Meta’s Horizon Worlds is now available on desktop computers and mobile devices, but early-access users may find themselves frustrated by the shallow nature of what they discover.
MetaNews investigates the in-browser version of the metaverse only to uncover a half-baked effort and a poorly conceived user experience.
Early access on desktop and mobile
It’s been almost two years since Meta first launched Horizon Worlds, the proto-form of Zuckerberg’s metaverse dream.
For many, the vision seemed lacking—visually revolting, awkwardly designed, and incomplete. It was a product brought to market with the apparent effort and fastidiousness of a schoolboy’s rushed book report.
The virtual reality of Horizon Worlds failed to capture elements that, in the real world, human beings generally took for granted, such as legs.
Meta made the decision to forgo lower extremities in its metaverse, instead favoring ghostlike floating torsos. The decision invited ridicule from almost every quarter and continues to haunt the company to this day.
The problems with Horizon Worlds ran deeper than its cartoon cosmetics and missing legs. Horizon Worlds was nothing less than a development hellscape. Last year, its creators acknowledged that Horizon Worlds was a bug-ridden mess, an environment not even its developers are willing to visit or spend any time in.
That was some time ago, however, and this is now. A lot can change in a year. Just last month, Horizon Worlds seemed to turn a corner, and on foot no less, as its avatars finally discovered bipedal perambulation.
With that mission accomplished, Horizon Worlds is ready to take on its next small step, a giant leap from VR headsets to desktop PCs and mobile.
Meta is ready to present Horizon Worlds to the general public, offering the company a fresh start and the chance to write a happier narrative.
An invitation to the metaverse
For the purposes of this review, I attempted to forget everything I knew about Horizon Worlds and explore it with fresh eyes.
It started with great promise. I received an email only days after signing up for access.
“Thanks for waiting,” said the email. “You’ve now been granted early access to Meta Horizon Worlds on mobile and web, ahead of its general release.”
I quickly scrolled down and found the launch button. What happened when the browser window opened took me by surprise. Horizon Worlds, Meta’s work and social spaces metaverse, invited me to play a game.
‘MetaHorizon invited you to Super Rumble’
In large, bold lettering, Horizon Worlds asked me to ‘Super Rumble.’ I agreed on the expectation that most users would also agree to do so and on the promise that Super Rumble would be my “new favorite game.”
The first positive thing to say about Super Rumble is that it loads in-browser. There’s no need to download a client or any software of any kind. That is pretty fantastic, given that most metaverse experiences require downloads and are difficult to set up. Not so here.
As the loading bar crawls to the right, I notice that written underneath it are the words, “Get ready for some fun!”
It seems Meta has confidence in Super Rumble.
Super Rumble is a first-person shooter (FPS) and royal rumble combat game that, as far as I can tell, takes place in a single arena. The landscape is vaguely futuristic, with blocky architecture and functional graphics.
Ready player, one ‘easy target’
I “spawn” in the waiting area of the game before teleporting to the main arena. Immediately, my ears are assaulted by young voices. There are lots of young children in Horizon Worlds.
I join the game, taking this as an opportunity to learn the control mechanisms of Horizon Worlds on PC. The children are far better than me (naturally). I ran around the environment and hit my opponents with a few shots here and there, but most of the time I found myself soaking up bullets rather than shooting them.
“Wow, easy target,” says one kid as he fires another volley of laser fire into my avatar’s corpse. I think this is pretty poor etiquette from the baby-voiced assassin, but what do you expect from a 10-year-old?
Another asks me how I manage to fall when I die, as most people stay standing. “Are you falling down on purpose?” he asks with genuine curiosity. “How do you do that?”
I confess I do not know and decide it is time to leave Super Rumble. There’s nothing here to sustain my interest.
Is the game any good? It’s certainly not my “new favorite,” but if you like inferior Fortnite knockoffs, then Super Rumble might just be your thing.
Freshly riddled with another volley of gunfire, I exit the game. “Now would be a good time to explore another world inside Horizon Worlds,” I think. Perhaps a purely social environment.
It is here that I became completely unstuck. I can’t seem to navigate my way towards anything else.
‘How do I find the rest of the metaverse?’ I ask myself.
It was then that I learned the ugly truth. There is nothing else. The totality of Horizon Worlds on desktop and mobile is Super Rumble. This is literally all you get.
Like an avatar without legs, Horizon Worlds on PC is Horizon Worlds without the s. It’s just a single world. One tiny gaming environment called Super Rumble. What on Earth is Meta thinking?
Hire an auditor Mark
Launching Horizon Worlds on desktop and mobile was Meta’s big chance to change hearts and minds. All they needed to do was let the public in and give them something good. Skeptical media types would have to eat their words as the public flocked to them. Well, on this evidence, they blew it. Again.
Everything about this thing feels like ultra-low effort. If Horizon Worlds could be represented in picture form, that picture would be the half-drawn horse meme. When I think about Horizon Worlds, I hear two words repeating over and over again in my mind. The words are “that’ll do.”
Nothing about this thing is great. Nothing about it is special. Yet Meta has spent $40 billion on their metaverse so far. I would love to know where that money is going.
In the film Independence Day, there is a moment when the President (Bill Pullman) takes a tour of Area 51.
Surrounded by scientists and banks of computers, the President asks the pertinent question, “Where does all this come from? How do you get funding for all of this?”
One of the entourages responds, “You didn’t think they actually spent ten thousand dollars for a hammer and thirty thousand for a toilet seat, did you?”
Horizon Worlds is an improbably expensive hammer with an overpriced toilet seat. There’s simply no way to comprehend how this thing costs so much money. Perhaps Meta has its own off-books operation, a super AI computer, or a secret moon base or something, but if I were Mark Zuckerberg, I’d be calling in the auditors to find out where all my money is going.
Yes, yes, the avatars in Horizon Worlds may finally have legs, but when the rest of the experience is this incredibly lame, who cares?