the press release, the devs don’t want to ‘hand hold’ and want to concentrate instead on ‘player agency’. This is a mistake because the awful, rubbery feel of the game engine does not encourage experimentation or exploration. It’s all a chore. Parkour is a nightmare and yet has its own section. Puzzles are either overwrought or insultingly simple.

bonelab meta quest review

Time and time again, the game presents you with physical interactions that would be far easier to perform in real life. VR should be about empowerment and immersion. It’s a long time since a VR game has made me so painfully aware of the gulf between my corporeal presence and my avatar. Try climbing or grabbing something, and you’ll invariably end up pulling an ammo clip from your holster, which you can’t just put back. Navigating the tops of ladders and other climbing points is just nasty. So on, and so on.

VALVE PRESSURE

And everywhere, the off-brand Valve Software feel persists. From the robot versions of headcrabs, the gas-masked soldiers, the gun turrets, the buttons… It thinks it’s clever and meta like Portal, but it doesn’t come close to the cleverness in design, narrative or feel that Valve is capable of. Level after level of unenjoyable dross goes by, occasionally throwing in a pseudo-edgy plot point. THE FUTURE OF VR scream other channels. So why, in the name of Gordon Freeman’s left bollock, do we have an on-rails minecart shooting level? Does the future of VR reveal itself before or after the ‘Street Puncher’ section, which actually plays far worse than Drunkn Bar Fight? Am I too devoid of vision to see that the future of VR lies in endless bland corridor gunfights against dumb, shuffling crash test dummies that constantly fall over themselves? If so, I’ll stick with the past of VR. Things like Half-Life: Alyx. Or Superhot. Or Sairento. Or, you know, anything else which actually feels great to play.

CACK OF ALL TRADES

There isn’t a single thing that Bonelab does better than other games, and most of those other games can be bought far more cheaply, and a lot of them are even free. Gunplay is OK but completely unchallenging. It’s also quite challenging to reload some guns without your avatar looking like they’ve got some sort of degenerative bone disorder or moving like a dainty princess. 

Melee combat is terrible and weightless. Climbing is horrible.

bonelab meta quest review

I’m not impressed by the engine, either. Whilst it looks better than a lot of other Quest games, the frame rate can be chuggy, and some textures literally look like they’re from the original PlayStation. I can’t express how ungainly the avatars look whilst doing practically anything and how immersion-breaking this is. The dev team have obviously watched some Youtube video or Blu-Ray extra where an ex-Navy Seal has imparted wisdom about firearms training whereby the trigger finger is kept against the body of the gun and only rests on the trigger when firing. The result is that whilst your in-game hands waggle and twist when moving around, your trigger finger doesn’t curl around gun triggers until pressed all the way in, despite what your hand is actually doing on the controller. Nothing seems to have been thought through from the right direction.

And don’t get me started on the music. It veers between parping monstrously and screaming electronic dirges. The game only scores as highly as it does because you can turn the music off. 

AVOID THE VOID

Bonelab is a howlingly empty, malformed experience. Yes, in terms of the possibilities that may present themselves with modding in the future, it’s a little more promising, but the same could be said of VR Chat, and that’s free. It doesn’t matter how scaleable the worlds are or how many avatars you can inhabit if it all feels so dreadful to play. I have nothing but contempt for other channels that have built this up because there are other, smaller, more original titles that are quietly perfecting VR as a game medium and are well worth championing. (They’re also a fraction of the ridiculous price being charged for this). Instead, the hype machine is in meltdown, hungry for clicks, over an unoriginal, vaguely unpleasant engine in search of a nucleus or a decent plot. As it stands, and until the community makes more of it, BoneLab is, genre by genre, outclassed by many similar games, many of which are free. 

Bonelab Meta Quest 2 Review
BONELAB | Review
TLDR : Summary
Buy a few other games for the same price instead.
Concept
5
Gameplay
5
Graphics
6
Audio
5
Longevity
6
User Rating0 Votes
0
Pros
Cons
5
Boneheaded
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Deez Nuts

