When the PSVR launched last year it caused quite the stir. Over night, console and casual gamers could get their mitts on an affordable virtual reality system.
Sure, most of the launch titles were nowhere near as immersive or fine-tuned as those found on the pricier, PC-powered HTC Vive or Oculus Rift but finally the must-haves arrived: from the 'I didn't want these undies anyway' Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, to spaceship sim Star Trek: Bridge Crew, and even the future of air hockey, Sparc.
Outside the big titles, it's fair to say that it's been slimmer pickings than we would've liked and the lack of come-and-get-me games has contributed to an audible silence rather than a deafening buzz. We shouldn't hammer the nails into the virtual coffin just yet, though. Affordable VR was never going to be a walk in the park and many critics forget that PSVR is still in its infancy; it's a puppy in a litter of barking console beasts and it's going to take some time to settle in. These upcoming titles will help.
Blood & Truth
One of the things that has failed to convince questioning consumers is a dearth of third-party titles from big-time devs. When the heavyweights do turn up they've knocked out a few of those question marks, most notably Resident Evil 7 and Batman Arkham VR. This rail-shooter-slash-gangster-tale from the guys behind The Getaway and London Heist (the only PSVR launch experience to truly earn its chops) brings in some of that pedigree.
Opening in a dingy alleyway, the point and click movement required to feel our way up a fire escape and into the attic of a casino felt smoother than previous PSVR games, namely the faltering Farpoint. Once inside we had to locate a bad guy via CCTV, which was a nice but simple puzzle that exploited the in-your-face medium in a unique way.
The meat and bones of this game however is the shooting and here there were some definite tweaks required with bullets straying off target no matter how well we aimed. Still, we have no doubt that it will undergo a tune-up before release. Ultimately the OTT geezers and guns-centric action was an enticing cross between a Guy Ritchie film and Time Crisis.
As every one knows, virtual reality really excels when it comes to scaring the bejesus out of us. Fans of horror experiences will enjoy soiling their pants at this clever game from studio Gattai Games, Stifled. The sounds you make through the microphone unveil the monochrome pencil-drawn world around you through what is essentially echolocation. There's a hook of course and the tagline says it all: They Hear Your Fear. And the wee dripping down your leg too.
As a fan of the Amnesia games, where staying in the light attracts enemies but safely hiding in the shadows leads to insanity, we're really impressed with the use of sound and exploration as a similar beguiling mechanic. We did find that shouting or making lots of noise doesn't seem to increase the distance that you can see and jabbering away to yourself does feel a bit odd. Thankfully you can just press a button to make sound too. There's some real depth to the plot and the intense, stealth-heavy gameplay is watered down with safer non-sound based bouts of exploration. As innovative horror games go, it's a potential sleeper hit.
ETA: Late 2017
When PSVR launched, Sony did a good job of including a series of experience style mini-games packaged together as PlayStation VR Worlds. Ocean Descent sent you into a watery world of familiar creatures while the less compelling VR Luge careened off-piste. Despite being hit and miss, Sony revealed that they understood one of the biggest pulls of VR: passive but fascinating adventures.
Another universally popular feature of VR is the opportunity to pull on the headset with virtual friends in a social hub – and this is something Sony has ultimately missed. That makes the announcement of Rec Room (the seminal social game where people hang out or plays games already available on HTC Vive or Oculus Rift) a true gamechanger. You only have to peruse our list of best virtual reality social experiences to see why. The PSVR doesn't feature once. Rec Room is the title everyone has been waiting for, without knowing it.
A conventional view of VR is that the best experiences are always first person. They're not. Playing turn-based table top-style games, such as cyberpunk RPG Augmented Empire (only on Gear VR and Oculus Rift) or RTS war-game Brass Tactics (out 2018, Oculus Rift) can really feel like pulling on the goggles of God, such is the omnipresence afforded by operating in a virtual world.
It's good to see Sony is also thinking outside of the first-person box with cute mouse puzzler Moss and 2D side scroller Star Child, both announced at E3 with latter getting a brand new trailer at this month's Paris Games Week.
We only got to play a short demo at PGW but this neon-drenched space odyssey was a welcome change of pace to the typical VR experiences. The familiar side on view does make the VR feel somewhat superfluous but being detached from the character and able to peer ahead to see what perils await in the darkness is an interesting take on the platformer genre. There were echoes of Little Nightmares and Inside here – and that can only be a good thing.
This timed-exclusive (meaning it will probably come to other platforms later) is the first-person hero shooter that could really encourage PSVR naysayers to splash the cash. Set in a world where mechanical monsters called titans battle head-to-head, Sony have promised "free locomotion, strategy, and destructible environments". Aside from a one and a half minute announcement teaser from PGW that's all we know but freakishly massive fingers and toes crossed it turns out to be as mega as the megaliths themselves.
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