Whenever I think of virtual reality, my mind immediately jumps to Sword Art Online. A MMORPG experience that submerges your entire being inside of a game to hack and slash at monsters as if you were really there, seems like a complete fantasy.
We aren’t anywhere near that virtual experience, but whether it be the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, or the PlayStation VR, I can see that future getting closer and closer.
VR is nearly impossible to get hyped about before trying it. Watching a gameplay demo doesn’t feel special when it is shown just like any other game. Going into this demo, I was excited about the prospects of what the future may hold, but apprehensive about how long it will take to get there.
Due to a few demos set up around Toronto this past weekend, I was able to try out Sony’s VR machine at one of my local EB Games. Players were given the option of a few games: Battlezone, the modern VR retelling of the 1980 Atari classic, Eve Valkyrie, and a couple of PS VR World’s experiences, The London Heist and Into the Deep.
I didn’t get a chance to experience Battlezone or Into the Deep due to time constraints, but reviews from other players at the demo event were only positive about both of those experiences. The smile one gamer held on her face as she gunned down blocks in Battlezone spoke more to me than the words she shared after.
When it was my turn, I decided I had to give Eve Valkyrie a go first. I couldn’t resist trying out the game that seems to be getting the most attention in the VR space, and after that brief demo, I can understand why.
With the VR headset snug comfortably on my head, and over my glasses, something I was worried about going into the demo, a set of headphones over my ears, and a dualshock controller in my hands, I was ready to go.
Right away, I was impressed with the level of immersion. Dropped right into the cockpit of one of Eve Valkyrie’s fighters, I was consumed by flashing red lights, sirens, and commands from my squadron leader over the headset. I was given as long as I needed to explore the cockpit, and I mean the entire cockpit. Being able to turn my head to view what was behind me really does give that sense of actually being enclosed in the vehicle.
What surprised me the most, was how similar to a regular gameplay experience this was. The only difference it seemed, was that the right thumbstick was irrelevant, because you had to move your head to look around. Otherwise, the gameplay was basically the same. Hold down both bumpers to launch, X to boost, and the left thumbstick to move the vehicle itself.
The lack of much of any difference between controls for this game and your average shooter might be a disappointment, but once the fighting started, my experience was only enhanced by the fact that I had to actually search for enemy fighters.
After taking a few moments to match my controls of the fighter with my head movements, enemy fighters exploded onto the scene and the fun began in earnest. There’s something to blowing up an enemy combatant and then having to literally move your head searching to find something else to fight.
The demo comes to an end when you and your squad gets overrun and you are forced to flee. In the quiet of my own home, I imagine this would have been an entirely different experience, as the loud noises and urgency fell a bit flat due to the noise coming from the demo event.
Regardless, I was impressed, and couldn’t wait to try out one of the other demos. Next up: The London Heist.
While Eve Valkyrie was the more fun of the two, The London Heist felt like the best VR experience option. The dualshock was replaced with two move controllers, and I was thrust into the passenger seat of a truck escaping from pulling off some heist. I was able to explore the inside of the truck, using the move controllers to open compartments, drink a soda, and well, just unnecessarily touch everything.
The action started when a rival gang appeared to halt us in our tracks, but don’t worry, because my stereotypical English gangster partner had me covered. With a pistol in my hand, and a bag full of ammo situated right next to me, I was ready to unleash hell on anyone in my path.
And unleash hell I did, with bodies flying everywhere, curses erupting every few seconds from my driver’s mouth, and motorcycles and cars exploding as I shot at them. The gameplay may have been the most basic of car chases, but just like the previous demo, the aspect of leaning over my seat to look out the window and shoot behind me is unlike any experience I’ve had yet. This was only enhanced by the fact that to reload I had to reach to my side to pick up a new ammo pack.
VR may not anywhere near Sword Art Online levels, but it is definitely on its way. Putting on a headset that encompasses your entire vision, and blocking out the outside world with headphones truly creates an immersive experience. While the experiences available to me didn’t knock me out of my seat, they gave me a glimpse of what I can expect in the future.
The PS VR demo is less of a demo for these games, but more a demo of what the player can expect in the future. Now I can imagine how awesome the Batman: Arkham VR experience will be, or how actually terrifying Resident Evil 7 will be.
The future is here, and I’m all in.