While I would expect that most “gamers” first and foremost think of VR in a gaming sense, the reality is that there are many different applications of the technology we can experience. Some of my uses of VR are decidedly less a game and more an experience. The First Class is one of those that falls into that category of an interactive experience. The journey takes you from the beginnings of flight all the way up to the present day. Being a bit of an aviation fan myself, I was eager to enjoy the ride.
In most of my reviews I start with what’s in the game (or in this case, experience), but this time it’s important to note what is missing, and that is context.
Our story was inspired by the Hugo Awards Best Novel Winner “The Three-Body Problem”… [by Cixin Liu].
— The First Class’ Steam page
That’s important, because otherwise some things may seem slightly strange. Familiarity with The First Class’ inspiration is not required to enjoy this, mind you, but I’m sure that it would indeed enhance the experience.
The adventure starts in space, with a brief overview of events given along with instructions to begin your class. This is where the journey begins. And by “begin” I mean it heads to the mythical start with Icarus and his wings of feather and wax. That is merely the start of things, though, and you will pass through the ages, from astronomers to the Wright Brothers. This of course leads directly into WWI and some good visuals of bi and tri-planes engaged in a deadly dance.
Next up is WWII and some of The First Class’ most memorable scenery, where fighter planes clash in the sky above. Bombs start dropping as the rubble of a city rises around you and we see a burning landscape with the names of countries involved in the conflict. Included in the imagery are chess pieces, to drive home the idea that this deadly struggle that was a battle of wits as much as a battle of blood. Afterward, you are pulled back and underneath a giant floating island, which appears to itself be some type of aircraft. On the other side, the first glimpse of jets fly by as you await a UH-60 to come and pick you up to continue your journey.
Sitting in the door opening, the ‘copter flies through a cave filled with relics from space exploration. I’m not really sure why all these spacecraft, rockets and satellites are stored in a cave, but maybe that has something to do with the work this experience is inspired from. Once the cave journey is complete, you are deposited on a platform and your journey to the stars begins, with wings of feather and wax just like Icarus soaring into the sky next to giant space elevators. Your journey comes to an end in an museum-like area where you can explore everything you saw in greater detail, accompanied by some description.
Overall, the experience took me roughly 25 minutes. For the most part, The First Class performed well, but there were some notable stutters in the cave section. I did get some slight moments of queasiness but am unsure if that was partly due to the helicopter movement or those frame rate issues — both occurred at the same time. There isn’t a whole lot of interaction involved, but there really doesn’t need to be. The museum was a nice touch to be able to inspect things more closely, but I did notice one or two possible inaccuracies. The first WWII fighter encountered in the museum is the P-40, but the information placard talks about the P-51 (there is also an actual P-51 and placard behind it). There were also two placards for the A6M series of planes. Given that the P-40 was in its most famous “Flying Tigers” livery, it may be that one of these A6Ms was meant to be a Ki-27 instead (or possibly a Ki-43).
The big thing to remember with The First Class is that it is indeed an experience and not really a game. But it certainly is a good experience. Anyone with any interest in flight at all would be certain to enjoy this. But it also would be a very good experience to use as a history lesson as well, covering most major areas of flight, although there is a bit of a leap from piston aircraft right into 4th generation jet fighters. Regardless, it was an enjoyable ride and something that is worth experiencing.