Platforms: PC (Oculus Rift, HTC Vive)
This review was performed on the HTC Vive Pre running on the MSI GT72 Dominator Pro.
Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives, from Austin-based developer Owlchemy Labs, is the right game at the right time. The comedic simulator genre has been around in earnest for a few years now, with games like Surgeon Simulator and Goat Simulator taking things to ridiculous extremes just perfect for the age of Twitch and YouTube.
Job Simulator builds on what has been great about other popular simulator games and brings the whole experience into the world of VR, delivering a game that serves as a fantastic introduction to the HTC Vive's motion controllers and virtual reality in general.
The distant future...
The story and world of Job Simulator can be summed up pretty quickly, but actually adds a lot to make the experience a bit more than just throwing garbage around in virtual reality. Basically, what you need to know is that it's the future, robots run everything and have all the jobs, and humans can only experience what human jobs were once like through virtual reality simulations. That's what you're doing in Job Simulator, over the course of four "cartridges" representing different jobs, which you can choose to complete in any order you choose.
You'll work your way through a day in the life of an office employee, a chef, an auto mechanic, and a convenience store clerk. All of these jobs are made up of tasks that have been filtered through the lens of history and the skewed perspective of the robots, which is why you'll encounter things like "burning a CD" involving literal fire, and why you'll need to add eggs and a flower to bake a cake. The game is full of humor like this, and the different game worlds are stuffed with details and jokes that reward experimentation. Easter eggs are plentiful, and always had us laughing when we discovered them.
What you're actually doing while you play Job Simulator is very simple, to the point where experienced gamers will find themselves trying to create their own challenges just to make things a bit more interesting, once the humor and novelty of VR has faded. Each job runs you through a series of tasks that require you to interact with the environment and the objects around you in ways that are, for the most part, well-designed and intuitive. Job Simulator is the kind of VR game that people new to the medium are able to pick up and understand in an instant (I witnessed this for myself a half-dozen times), and it won't be long at all before you're serving up hot dogs and repairing car engines in a way that feels totally natural.
Better with friends
Job Simulator is just about the perfect game to serve as an introduction to virtual reality, and it's at its best playing on both the VR headset and a monitor where spectators can watch, with audio coming out of speakers so everyone can enjoy it. The humor and ridiculousness of the whole thing really shines with an in-person audience, and the game loses a great deal of its appeal when you're playing it by yourself (in the same way that a funny movie never has the same impact when you watch it alone).
The team behind Job Simulator is clearly fully aware of the true appeal of their game, and as such they include a "Spectator Mode" that's flat-out brilliant, and which we'll almost certainly see other virtual reality games steal in the near future. With most VR experiences currently, the monitor displays a mirror of what's being seen in the headset, down to the jerky head motions that can be a little hard to watch long-term. In Job Simulator's Spectator Mode, someone using the mouse can change up what's displayed on the computer monitor, spawning in an in-game camera that can be set up to watch the player wearing the headset from a fixed external perspective.
Spectator Mode offers great functionality that streamers and YouTubers will love, while also just being an extra fun wrinkle to the Job Simulator experience. In a fantastic touch, the in-game camera can be grabbed and moved in the environment by the VR player, allowing the person wearing the headset to position the camera however they like (or stick the camera in the microwave, or whatever). Spectator Mode warns that it's hardware intensive, but our VR-ready MSI laptop with a GTX 980 was able to handle it without an issue, as you can see in this highlight reel:
Job Simulator will only take you a few hours to "beat," though once you're done with the core game you unlock modifications such as low gravity and dollhouse mode, both of which amp up the challenge and the fun. The charm of the game does wear off after a while if you're stuck playing it by yourself, and the fact that the actual gameplay is very simplistic will likely prevent it from being something you return to in the long-term. But as an intro to VR for yourself or your friends, or as the cornerstone of a virtual reality event or party, Job Simulator shines.
As a final note, our review copy of Job Simulator hit a few bugs and snags, specifically with tasks not loading properly when the late-game mods were enabled. These issues were never more than a mild annoyance, and were always fixed by going back to the game's main menu and re-loading.
For more VR news and hardware, visit Newegg's VR Central.