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Budget Cuts (PlayStation 4) artwork

Budget Cuts (PlayStation 4) review

"The Memo Is a Lie"

Budget Cuts' style appears to be influenced by Portal: it's a first-person VR title where you're an ordinary human in a sterile office, completely surrounded by machines doing all the work. The only trace of any other human existence is voices from intercoms or phone calls. Most of the text and dialogue is littered with dark, dry humor, whether it's motivational posters that literally tell you what to do next, office robots muttering water cooler jokes, or the CEO proclaiming that every human is irreplaceable... until they get replaced by robots. From a visual perspective, environments have a very clean, minimalist look to them. Using these examples alone, it's not hard to fathom the parallels, though you could also argue this might be someone seeing what they want to see.

But enough about comparisons, here's a completely unrelated Budget Cuts mechanic: you have a gun that shoots portals.

Specifically, this mechanic is the choice method of navigation; you shoot a grey-ish glob on a grounded location with your PS Move stick, a pop-up viewpoint gives a preview of said spot, and you decide whether to teleport or cancel. Why the sneak peek? Well, after you get settled in with the controls and travel through a few office rooms featuring nonchalant droid workers, you get an answer. Hostile guard robots start patrolling rooms and hallways, with each one having shockingly great vision, being able to see you from across a huge room. From here on out, stealth tactics is highly encouraged, prompting you to memorize guard routes, constantly look around for vents and holes in the ceiling, and use quick judgement. The preview element comes in extremely helpful in these scenarios: you can use it as a spy camera for peeping corners and unknown locations to spot any robots coming your way.

It is inevitable that you'll be found eventually, especially early when you're learning. It's also downright tense since these guards do not mess around once you're spotted, quickly taking out their laser-sight revolvers. You can try doing your best Neo impersonation when dodging the first few bullets, but their trigger fingers are really fast. Though, if you're quick enough, you can manage to "skip away" using teleport movements... but it's a minor solace if you can't find a vent in time, as they will dash after your poor human. Thankfully, you have weapons in the form of knives and scissors scattered throughout the corporate building; hope you're good at aiming without a reticle! Don't think you can horde them for long, either, as the devs wisely balanced this potential issue with limited inventory space shared with other useful objects and the occasional item dumping at bins in exchange for progress.

Of course with each subsequent stage, map layouts become a bit more complex and layered, making you go through multiple hallways and office environments. Seems great at first, until you realize the game doesn't offer a whole lot of variety, just making you wander similar surroundings, eluding guards by going through holes, and then tossing knives when the moment strikes. This isn't helped by the fact that the main mode, Story, is also short, which is slightly longer than Portal's length if played through for the first time; three to four hours tops. On the other hand, considering there's not much to offer in terms of variation, its brief length might actually be a blessing, in turn avoiding needless repetition.

There's also an important thing to point out: despite being "just another" stealth title with a brief and limited journey, it still manages to be fun. Why? It does the usual mechanics and gameplay elements common in both stealth and first-person VR titles, but does so in an easily-accessible and intuitive manner. Navigation with the portal gun and accessing the live inventory seems overbearing at first, more so when you're discovered and have to fight or flight. But mere minutes later these actions feel so natural, and you question why you had trouble to begin with. VR games, specifically ones requiring movement from place to place, have such a high threshold for technical failings and motion sickness if a dev team doesn't know what they're getting into, so it always comes off like a miracle when a product turns out fine. This game succeeds in that aspect, at least.

Budget Cuts gets high marks for its solid core gameplay, but the unfortunate reality is that this template is still within a game that doesn't allow for much breathing room. Though, there is a supplementary Arcade mode with stages diverting from the usual office settings, such as a tall elevator shaft where you have to move upwards while dealing with awkward guard positions. It's a shame the main mode doesn't offer such similar diversity, though Arcade mode only adds an extra hour of play time to the whole experience. You also have to consider the lack of replay value to be had with the linear office environments, unless you really like trophy hunting and speedrunning. As is, it's fun but short-lived, and only a pure recommendation if you can get it at a discount. With any hope, Budget Cuts will also mimic Portal with a sequel that has more ideas and a longer length.

dementedhut's avatar
Community review by dementedhut (October 09, 2020)

Happy New Year.


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