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VR Worlds

Platform(s): PlayStation 4
Genre: Simulation
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: SCEE London Studio
Release Date: Oct. 2016

About Tony "OUberLord" Mitera

I've been entrenched in the world of game reviews for almost a decade, and I've been playing them for even longer. I'm primarily a PC gamer, though I own and play pretty much all modern platforms. When I'm not shooting up the place in the online arena, I can be found working in the IT field, which has just as many computers but far less shooting. Usually.


PS4 VR Preview - 'VR Worlds'

by Tony "OUberLord" Mitera on June 24, 2016 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Immerse yourself in new worlds with five virtual reality experiences - all exclusive to PlayStation VR.

With Sony releasing its PlayStation VR hardware later this year, it's poised to be one of the first to bring VR hardware to the living room. There will be a premium SKU of the hardware that comes with the camera peripheral, two Move peripherals, and a copy of VR Worlds. The game is five VR experiences in one package, with the intention that it'll be a great introduction for people who are new to VR to experience. I sat down with the game to have my first experience with Sony's hardware and to learn more about the title.

There were only two of the five experiences able to be played at E3 2016. The first I dove into was Scavenger's Odyssey, a game where you play as a part-human, part-unknown humanoid sitting inside a mech-like walker. Thanks to the technology at play, I was able to lean and look around to see that I only had four fingers on each hand, my feet looked odd, and the mech suit was really cool. It sounds silly that such things are noteworthy, but it's more of a testament to all the details that you get and the perspective that is achieved within VR.

It doesn't take long before your dropship begins to fall apart, forcing you to get your walker loose and launch from the stricken ship. Your walker drifts through the wreckage of other ships with no propulsion control before landing on a nearby asteroid. At this point, there's little to do other than walk around before loading up the next gameplay segment, which featured much more mobility and some actual combat.

In the game, you aim your twin lasers based on where you look, and similarly, you can look at floating objects and pull them toward you with a gravity beam. The walker is capable of jumping to other floating pieces of wrecked spacecraft. Jumping can also be used to reposition yourself to avoid attacks from hostile aliens, whether it's a swarm of smaller aliens or a group of larger aliens that are armed with projectile attacks.

It was all very intuitive but by no means an easy challenge, and before long, my shields were dropped and aliens were swarming into my cockpit. From a mechanical standpoint, I can certainly see how it would be a great experience for someone new to VR, as it involved using both sticks in tandem with your head, and I certainly had to calibrate my brain to do all of those things at once.

The other game that playable as part of VR Worlds was Danger Ball, which is perhaps most easily explained as playing first-person, three-dimensional Pong. A longer explanation is that you're a competitor in a futuristic sport in which you must win or die, competing in Dyson spheres floating in space. The game is played solely with your head, and you control the position of the paddle simply by looking in different directions. Blocking the ball bounces it back toward your opponent, but you can also slide the paddle as you contact the ball to make it spin and cause its path to arc, head-butt it to give it more speed, or combine the two to make a really hard-to-block shot. Sadly, there won't be any multiplayer, but as with the theme, it would serve as a great introduction for people who have zero experience in VR and want to test the waters.

It was then that the conversation shifted away from the individual games and more to the tech and the nuances behind developing for VR. The game uses a proprietary engine and was built with proprietary tools to reach the highest performance possible, which is important for a comfortable VR experience. Anything less than 60 frames per second at any time is likely to cause discomfort, and having any less than that brings a whole new meaning to the phrase "unplayable." This requires a profound change in development processes, since artists can't just throw something into a build and play the game at 15 fps. Performance is king, so the player doesn't get sick.

To its credit, the game and the hardware do a really good job of maximizing such comfort. I was told that the games within VR Worlds have gone through many prototype phases, and only the ones that worked the best were incorporated. One example was the London Heist game, which wasn't playable or seen during our demo. At one point, the player rides in a van, and it was difficult to make the van move enough to feel interesting but not so much to the point that it caused discomfort between the player sitting still and the van moving around.

It will be interesting to explore all five games that come with VR Worlds more fully when the title comes out alongside the new VR hardware. In either case, it's solidly able to introduce players of all VR experience levels to the new hardware, and it's certainly entertaining. It must be intimidating to be people's first VR experience, but what the team has put together feels that it's up to the challenge. There will be a whole lot of people who will dig into the game to fire up the new peripheral when they both launch this October.

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