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August 2022

I Expect You To Die 2: The Spy And The Liar

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Schell Games
Release Date: Aug. 24, 2021

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PC VR Review - 'I Expect You to Die 2: The Spy and the Liar'

by Andreas Salmen on Sept. 17, 2021 @ 12:11 a.m. PDT

Following the events of I Expect You To Die, IEYTD2 sends you back into the immersive world of espionage and undercover danger.

VR is best when it caters to common fantasies, like being a secret agent, infiltrating high-security buildings, and escaping the most harrowing threats in a slick manner. I Expect You to Die cleverly took that idea and spun up an escape room game, so it could be enjoyed by practically everyone with a headset, since it can be played seated without the threat of severe motion sickness. The story and gameplay created a humorous spy adventure, so expectations for a sequel were high. I Expect You to Die 2: The Spy and the Liar was released for PC, Oculus Quest, and PSVR in August, and it offers a new story and slate of escape room puzzles for amateur agents to solve in VR. We reviewed the title on the Oculus Quest 2, and we found that it's a largely entertaining adventure with more elaborate puzzle environments and an interesting story, but it doesn't evolve the gameplay.

If anything, Schell Games has a talent for producing an entertaining spy banter. That is as true in I Expect You to Die 2 as it was in its previous entry, with plenty of genre tropes and references at every turn. The story is more fleshed out this time around, making it easier to follow along so the stages feel more connected than they did in the prior title.

This time, our job is to hunt John Juniper, a celebrity actor and cunning villain with a knack for impersonating important political figures via the use of high-end masks. Hunting him down takes us to various destinations around the globe to gather intel and avoid our own untimely demise. Thanks to solid voice acting and writing, it is a fun and short experience that doesn't waste time or potential and often gets straight to the point. That said, you wouldn't necessarily miss out on the story if you were to not pay attention; the highlights of the experience are still the missions that you have to clear. The name of the game is not an accident, as you will most certainly die — and likely a lot. You may meet your end due to lasers or a sandwich filled with poisonous scorpions; death comes in very creative forms, but it will come.

As far as core gameplay goes, I Expect You to Die 2 is more of a content addition than a proper sequel. The gameplay and controls have mostly remained the same. The player is still stationary and doesn't have options to move from their position, aside from moving the head to look around and the hands to manipulate objects.

Each stage presents a general goal, but it's not immediately apparent how to achieve it. It requires some trial and error to figure out what you can interact with and in which order, and the level design makes this process entertaining. Each stage is layered with a reasonable depth to its puzzles, peeling away with each step until you find the resolution. For example, early on, the player is a stagehand to help prepare the venue for the play to start, but they must also prevent a deadly attack. Another time, you're filling in as the sommelier in a wine cellar or traveling in a plane while dodging assassination attempts. Once again, the game features a grand James Bond-style opening musical number that is a lot of fun to experience in VR, but I admit that I liked the first game's intro a touch better.

Each environment looks distinct and has objects that the player can interact with, so early attempts in each mission are fun while you get your bearing about which objects are vital for progression. The objects also have a decent amount of interactability and believability, like the liquid contents of a butane gas bottle making distinct sounds when shaken next to your ear, eating food, filling glasses with liquids, and burning important documents with a lighter. Each scene is a fun playground as you poke holes in the facade in the hope of making progress — or at least some funny consequences to your actions.

Similar to the first game, it is a perfect beginner VR experience that anyone can easily enjoy. A large factor in that is how well it usually controls. Not only can the player freely interact with close objects by physically picking up anything that is not nailed down, but the game also offers the ability to grab any objection in your line of sight and float it toward or away from you. If needed, objects can also be fixated in mid-air, which is especially useful for any documents or hints that you may need to reference later. All of this works perfectly about 95% of the time, but there is a chance of objects awkwardly falling out of sight. The game highlights obstructed objects, so you know where they are and can still retrieve them, but there were instances of when an important object fell down in a way that it wasn't highlighted and also wasn't visible, causing some additional frustration as I tore apart the level trying to find it.

Even when things go according to plan, there is some frustration involved. When you die, which happens quite frequently, it's back to the start. Even if you die in the last moments of a level, you'll have to start from the beginning every single time. Since you know what to do, the repeat playthroughs aren't overly long, but they can get annoying if you are stuck in a level. If you're not someone who is keen on trial and error and repeated attempts to solve the same puzzle, this might not be for you. For everyone else, I Expect You to Die 2 is a very fun game that basically adds few more stages to the existing formula. While that is not a bad thing when it's this well-executed, it's also not a groundbreaking or essential achievement. If anyone were to play both games back-to-back, I doubt they'd necessarily assume the sequel to be a standalone game.

Additionally, its runtime is seriously short at only about 2-3 hours, depending on how quickly you solve each mission. The game does not have much reply value, except for a collectible in each stage and a speed-run time to beat, if you're so inclined.

I Expect You to Die 2 looks largely similar to its predecessor, a visual style that works very well for its presentation, and that is quite friendly toward weaker hardware, such as the Quest 2. The game looks impressive in the headset at very solid frame rates and an overall sharp image with some caveats. The game uses foveated rendering, so only the middle of the screen is displayed at full resolution, with the visible edges losing resolution and detail. It's something you see with a lot of titles on the Quest, and it works well here, although you can clearly see where detail is toned down, especially when moving your head around and seeing a line of detail pop in as you move. These are small gripes, though, and I Expect You to Die 2 loses remarkably little in comparison to other versions.

In many regards, I Expect You to Die 2: The Spy and the Liar is a good continuation of what made the first game special: great level design, a funny spy story, and great pick-up-and-play gameplay. It doesn't do much to evolve in any meaningful way, but it doesn't need to. The great, albeit short, stages are a lot of fun to solve, but they can be frustrating to repeat as you trial-and-error your way through to the final credits. If you loved the first game, this one is sure to please.

Score: 8.0/10

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