melty stopped by EGX 2016 in Birmingham last week, where we got our hands on PSVR for the first time. Should you buy the Virtual Reality system for your PS4? Check out our thoughts on PSVR below!
While EGX 2016 was exciting because of the world debut of the Dishonored 2 demo (you can read our Dishonored 2 EGX hands-on here), the real highlight of EGX this year was the huge VR presence. So what did we take back from our VR experience? Virtual reality is weird. Not because it's hard to describe and tell you how we feel about it, but because it's difficult to convey the experience. It truly is something that you just have to experience yourself to really understand it.
While at Eurogamer Expo 2016, we tried out four games on PlayStation VR: PSVR Worlds, Battlezone, Tethered and Windlands. We also tried out Serious Sam on the HTC Vive, but haven't spent enough time with the system to give a fair verdict on the Vive. We will, however, touch on our thoughts of Serious Sam later in this article, but our experience with Serious Sam won't necessarily be reflective of the experience of every game on the HTC Vive. We have spent enough time with PSVR though to give our thoughts, and we can honestly say it's one of the best gaming experiences we've had in years.
When someone tells you about how immersive virtual reality is, it's difficult to picture what they mean. After all, it's different watching someone play a VR game and actually playing it. In our minds, we picture literally being inserted into the game world and being able to interact with it in whatever way we choose. While that isn't exactly true in reality, it's not actually that far off. The immersiveness of the virtual reality varies from game to game, but by far our best experience with the system was with PSVR Worlds, which showcased what the technology could do at its best.
For the VR Worlds demo, we were told that we're an East London gangster who's sitting in the passenger seat of our getaway car after a diamond heist. So we sat down in the chair, had a VR headset put on our head, and was given a PlayStation Move controller to hold in each hand. When the headset was first put on our head, a loading screen menu popped up on the display, and at first we were disappointed, because it felt like we were just watching a television screen close up. We don't mean to go all clickbait on you, but what happened next literally blew our minds. The display faded to back, and when we could finally see, we were sitting in our getaway car. And we weren't just watching it on a television, we were literally sitting in that car in that game world. It was like a dream.
We opened the car door and looked behind us, and no longer was there a VR booth, we were just looking down the motorway we were driving on. The PlayStation Move controllers had become our right and left hand, and it all felt so real. Heck, we took a sip of the soda in front of us and accidentally dropped it, and we instinctively looked down in frustration to see whether we had spilled the drink on our clothes because we were so immersed. Until that headset came off, we were living in a new reality, and it was everything we wanted from PSVR and more. Admittedly, we couldn't get a complete idea of how well VR Worlds plays because we only played a short five-minute snapshot of the game. In the segment we played, we were shooting people from the car we were sitting in, so we didn't get the chance to walk forward or anything like that. However, we can't emphasise enough how different this is from any other gaming experience we've had so far.
Battlezone, Tethered and Windlands each showed a different aspect to PlayStation VR. In Battlezone we were in a tank and similarly to VR Worlds were literally inserted into the game. However, while Battlezone was a solid game, the fact that we were using a normal PlayStation controller made our VR experience that little bit less special. It's understandable why a normal remote was used, because the game would become a lot more complicated if you controlled the tank using the levers inside, but the brilliance of VR is its ability to recreate the world around you and allow you to interact with that, and Battlezone doesn't fully allow that.
That's not a sleight against Battlezone though, because it's a good game and we imagine most games that are trying out VR will keep it simple and use a standard PlayStation controller at first. Windlands and Tethered are both fantastic games that use a PlayStation controller, but the controller limits your immersion in that world. In Windlands, you have to grapple your way across islands in the sky, which makes for a surreal experience in VR. It's like being Spider-Man. However, how much cooler would the grappling be if you had a Move remote for each hand, and grappled by throwing it forwards and clicking the trigger button to grapple, rather than just hitting buttons on the PlayStation controller? Similarly, Tethered would be much better if you could use a PlayStation Move controller. Tethered is a strategy game where you play a God who is helping a new society grow, and being able to control the game with your hands rather than with a controller would really add to the immersion.
While we weren't a big fan of Vive's VR port of Serious Sam, this is something that it got right. Playing the Serious Sam port felt more like watching a television screen close-up than being inserted into the game, but the way that the remote in each hand turned into guns was incredible, because you could point them anywhere in any direction (even in different directions at the same time) and they would fire.
Using PSVR and the Vive at EGX 2016 showed us that the future of VR in gaming is extremely exciting, however, it's up to the developers of each game to take bold risks to give us the most immersive experience possible. PlayStation VR is expensive, and it's something that you do need to try out before you buy, but it's truly an unforgettable experience. Tethered, Battlezone and Windlands have great potential, and if more games follow the example of PSVR Worlds, then VR gaming is going to have a very bright future. For regular updates on PlayStation 4, click the green subscribe button below. And if you haven't already, check out the PSPlus Free Games for September 2016! What are your experiences with PSVR? If you have any questions about the platform, let us know!