Tucked away from the flashing lights, blaring speakers and general mayhem of E3, is a black room, with nothing in it but a PC and an HTC Vive.
Oh, and an Nvidia demo rep whose name escapes me, so I’ll just call him Nvidia Man for now.
I’m in here to try VR Funhouse, Nvidia’s self-proclaimed “most technically advanced game seen in virtual reality”. With a sell like that, my expectations are naturally rather high...
Welcome to the house of fun
Strapped in and good to go, I find myself in a carnival, and I’m informed that I’m about to enjoy a series of mini-games.
The first demo involves throwing balls at a shelf of crockery, satisfyingly smashing vases and pots to pieces. I soon ditch them for a handy mallet, and vent my deeply buried frustrations. Who needs therapy?
So far this is fun - everything’s running incredibly smoothly despite the high resolution and quality of the environment, but the next game turns things up a notch.
Looking down, I realise that I’m now holding a bow, and I’m told to pick up an arrow and start shooting some targets.
The Vive’s excellent controllers make this an immediately natural process, and the level of precision and control is beyond anything else I’ve tried.
Even more impressive, is the simulated feeling of tension from the bow string. The Vive controllers vibrate in subtle ways, accurately mirroring my virtual actions, and it really does feel like I’m holding back the tension of a string on an actual bow.
Turning round, I see a bowl of fire. I’ve seen enough movies to know what to do - I dip the arrow in the flames, and let loose, watching the wooden targets catch fire and burn up satisfyingly.
I’d happily carry on doing this all day, but I’m now holding a pair of swords.
I experimentally tap them together, and despite the fact that they’re many times longer than the Vive’s controllers, it really does feel like I’m hitting two physical objects against each other.
I use the swords to slice an explosion of confetti from a crowd of balloons, before finding myself duel-wielding a pair of cowboy pistols.
A cannon starts basting targets in the air, and I proceed to shoot them out of the sky with, I’m told amazing accuracy. Thanks, Nvidia Man.
Each individually smashed target piece has its own chunk of physics rendered by Nvidia’s engine, and the manner in which they shatter on the ground brings back PTSD flashbacks of the time I smashed a rather expensive vase in my aunt’s house as a reckless little boy.
Next up, I’ve got a pair of goo blasters and clown mouths to shoot, blowing up balloons as fast as possible to gain more points. The goo itself is fun to spray around, and it’s not long before I’m spring it in the air and watching it splat down onto my goggles, obscuring my vision.
The last demo involves beating up a game of springy smiley-faces. Batting them around results in very realising bobbing and weaving, and the way their rendered hair ripples with their motion is hypnotising.
Trying to accurately portray any VR experience in words alone is always difficult, but I can confidently say that you’re definitely going to want to try out VR Funhouse for yourself when it lands on Steam in the near future.
It’s the most polished VR experience I’ve tried to date, combining realistic physics, textures and a powerful sense of escapism, all made possible by Nvidia’s pricey-but-powerful GTX 1080 GPU.
If you’re lucky enough to own a Vive and the £600 graphics card (and don’t have a crippling fear of clowns), you’re in for a real treat.