As Until Dawn: Rush of Blood On has shown us, on rails shooters fit right at home on the PSVR system. The latest PSVR shooter is The American Dream, and it is quite a doozy within the current state of politics. While I generally agree that politics should be left out of games, the satire on display here fits well within the context of The American Dream, and doesn’t pull its punches.
From the start, The American Dream makes it quite clear that it doesn’t care about your opinions. This is a game set in 1950’s America, where everyone wields a gun. Mothers stir their batter with a gun, and infants shoot a gun at a door to “knock” and get a mother’s attention. Wielding a gun is the American way, and players will sit back throughout the major stages of life to witness developer Samurai Punk’s take on American gun culture.
As mentioned before, things begin with players taking control of an infant with two guns shooting at a door to get their mothers attention. Players progress through major life events of the average American; a first date, a first job, a first prom. Players are progressed stage to stage in a cart, but in each level the cart doesn’t move which makes The American Dream more of a shooting gallery game than an on rails shooter.
During the first date, which takes place at a carnival, players are tasked with typical carnival games like shooting bottles. Some segments of The American Dream feel like they fit in a bit better than others like the carnival sequence. The prom stage will have players matching their date’s movements and shooting guns in the air which felt pretty absurd. (My wife walked in while I was playing this level and promptly mocked me.) The American Dream can be finished in a few sittings, so it never overstays its welcome, even if it doesn’t find its footing.
Even though some parts of The American Dream felt ridiculous, it almost didn’t at the same time. This was a game mocking America’s obsession with guns, so having these sequences injected with more satire than I expected going into this PSVR title brought even more humor than I think the developers were intending. My personal political opinions aside, The American Dream is funny. If you love guns, and think things are fine in this country, you won’t have a good time with The American Dream. Even though the humor is exaggerated, the jokes are directly at your expense, even if they aren’t very sharp.
The American Dream isn’t the best looking title, and it wasn’t without bugs either. Visually, I noticed a lot of seams in the world, and the textures didn’t look sharp. Characters are cardboard cutouts of 50’s stereotypes, but that added to part of the charm. After chapter three there was a weird audio issue as well where the sounds and conversations kept cutting in and out. Luckily, as a VR title it worked really well. Head tracking and motion tracking worked better than I’ve seen in a lot of other titles, especially since The American Dream requires two move controllers.
The one thing I wish The American Dream had more of was player choice. For the most part, players will be using a pair of pistols. Some stages swap in other weapons like a shotgun or a bolt-action rifle, but it never gave me the choice to. When I first got the bolt-action rifle The American Dream let me meet my crush at a neighboring house, and then shoot my dialogue choices as she spoke to me from an upstairs room. I’m sure this lack of weapon choice was a design decision, as certain points pretty much require a different weapon, but it made things feel pretty repetitive and took some of the impact out of some satirical story sequences.
There is a lot to like about The American Dream (maybe depending on which side of the aisle you land on). A lack of variety with the weapons and some stages feeling overly absurd were the main things holding it back from something that could really hit mainstream satire. Strong motion controls and a variety of different types of levels is what propels players forward, while the humor fits right at home within the current political climate. As an Australian developer, it’s cool to see a foreign dev tackling some of these heavy topics especially in a country with such strict gun laws. Most PSVR owners will find something to like in The American Dream despite the repetition.
The American Dream is available now for PC and PSVR. This review is based on a PS4 copy provided by the publisher for that purpose.