The lights are on
We've spent quite a bit of time demoing PlayStation VR games for our January Year of VR issue. Alongside the big pricing and timing announcement for the hardware, Sony gave us a chance to dive into some of the games launching alongside and shortly after the headset releases in October.
Unlike Rift and Vive, the PlayStation VR launch lineup is far from solidified, though Sony expects around 50 games. For many of these, the demos are still early enough that it's hard to get a complete sense of how these games will shape up. It's important to understand that developers launching with the hardware still have six months, quite a lot of time, to polish and perfect. Here are some impressions from the Game Informer staff.
I remember standing on an overturned milk crate to reach the small periscope-like viewport of the original Battlezone as a kid. Looking into that vector-filled world was an experience unlike most arcade games. Rebellion's reboot in VR feels right given the pioneering approach of the original. It's also an extremely smooth experience that is likely to elevate to one of PlayStation VR's killer apps on day one.
In my single-player demo (Battlezone will also have a competitive multiplayer component), we first selected a sector on the campaign map. Each time you play, the campaign will be generated anew, making each time through unique. In each sector, you'll take on aggressive enemies, sentry towers, and swarms of drones. My tank was equipped with machine guns and mortars. After destroying enough of the attackers, an EMP was enabled allowing me to clear out the rest of the forces and win the day.
Cruising around the arena was extremely comfortable. Head movement allows players to look around independent from the tank's motion. This might result in discomfort for some users, however I had no problems. I was delighted by the speed and can't wait to check out the multiplayer. Battlezone will be available day-and-date with PlayStation VR in October. – Mike Futter
GolemDeveloper: Highwire Games
Highwire Games is no stranger to developing platform exclusive launch titles, as the former Bungie devs worked on Halo, one of the most successful day one games in console history. For the PSVR, this team is building a unique VR experience that calls to mind games like Infinity Blade. In Golem players assume the role of a kid who is bedridden after a tragic accident. Using the mysterious powers of a crystal, the child gains control of a doll in the room and can start looking for a path out of the home.
Players navigate through the medieval cabin using their eyes to choose a direction, maneuvering under tables and into creaks in the floorboards. The level of detail in the environment is impressive. As I move into the darkness below the crystal illuminates the area around me, allowing me to point the Move controller in any direction to see the scurrying rodents and possible paths ahead.
From here the demo transitions abruptly into an arena combat scenario that almost feels like an Infinity Blade battle. As a 20-foot tall golem with a sword in hand, I square off against another towering rock figure, moving the Move controller to block incoming sword attacks to open up a window for a counterattack. The fidelity of the controls was underwhelming – it almost felt like a Wii game with the clumsiness of responsiveness – but the studio has a lot of time to polish before launch so we wouldn’t be surprised to see the controls tightened up. – Matt Bertz
Rez InfiniteDeveloper: Q Games
I came to the Rez party late, when the HD version made its way to Xbox 360. I was instantly enamored of the pulse-pounding music, sleek aesthetic, and trance-inducing gameplay loop. It's been a long time since I played it, but like a familiar song, diving back in with PlayStation VR instantly recalled the game's rhythm and lyrics.
One of the trickiest parts of the virtual reality experience is motion. Take too much control away from the player and simulation sickness will kick in. Move too fast in-game and you risk overloading the senses and creating an uncomfortable experience. By all accounts, Rez should suffer from those problems. However, some smart implementation makes it a comfortable experience.
Targeting is handled with the head, which is an extremely natural sensation. Because the player is always being pulled in one direction, you don't need to worry about sharp turns out of your control. The synesthetic effect originally pioneered on the PlayStation 2 is enhanced when fully immersed in Rez's grid-like world. And with new content coming, it's likely going to be worth revisiting this thumping classic. And even if you aren't on board with VR, you'll be able to play Rez Infinite on PlayStation 4 using traditional screens. – Mike Futter
Email the author Matt Bertz, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.