The Last Taxi — First Impressions
You there! Do you want to live in a dystopia run by machines while those made of flesh and bones have our jobs taken away as we’re thrown out into the streets? Good news — you only have to wait like, 20 years, tops.
But, look, I get it, you wanna see what that’s like right now. ZenFri has got you covered with The Last Taxi. It’s a VR-only experience that takes place in a dystopian society where jobs are being taken by machines, and then those jobs are being taken by better machines, and the cycle repeats.
You are the last human taxi service, some run-down shack on the side of the map. You’ve just bought this place off some fella who is launching off into space for a much needed indefinite vacation on Mars. A compelling story for sure, but does it hold up?
I don’t know, I’ve just started playing. But in my 1-hour session, here’s what I’ve noticed:
Or as good as a dystopian society can get, anyway.
The characters of The Last Taxi are fun and full of life. It feels great to talk to these people and discover more about them, even the ones that hate you personally — nobody can be trusted in this society, so everyone is an enemy — feel great talking to. There’s even some guy that tells you to shut your trap and you’re given the option to just sit there in silence, which will actually earn you brownie points with him.
Every passenger will talk to you in one way or another — whether it be about life, crime, or mistaking you for an automated taxi service and offering to clean your metallic skin that you don’t have.
Choices typically do one of 3 things — earn you brownie points, deduct brownie points, or do nothing and just advance the dialogue. Is the official name “brownie points”? No, but that’s what they are, so that’s what I’m calling them.
You can be as two-sided as you want in The Last Taxi — your dialogue won’t affect other characters, as far as I know. What does affect how the story will flow is reporting passengers. Yes, that’s a mechanic, more on that later.
The Last Taxi looks absolutely stunning. It’s not super realistic like Half-Life Alyx or full of shaders like Beat Saber, but it has absolutely breathtaking views as you drive around the city. I found myself getting distracted many times by the view outside the windows, not even realizing I’ve just rammed into someone or got caught in falling debris.
One thing I wish I could do is step out of the taxi and just explore the city a bit. There’s plenty of places I’d love to just get a closer look at, and walk amongst the locals as if though I’m in a crumbling society!
…Okay, well, poorly timed jokes aside.
Okay yeah, say what you want. Sure, this is a weird thing to put in positives but it absolutely makes the experience for me.
As you’re driving, there will be some things in your path you need to do to counteract them. This mostly just equates to throwing a protection sphere or honking your horn. In fact, that’s all it is! There’s not much else to it, but it does keep you alert and focused.
Damaging your taxi will not only deduct brownie points, but you’ll also have to pay fines at the end of the day. Try not to stack those up, if you can…
Besides, you know, the dystopian society and robot overlords…
The Reporting System
There’s no point in it, really. It’s there as a choice; but anyone playing the game would know when or when not to use it. Assuming you want the best ending, anyway. (Maybe? Like I’ve said, I’ve only played an hour.)
A lot of what gets said to you that’s worth reporting comes from rebels and thieves. Surprise, surprise. But I’m not complaining about that — no, it makes sense, I think it’s neat. Gives you an idea of who to take on a drive.
The main problem with the system is that you have to anger the passenger to get info out of them most of the time. Because of this, you’ll lose brownie points and you’ll get way less of a tip. And most of the time, what you’ve reported isn’t worth risking a squeaky clean record towards a good ending. You’ll get like, $100 mostly, and that elusive $500 that’s only ever come up for the passengers you feel bad for.
If there were people who I wouldn’t have to anger to get damning evidence and I didn’t feel bad about reporting them, it’d be nice. I’m not saying have every character be like that, don’t even have most characters. Just some, a sprinkle. Keep things fresh.
Performance & Bugs
Dear. God. The performance is horrendous.
This wasn’t an issue with the demo — I ran that back when it released for Next Fest and it ran as smooth as melted butter on a pan that’s about to be used to cook some fried egg titties… what, you don’t call sunny-side-up eggs “fried egg titties”? Weirdo.
Fried egg titties aside, The Last Taxi’s demo ran absolutely swimmingly. You were locked to just the first area, of course, but… that’s exactly where most of my performance issues came, despite those not being in the demo.
There was even a point in my playing session where the lag got so bad that I almost missed the opportunity to reply to a passenger AND I nearly damaged the taxi.
There’s also a couple bugs; but those I can forgive, the game just released, after all. One particularly big one, however, happened when I teleported a passenger to a new area. When I got teleported, I teleported right into two cars and had to pay for damages for both of them. Temporary invincibility when teleporting would be nice, but whatever.
Misc. / Things That Really Grind My Gears
You know what really grinds my gears? Lack of accessibility options. Confusing and complicated GUI. Lack of any settings in general! It really ticks me off when I’m trying to hear what a passenger is saying, but all I can hear is the music I put on for them and can’t turn off until the timer runs out! I don’t even understand what they’re saying half the time, and it doesn’t help that my ADHD and autism makes it hard for me to focus on multiple sounds and sights at once! THAT’S what really grinds my gears. Alright, back to you, Tom.
You know what I’d love? Subtitles. VR developers seem to think these are optional, for some reason. Like you don’t need to put these in your game, they’re just an afterthought. Job Simulator didn’t have them for the longest time, and Beat Saber still doesn’t have them for its own tutorial!
In a game like The Last Taxi where dialogue is extremely important and needs to be focused on at all times, having subtitles to read or a passenger log would be so helpful. Don’t get me wrong — I’m glad the voice acting is there, I love it. But it’s really hard to focus on a passenger’s voice when I have to listen to other audio cues like the warning lights.
The game doesn’t have any settings whatsoever. Why? I don’t know! It’s not even possible to exit the game without taking off your headset to forcefully close it! I pressed every button on my controller and not once did a button do something that caused a menu to pop up. Even Oculus’ menu button didn’t do shit. Isn’t this a staple of, oh I don’t know? EVERY GAME?
And then there’s the UI. This one in particular:
Go ahead and try to find where the passengers are.
That’s right, you can’t; that legend is utterly useless. You just have to go to a random location and hope you’ve got someone you need. It’s a complete gamble, and I hate it.
Alright, rant over.
Conclusion (So Far)
Like I said, I’ve only played an hour so far. So who knows, maybe everything I’ve complained about will get better and everything I liked will get worse. Both are possibilities. I played this the day it launched and after its launch day patch, so I’m hopeful that the developers know something’s up with this game.
Do I have hope for this game? Yes, 100%. It’s not unplayable by any means. It’s a great experience, but there’s only so much you can do in a space taxi. I’ll continue to play the game, and I’ll get back to you on my final verdict when I get an ending.
View my 1-hour session of gameplay here: