If you’ve seen Epic Games’ Couch Knights or Showdown demos, or were one of the lucky few that attended GDC last year and saw the Unreal 4 powered Thief in the Shadows demo they did with WETA Digital, it is easy to tell that Epic is excited about the potential of Virtual Reality. The studio’s years of bringing us some of the most over-the-top gaming experiences could easily transition into VR, and each subsequent demo they’ve released has pushed the potential the tech holds a little farther. So, it was no surprise that I was blown away by their latest VR experience, Bullet Train, when I recently got to try it out for the first time.

Bullet Train starts off on a futuristic subway train, teaching you the basic mechanics of how to survive in the demo. Picking up, firing, and reloading your guns comes intuitively with the Oculus’ dual-hand controllers, with appropriate buttons for pulling triggers and actually holding onto the weapons. Besides using guns, your character can also slow time down Matrix-style, catching bullets out of mid-air and throwing them back at enemies with super speed. As well, your character is equipped with a teleport power, which is how you also move through the world.

Once I had familiarized myself with the controls and completed the tutorial, the subway train came to a stop at a station with large glass windows and pristine floors, giving off the vibe of a possible near-future setting. I quickly scanned around the area and noticed guns, grenades, and teleport points littered around the station. With nary a moment to collect myself in this new virtual world, though, red armored hooligans carrying their own weapons started pouring in from escalators and elevators—and I was their target.


I grabbed the nearest two pistols and immediately began firing, hoping to get a jump on my foes before their superior numbers overwhelmed me, as new threats replaced the ones I took out as quickly as I was killing them. When my clips ran out, I used the slow time feature and tried my hand at grabbing bullets out of the air one at a time. As I hurled them back at my enemies, some would go flying off in a direction I did not intend, which left me wondering if it was pure human error or calibration issues. It didn’t matter, though—enough of my throws hit their mark, providing me an opening to teleport across the area to an assault rifle.

With a higher-powered firearm, I began whittling the enemy forces down more consistently, painting the station in a hail of bullets until again my clip ran dry. This time, I grabbed a nearby grenade and lobbed it at soldiers who had taken cover in the train track trenches below the platform. Again I teleported, this time snagging a pump-action shotgun. Instead of firing madly, however, I warped closer to my targets, where I’d be in position to perform headshots from close range. This continued for nearly ten minutes, jumping from teleport point to teleport point, slowing time as necessary, and changing weapons when I ran out of ammo. Finally, the unending horde of enemy soldiers came to a halt—and this was when an airborne drone joined the fray.

I had no weapons that could penetrate the steel hide of the drone, and so instead, I had to rely solely on my ability to catch enemy fire. The drone used missiles instead of bullets, but by turning its own firepower against itself, I downed the flying menace.

Bullet Train provided the most exhilarating demo I had played yet in VR from any company. It’s fast, frantic action and mostly responsive controls left me feeling as if I had truly just left the middle of a domestic warzone when I sorrowfully had to pry the Oculus off my head. It was the first time I had seen a demo in VR come close to not just replicating the experiences I have with modern action games, but surpassing them. If Epic could provide a full gaming experience centered on this gameplay, with a story and actual characters, Bullet Train could be the basis for the first major hit in VR gaming and it has me crazily anticipating what Epic does next with this new technology.