If there’s one take-away this year, it’s that Sony is very committed to the VR hardware revolution. Last year when I covered E3 I really liked the then-called Project Morpheus – but I was a little tired of seeing “VR Experiences.” I wanted games, something concrete and definitive so I could render an opinion. I wanted the (virtual) rubber to hit the (virtual) road.
After spending an evening checking out a collection of PlayStation VR titles, Sony seems to making good on my personal wants. While I had a crack at several titles during the press-only showcase, I wanted to highlight three games that either used the hardware well, or were just really enjoyable. This doesn’t mean the games are without problems though, but I think the majority of them are teething issues. As the developers get more confident with the hardware and audience expectations become more rigid, they’ll figure it out.
And before you ask, no – I didn’t get to play Batman: Arkham VR. While the event was only open to reporters, the queue to try it out would have meant seeing nothing else that night. Unfortunate, but not unsurprising.
RIGS Mechanized Combat League
RIGS is a giant-robot sports game – there’s really no other way to sum it up. Two teams of three go head-to-head in small arena, and attempt to get points by moving their robot through a shared goal-post in the centre. In order to actually score however, your robot has to be in a charged-up state which is achieved by gaining kills, or from collecting power-ups.
Similar to a fighting game, there is a roster of robots to choose from, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Some robots are particularly good on the ground, others hit harder, while some have the ability to jetpack momentarily through the air. In-game, each robot has three modes that they can swap between: speed mode which makes you run faster, attack mode which ups your damage, and repair mode which heals you.
I commented to a developer during my demo that the game felt a bit like classic Quake – you’re running around this tight arena at a fairly rapid pace, getting kills and trying to control an enemy’s access to timed pickups. To my surprise, the team actually used the 1990’s shooter as inspiration for the game.
Because this is a VR game, the action appropriately takes place inside the cockpit. Movement is controlled with the left-stick, and you can pivot your torso with the right stick. Looking up and down is handled via your head-movements – which was initially a little jarring. It took some real mental processing to get over the standard control method that nearly a decade’s worth of shooters instilled in me, and for a while was a little nauseating too. It soon began to feel natural however.
100ft Robot Golf
This game is weird – and I think that’s why I like it. Also it’s wrapped up in that hammy, Tranzor-Z/Transformers era, dubbed-anime styling
100ft Robot Golf has you play a giant robot in a colourful world, trying to enjoy a nice game of golf. The only problem? Pesky civilisation is in the way – buildings, bridges, and roads. Like any golf game, it’s all about getting under par, except now you have the ability to deform the course. This takes the form of you using your big metallic body to knock over and smash structures.
Another twist is its passive online element, which has you facing off against another robot. You’re not fighting each other, but you can influence each other’s game by destroying buildings and altering the course. This puts a nice twist on the usual slower pace seen in the genre, as you’re racing against your opponent before they can ruin your chances of scoring under par.
The viewport has you occupy the head of the giant robot. Cool in concept, but the execution is a little jittery – you’ll occasionally clip in to your own shoulders, and things like that. Further, there is no option to slowly rotate your body, as touching the right stick even slightly seems to snap you to one of four cardinal directions. It’s a little disorienting and nausea inducing.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
What can I say about Resident Evil 7 that you probably haven’t experienced for yourself with the demo, available up on the PlayStation store? Probably quite a bit, as it turns out.
The demo has you control a group of paranormal investigators shooting a TV show in a supposedly-haunted house. As luck turns out, it’s actually got some real nasty stuff going on, and people start dying. You’ll explore the dilapidated environment exclusively in first person, which is a big departure for the series.
When I saw the trailer during Sony’s conference, I was worried that the game would totally ignore its roots. That’s not the case however. When you examine items and objects in the environment, you’ll get a small batch of flavour text describing it – something you don’t technically need, because you can see it with your own eyes. It’s a nice touch though.
There’s a palpable level of fear that playing the game in VR creates however, that you just don’t get in a screen. When another character or creature is near you it feels really claustrophobic, kicking in some long forgotten lizard-brain response – a knee-jerk reaction that’s biological and primal. When scares happen you don’t do the logical thing like take the headset off. Instead you try and look away or close your eyes.
The one misstep seems to be the way characters look at you in VR – or in Resident Evil 7’s case, how they don’t look at you. The people you interact with don’t seem to track you with either their head or their eyes. Whenever you do try and line up with their vision, it’s like they’re starting past you. It’s a real weird mental disconnect.
What do you think of PlayStation VR? Anything you’re really looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below!