Become one with the corporate world with Neat Corporation’s latest but greatest Budget Cuts Ultimate, a single-player action stealth VR game. This bundle was released on September 20th, 2023, and consists of the original Budget Cuts, Budget Cuts 2, and Budget Cuts Arcade as well as all the previous content patches which allow you to enhance your gameplay experience through a variety of settings. Players also receive a free update called Nightmare Mode. Budget Cuts Ultimate currently retails for £24.99 on Steam and is available on PlayStation and Oculus. For this review, the game was played using Steam on a Quest 2 headset.
The Only Fun Type of Budget Cuts…
Have you tried the previous Budget Cuts games? Do you think you will pick up Ultimate? If you want seamless gameplay between the first and second Budget Cuts all wrapped up in one place and compiling over 10 hours of gameplay… then this might be an essential buy.
You start the game in a bland and dreary hallway at work, with mugs and succulents adorning the windowsills. This is the tutorial where you learn the controls to get situated in the corporate world. The instructions can be seen when looking at your hands and this guides the players on how to traverse around the office using the “translocator” which shoots out a bead and transports you to your desired location. You use the right thumbstick to snap the camera around. The controls are easy to grasp but it does take some time to get used to. The best way to play Budget Cuts is to have the portal gun in your non-dominant hand and use your other hand for everything else.
What’s the Story
In terms of the story, you get introduced to this right after the tutorial is complete. Robots, mundane tasks, and denying holiday requests for your co-workers’ 40th wedding anniversary – this is what a day in the life looks like for the last human worker at TransCorp. You start your day with your robot coworker yelling “Alan” and to their dismay, is woefully ignored until they fess up to knowing the office gossip topic – the disappearance of human colleagues. You find out that all the humans have been slowly sent to HR and never return to their cubicles. A robot colleague passes along the mail for today which is a little yellow pager, with a four-digit code.
Once the pager is picked up, your objectives are activated. You call this code and you get introduced to Winta, another human colleague who warns you of imminent danger and faxes you instructions to get out of the building, as well as how to open the secret-but-not-so-secret briefcase on your desk. This houses the portal gun. And thus.. your journey begins. Follow the objectives and make contact with Winta throughout the game, whilst dodging supervisor bots and fighting bosses.
The overall gameplay is fun, trying to defeat the robots with whatever office tool is around. This review was played whilst sitting in a chair, which was a comfortable experience however be sure to activate the auto crouch option in the settings beforehand, as I got stuck trying to figure this out. There is a locomotion option in Ultimate which allows players to walk around the level, using the portal to get to other platforms. Meeting your work bots and hearing their ramblings is a fun treat, as well as picking up the adorable cleaner bots. The game encourages you to explore, look at everything, and find your own path when trying to complete the objectives.
It was difficult trying to take down the supervisor bots, as there wasn’t a lot of practice except for a target board and knives. It’s different with moving bots so there were a lot of do-overs trying to figure out the best way to throw the knives and to find the right timing.
2 For 1
Since Budget Cuts Ultimate is two games, in addition to all the content updates being included, you also receive a free major update just in time for Halloween. This has been available since October 19th, and it has the usual levels in Budget Cuts but with twists and turns around every corner. You are relentlessly stalked by HR bot ADAM, adding to the fear of being chased akin to Alien: Isolation or Mr. X. If this is too much for some players, you can still enjoy the festive season of Halloween with seasonal decor. This can be activated in the main menu before starting up a level.
An issue faced during the game that made it feel a bit frustrating was the checkpoints and loading times. Quite of bit of playtime was spent having to re-do tasks after getting shot down by robots, as the checkpoints weren’t too kind and then once you have been taken down, you have to wait a good 30 seconds to a minute to load into the level. This isn’t too bad but when combined together, you lose time redoing all the tasks. It gets monotonous, just like the work at TransCorp, and doesn’t allow players to jump right back into the game and be immersed.
Graphics & Audio
As mentioned previously, this review was played on a PC using the Quest 2 headset. There were minimal frame issues and the game ran smoothly. Everything is interactable and has its own physics. You can smash plates and mugs, bully your coworkers by stamping “DECLINED” on their foreheads, stick knives and scissors into walls, and munch on some stale cookies. The only caveat to mention is that you cannot pour yourself a hot cup of oil/coffee as the mugs do not have fill physics.
One of the best things about Budget Cuts is the random dialogue from the worker bots and the voice acting. Each bot has its own lines, personalities, and quick quips. You also have the overhead announcer, TransCorp founder Rex, who informs the player of updates throughout the levels, as well as helpful reminders to the workforce about complaints procedures and daily reminders. The voice acting for Rex is fantastic, with his distinct southern drawl, and really lulls players into a false sense of security.
Each level is designed similarly to really hone in on that corporate office feel, and create that brand identity of TransCorp. Certain areas are color-coordinated to distinguish different branches but also as a visual guide for players. During the Halloween event, the ambiance is terrifying with every level having a hazy red fog and the encroaching fear of ADAM walking around.
The total runtime for Budget Cuts Ultimate is over 10 hours for the 13 levels but this can increase depending on how you decide to play the game. If you go the pacifist route, prepare to restart quite a bit. If you go in knives-blazing, this could be quicker but you also risk being shot down and having to restart as well. There is also a variety of settings you have available during your gameplay called “mutators” which can alter your gaming experience. These range from having infinite stabbing crystals to defeat your foes, being able to grab the supervisor bot’s weapons, slow motion, and locomotion.
All of this changes how long one experiences the game but also makes it easier to progress through the story. There are 52 achievements on Steam, which allows the most dedicated players to put more hours in such as completing all the arcade levels in a pacifist run. Budget Cuts has a lot of replayability and you can really adjust the experience to your liking.
The Meta website describes the comfort level to be moderate which is “appropriate for many but certainly not everyone” and while this may be the case for players completely brand new to the Virtual Reality space, Budget Cuts is definitely a game that beginners can easily pick up and is a good introduction into VR. Whilst playing, there was no motion sickness or feelings of nausea so it was a smooth experience overall. This might change with the locomotion mutator, so keep that in mind before using it during your gameplay.
Overall, Budget Cuts Ultimate is a great game to pick if you’re a fan of the previous iterations or even a beginner. Neat Corporation has done a fantastic job at combining previous games and adding game modes together in an all-in-one package, allowing players to experience the series in bulk and adding the free Nightmare Mode content that makes the price tag worthwhile. The game is challenging but also doesn’t leave you feeling defeated but determined. You can face the robots head-on with mugs, knives, scissors, stamps, grenades or even grabbing your opponent’s gun using the mutators.
The voice acting is delightful, even though it’s based in a dystopian office where all you do is work. The game was comfortable to play through, though the checkpoints were a bit rough. In conclusion, fighting or sneaking your way through the mundane workforce and tackling supervisors, managers, and human resources is something everyone wishes to do, but for now Budget Cuts Ultimate is our best vice.
If you would like to check out more VR reviews, you can check out Thumb Culture’s catalogue here.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.