It’s been a while since I was this excited by gaming.
Shuhei Yoshida, Sony’s President of Worldwide Studios, said this week that virtual reality was “an ultimate weapon”, and judging by what I experienced with PlayStation VR (formerly known as Project Morpheus) at the Tokyo Game Show 2015, I concur.
Sure, I’ve tried the Samsung Gear VR and played games on it before, but a full console VR gaming experience beats it hands down. It’s simply amazing, and is the perfect example of what the whole experience should be like.
Here’s what I gathered from my limited time with the PS VR.
I first tried Project Morpheus at E3 2014, and it’s obvious PS VR has come a long way since then. Putting it on and adjusting the fit is now just a two-step affair, where it used to be much more complicated.
It also looks much more polished now as well, and Sony actually confirmed it’s pretty much the retail version that we’ll see in 2016 already. Needless to say, it’s also a lot lighter and more comfortable, which helps with maintaining in-game immersion.
It’s hard to play games when you feel you have a block strapped to your head, after all. Despite being under bright spotlights, the headset never fogged up either, which is one of the major bugbears for most VR headsets nowadays. Motion tracking on the PS VR was also silky smooth, with everything running at 120fps (60fps ramped up by a factor of two) to ensure there’s no lag and lessen the chance of motion sickness.
I’ve never had the chance to try the Oculus Rift – it didn’t help the demo units at TGS were completely booked up within minutes of the show floor opening every day – but I can definitely say the PS VR definitely wowed me more than any other VR experience I’ve had.
RIGS: Mechanised Combat League
This game won’t just make you want to buy a PS VR, it’ll make you get a PS4 (if you don’t have one already) so you can use that PS VR you just bought to play this game. It was undoubtedly the highlight of TGS 2015 for me by far.
The premise is simple – you are a professional athlete in the premier sporting event of the future called the Mechanised Combat League, which combines mech combat and traditional sports to devastatingly fun effect.
Made by the same folks at Guerilla that brought you the Killzone series, RIGS is the perfect game for VR. You put on the headset, pick up the controller, and sit in a chair – just like if you were to sit in an actual mech. The left analog stick moves the mech, the right analog stick turns the torso, and you aim by moving your head to shift the mech’s point of view before pulling the left and right triggers to fire either or both of your two main weapons. It’s really super intuitive. You can see more of what I mean in the official trailer here, as well as the video below of someone actually playing the demo.
What I played at TGS was just a demo, so they only had one game mode available called Power Slam, a 3v3 battle where the team that scores the most goals wins. According to Guerilla, there’ll be several more multiplayer modes, as well as single player ones, once the game launches along with PS VR.
In Power Slam, you have to kill – called Takedown in RIGS – enemy mechs or collect pickups in order to fill your overcharge meter, and once it’s full, you can then score by jumping through a ring at the top of the map. Of course, mechs respawn after being taken down, just like in any FPS multiplayer game. You can also toggle between three power modes to suit your style and/or adapt to situations: Turbo for speed, Heal to replenish hit points after being out of combat for a short period of time, and Combat for increased damage.
There were six mechs to choose from – two from three different classes that had different levels of speed, armour, and power. More will definitely be on the way too, ensuring there’ll be one to suit your individual playstyle. Each team in the league also has a special ability that’s automatically equipped on its mechs, such as the Cobras’ vampire ability that heals their mechs after each takedown.
This will definitely be one of the most anticipated games next year once PS VR launches officially.
On the other end of the gaming complexity spectrum is PlayRoom VR, which like the original PlayRoom, is meant to be a suite of family-friendly games to play at home. In fact, it’s meant to be so simple that even young kids can play. Except that this time, one of the five possible players uses the PS VR to enter a 1v4 scenario, while the others use the DualShock 4 controller.
Made to launch at the same time as PS VR with at least 6 titles, PlayRoom VR is expected to be free, exclusively digitally distributed, and constantly be updated with simple games.
We tried two of these games: one was literally a game of cat and mouse, and the other required a dinosaur to dodge attacks by mice in powered suits. In the former, the PS VR player is the cat, and has to poke through a series of curtains by literally moving their head forward to see the mice, who are trying to steal cheese. Whoever’s still moving when the cat’s looking will be caught. The cat will then have to hide behind the curtains again, or the mice understandably wouldn’t move. Stare too long, however, and a dog comes along to mess everything up, giving the mice a distinct advantage.
For the dinosaur one, the dino wears the PS VR headset, and dodges projectiles fired/thrown by the four mice players by moving left and right.
It all sounds really simple, but to be honest, was really quite a lot of fun. We were five grown adults playing and we were really enjoying it, so we can only imagine kids would have much more of a blast.
The Kitchen demo by Capcom is more of a horror experience than an actual game, which could probably open the door for movie experience possibilities. It seems to work by combining the PS VR with the PS Camera, since there was some additional motion sensing involved. It’s the same as the one that was at E3 2015 earlier this year.
I’ll just describe what the demo was like to try and paint you a picture of how effective it was, because they blocked the screen of what was going on from being recorded. You can see what playing it was like in the video above. In a nutshell, you’ve been held captive with a friend in a kitchen by a deranged woman, who seems to be some sort of demon or ghoul.
Your hands are tied up, and you can actually see them bound when you look down at where your controller should be. Seeing as you’re actually sitting in a chair with both hand stationary in that position, it’s quite a nice touch to immerse you in another world.
Your fellow captive soon wakes up, and this is where you hold out your hands for him to cut you free. Sadly, this was the limit of the motion controls in the demo. However, surprise, surprise, the knife he was using suddenly comes plunging out of him from behind, with the killer coming out of nowhere.
She then drags your friend away, where all you can hear are some pretty creepy noises, followed by suspenseful silence. Silence which is then broken by a severed head being thrown into the room, and more silence… followed by the killer suddenly appearing over the top of your head, clawing at your face before the demo ends.
It’s really good storytelling that makes full use of equipment you’re already using, and trust me, it is absolutely amazing for horror games or movies. You can read more about how much Carly from VRScout freaked out while experiencing the Kitchen demo here.
Virtual reality is here to change entertainment experiences for the better, and Sony seems right at the forefront of it.