Taking mechanics from Prop Hunt and skillfully adapting them for VR, Mannequin forces players to stroke a pose and hide among frozen NPCs in a multiplayer hunt between humans and aliens. Read on for our full hands-on impressions from Gamescom.
Fast Travel Games revealed Mannequin today, its newest multiplayer VR title coming to Quest, SteamVR and PSVR 2 in 2024. It pits two sides against each other – a team of aliens (the titular 'mannequins') against a team of human agents. The former will spread across the map and attempt to blend in among frozen, time-locked humans, while the latter have to hunt down the aliens by catching them between poses or figuring out which frozen humans are actually mannequin players in disguise.
Here's the official description from Fast Travel:
The world has stopped. Time is frozen. All attempts to make contact with the aliens have failed. Special Agents have been deployed to neutralize the threat once and for all. Play as alien Mannequins and set up deadly ambushes by posing as humans frozen in time, or as human Agents wielding high tech gadgets to neutralize the Mannequins from a distance.
The game has its origins in mechanics from the community-made Counter Strike and Garry's Mod game mode Prop Hunt. The concept has since spread into mainstream multiplayer titles, with alternative game modes featuring Prop Hunt rulesets now available in titles like Call of Duty and Fortnite. Those original flatscreen versions see a team of hunters track down a team of players disguised as various environmental props across a given map, hiding in plain sight. Mannequin takes this concept and transforms it for VR, bringing physicality into the mix by requiring players to strike a pose as humans instead of props. Using motion controllers, the alien players will have to position themselves into a believable position among a randomized layout of frozen NPCs across the map.
The game is designed for five total players in a match – three alien mannequins and two hunters. However, during our demo Fast Travel developers mentioned that the team is working on options for other combinations of players, such as 1v1, with necessary balancing adjustments.
The mannequin players begin the round in alien form, which will be easily spotted by the hunters. However, as they move around the map, they're able to freeze into a pose with the press of a button, transforming themselves into a frozen human and (hopefully) camouflaging themselves among the other time-locked NPCs. Using guns and detective tools, the human agent players will have to move across and spot the aliens, either in their native form or while disguised as a mannequin.
A match comprises of a best-of-five rounds, with a round completed when either side completely eliminates the other. There are no respawns – dead players can move around freely to spectate though – and no health bars: any player, alien or human, will be downed in one shot.
As you might expect, the human agents have guns at their disposal. However, ammo is limited and the fire rate is fairly slow, meaning you'll have to make your shots count. If you incorrectly suspect an NPC is an alien in disguise and shoot, you'll be left open for an opposing alien to pounce on you.
Aliens don't use guns to down agents, but instead can dispose of them with a single touch of their hand against the agents' bodies. While simple on paper, it's hard to make up the distance against the agents without getting spotted. This is where extra abilities come in.
Both the aliens and hunters have some extra tools up their sleeves that lend them a helping hand. The aliens, for example, can use a dash ability that will shoot them forward and quickly close distances to get a killing blow onto the enemy. It can also be used at any time – even to break out of your frozen mannequin pose once a human gets close.
The human agents have an EMF Reader that will scan the area to give you an approximate read on the rough location of the aliens, which will help give clues as to which NPCs might aliens in disguise. Another tool can be thrown out at will, placed in the environment, to reveal when aliens are moving through a specific area. The maps also include optional points that can be captured by either team, called Power Stations, granting them extra abilities and advantages once secured.
Because the matches play out over three to five rounds, strategy and teamwork starts to come into play once one team gains an advanatge. Up by two rounds? You might coordinate with your team to play more aggressive in the third round, barrelling into enemy territory or pushing for an early Power Station capture to secure those extra abilities for the round. Integrated in-game proximity voice chat facilities this level of coordination with your team, though the game currenlty doesn't include any other options (such as a ping system) for those who don't want to chat.
After playing through two matches, one as the aliens and one as the hunters, with a full five-person squad at Gamescom, I came away suitably impressed. While there's a lot of polishing to be done, the early build we played had the fundamentals down: this is a really engaging multiplayer game that uses the physicality of VR to great benefit.
What's especially exciting is how the game feels set up for future generations – while the current iteration only facilitates posing with your arms via motion controllers, you can see how full body tracking might offer more dynamic possibilities. Once you can position yourself into more dynamic poses – sitting down, crouching, leaning – then Fast Travel will be able to adjust the frozen NPC poses to accomodate accordingly, no doubt adding considerable depth to the experience.
That said, despite the limited posing offered by current technology, the game's core concept is one we haven't seen done like before in VR. Even if it borrows mechanics from the prop hunt concept, there's enough transformation and novelty in adapting it for VR to result in something that feels fresh and original, hopefully with a decent amount of depth to it as well.
All things considered, it looks like Fast Travel Games are onto something with Mannequin. I can't wait to see where they take it from here.
Mannequin is set to release in 2024 for Quest, PC VR and PSVR 2 headsets.