This review is so dumb. So unforgiving for the worst reasons. Especially on the topic of the intro and soundtrack, the noose isn’t implemented to be “edgy” it’s a genuine part of the character’s story. What, you think they only put people in cages in the middle ages? NO! THEY HUNG PEOPLE. On the topic of the soundtrack, I speak for most of the people that have played when I say the soundtrack is amazing, it fits the environments very well and invokes emotion in parts of the game that need it most. Just play the last level and you’ll understand what I mean, just because it’s electronic music does not mean it’s bad music. Graphically, it had to be worse than BoneWorks to account for it’s release on the Quest 2. The developers, Stress Level Zero, took on a massive challenge of bringing a BoneWorks-styled experience to the Quest… Read more »

valware

What a terrible review. You’re clearly just being too harsh because as you said in the review, you naturally hate things that have a lot of hype. You’re objectively wrong about the soundtrack and you can’t just focus on what you don’t like about the game. I also find it hilarious about your issues with the intro. Are you really so sensitive and sheltered that a noose is enough to upset you? If you think a game needs trigger warnings during the gameplay then you clearly shouldn’t be playing any mature-rated games.

Omar Kamel

First of all, allow me to thank you for reading our review. It’s interesting that you noted Doc’s explicit admission that he hates hype, and yet chose to ignore him saying that he “set out to review the game as a first-time player with as few preconceptions and expectations as possible.” So do you only take Doc at his word when he says something you like, then ignore his words when he says something you don’t? Cool. Nothing demonstrates fanboyism more than saying that anybody who doesn’t like what they like is ‘objectively’ wrong. You are both the Titanic and its iceberg all at once. It’s hard to focus on anything other than what you don’t like about a game when you simply don’t like anything about it. Besides, Doc did clearly imply that he liked the fact that the game allows you to turn the music off. Surely that… Read more »

Last edited 17 days ago by Omar Kamel
xxxmikesteelexxx

Bro says it has a noose😭. Beta Male.

Omar Kamel

Only Zeta males refer to other males as alphas or betas or are in any way concerned about where they might lie in some fictitious misogynistic hierarchy that haunts you rent-free.

Last edited 17 days ago by Omar Kamel
Mark McCuistion

I think this review nailed it. I don’t like this game for many of the same reasons outlined here (although I do like the music). The game is “cool”. But “cool” isn’t worth $40 to me. Some of the mini-games like arena are fun but the campaign is anything but. Maybe I need to be 40 or 50 years younger to like it. Maybe it just isn’t for me. The modding aspect is interesting but why would I want to mod a game where the AI characters are constantly falling down while simply walking? Where the game seems to be confused constantly by my arm movements. Where the climbing is BY FAR the worst I’ve ever seen. Where aiming and shooting reliably seems to require a 7th sense I don’t seem to have. I wouldn’t call this game garbage, but I don’t want to play it anymore. Very frustrating.

wow this review sucks

Made an account just to comment on how poorly structured this review was, and how the person who made it is downright childish as hell and can’t take people criticizing his review based on his replies to the comment section. Cry more you condescending neanderthal.

Omar Kamel

Thank you for making an account. As for the review, the ‘person who made it’ (surely you mean ‘wrote it’) is, as clearly indicated Doc Neale. He has not replied to a single comment.

Last edited 17 days ago by Omar Kamel
wow this review sucks

I couldn’t care less about who wrote it specifically but seeing you white knighting in the comment section so hard (especially as an admin) is just as funny. Is 6DOF reviews just ran by idiots then? No wonder I never seen this site till now.

Last edited 18 days ago by wow this review sucks
Omar Kamel

Your devotion to Bonelab is…quite impressive.

Somewhat suspicious, but impressive.

If the game is that much fun, why aren’t you playing it instead of going online, looking for reviews that don’t like it as much as you claim you do, and attacking them irrationally? Something to consider.

Last edited 17 days ago by Omar Kamel
Jas_0336

Made this account just to comment. It honestly sounds like a little kid made this review. You would think Bonelabs stole his lunch money and he went home to get smacked by his pops as well lol. This game saved my quest from collecting dust and imo it’s the best quest game I own and I have plenty of others. The engine is impressive and the physics can sometimes be hilarious in a very good way. Climbing and other mechanics like Melee definitely take time. So sounds like a major skill issue if you can’t handle it. I find myself revisiting the campaign many many times trying to find collectables as well as clear levels in different ways. Almost sounds like you never gave it a chance. Oh and you can easily put ammo back just like you would holster a gun. But again… Skill issue.

Joseph Gorniak

I will say that this review was a little bit too critical on the jank as it’s a physics-based game, so it should be expected to have some jank. I mostly agree with this review, but as I am a quest only user, my opinion is influenced by the fact I can’t play half life alyx or boneworks.

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