Every new piece of technology needs something to show it off, right? Well, with the PlayStation VR, one of the prime showcases at a bunch of preview events was PlayStation VR Worlds. A collection of minigames that will show off a whole range of facets of the tech, does it equal more than the sum of its parts, or is it essentially a bit of an elaborate sequence of tech demos?
Game: PlayStation VR Worlds
Developer: Sony London
(Review code provided by publisher)
My first experience with the PSVR (or Project Morpheus, as it was called at the time) was at E3 2014, with the Street Luge demo being my inauguration into the technology. It was quite impressive at the time, and seeing the same demo today is an indication of where the tech has come on from its initial prototype stages. Cut to 2016, and the Luge demo is now one of 5 experiences included in PSVR Worlds. It’s key to stress the “Experiences” part of the previous sentence, as these can’t really be classified as full games, with the exception of maybe one. I’ll break them down below:
THE LONDON HEIST
The demo that got people excited about PSVR is here, and it’s essentially a Guy Ritchie-esque caper, with you taking a relatively passive seat through it all, with two standout action sequences. The level of detail in the characters and environments in The London Heist is truly brilliant, with one character’s cuts and bruises glistening under the swinging lightbulb above your head in the lock up, with a bit of a cartoonish vibe running all the way through it. The more passive scenes give you a fair bit to interact with in the environment, so when you’re sat in the pub you can grab a cigar, light it and even take a couple of breaths from it whilst you wait to hear the plans. Some cool audio tricks are employed as well, giving you an idea of how devs are going to be able to convince your brain that you actually did just pick up a mobile phone and put it to your head, and not the Move controller that’s actually in your hand.
Of course, the fun starts when you go to carry out the titular heist. A brief bit of puzzle solving gives way to a frantic gun fight, which will see you leaping off your sofa and peering over the top of a bunch of objects that aren’t there, in the hope that you’ll be able to shoot your way to safety. The shooting feels pretty damn good, and it’s a whole bunch of fun as things start to get crazy all around you. Another moment down the line sees you in a van with an Uzi, which leads to its own amusement!
You know that skeleton bob event at the Winter Olympics? The one where they hurtle down a mountain on a tea tray? Replace the mountain with a busy street and you’ve got the VR Luge. Using your head to direct your body, you lean left and right to navigate your way down the road course and get to the end in the best time possible. It’s a tricky thing to do, and it’s not helped by some finicky controls.
You’re exclusively using your head, but more often than not I found myself careening into a barricade at the side of the road, which was less than ideal. I’ve heard a lot of complaints of motion sickness with the VR Luge, but I didn’t encounter any really, so be aware if you’re sensitive to it.
One area that I did encounter it, however, was with Scavenger’s Odyssey. A tale where you become an alien in a mech, this game involves a whole heap of jumping around, switching planes of movement and frequent changes in navigational axis that you’ll need to have either played a lot of VR games or have a strong stomach to see the end. It’s a decent enough title where you shoot creepy green alien bugs, but it did make me feel a bit woozy on each occasion I went into it.
Ever been deep sea diving? Fancy it? Ocean Descent puts you in a cage and drops you down to the darkest depths of the sea, where you come face to face with all kinds of aquatic wildlife, including one angry Brucey that doesn’t want to let you get out of the cage alive! Starting off as quite a serene experience, it devolves into something a little more terrifying as it goes on, but it’s one of the most immersive, yet passive, experiences that can be found in the package. An ideal title for showing off the tech to the family if it’s hidden under the Christmas tree, I reckon.
Possibly the most fully fledged “Game” in the package, Danger Ball is what I imagine Pong looks like from the perspective of the bats. Using your head to control a square as it moves across the screen, you have to battle against an AI opponent to get the highest score. Simple. Except the enemies have some special skills which make the game increasingly tricky as you progress, leading to a sense of genuine triumph when you smash a powerful shot past a tiny gap to edge a victory. With a bit more development behind it, I think Danger Ball could be an excellent standalone budget title.
PlayStation VR Worlds is a collection of games that I kind of think should have been bundled with the PSVR Headset itself. Whilst there is a trial version on the included demo disc, I can’t shake the feeling that the tech demo nature of the titles included make the package as a whole a little underwhelming. There are some legitimately great moments tucked away in here though. The London Heist is a tremendous amount of fun for the 45 minutes or so that it lasts, and Danger Ball feels fresh and exciting for what is basically Pong. Ocean Descent will be on a LOT of TV screens in living rooms come late December, whilst Stranger’s Odyssey and VR Luge will split opinion down the middle. The very definition of a mixed bag.