There’s a pervasive opinion amongst critics that PlayStation VR Worlds, Sony’s digital primer and entry point in to the world of VR should have been included free with every PSVR headset. Most seem to think that it should have displaced the demo disc that does actually come chucked in. I’m going to add my hat there.
VR Worlds is neat, but it’s essentially a collection of fleeting experiences that work well for dipping your toes in to the VR pool, but lack any sort of real longevity. It’s a pity, because some elements of it are really impressive, but they’re just to ephemeral to be worthwhile. It’s a collection of 5 disparate experiences of varying quality: The London Heist, Danger Ball, VR Luge, Scavengers Odyssey and Ocean Descent. When you first start the game, it is indeed impressive, as colours whirl around you – real enough that you want to touch them. Sounds whizz by in 3D as the wreath of particle lights making up the game’s logo form in front of your eyes, begging you to reach out and touch the motes of light and empty bullet casings that are floating about in the air.
It’s probably worth looking at each of the games separately.
The London Heist
The best of the bunch, and probably the best example of the sort of “real,” story-driven games we’ll get to see in the future is The London Heist. It’s a bit of a modern take on arcade rail shooters like Time Crisis, with story exposition throw in. As a story, it’s typical English gangster stuff, recalling guy Ritchie fare like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. Only, instead of cut-scenes, you’re able to interact with things. Yes, much of that interaction is entirely pointless twaddle; smoking a cigar while a boss man prattles at you, picking up random bits of scenery and throwing it about.
If you’ve got a pair of the PlayStation wands, the actual shooting bits are sublime – it’s just a pity there are only two of them. One has you shooting at guys, while you’re ducking behind a desk trying not to catch a bullet in the face. The other has you sitting in the passenger seat of a car, opening the door, spitting a hail of Uzi bullets at murderous jerks on bikes. It feels great, and would be better were it no so short-lived. It’s done in 30 minutes, with no incentive to return. There’s a standalone shooting gallery you can do, but it lacks the adrenaline rush and immediacy of the short campaign.
This is an entirely passive experience. You stand about, like an idiot, in a diving cage – listening to people radioing info to you – but not much else. It’s an interesting experience though, because it can feel oddly claustrophobic surrounded by so much water that isn’t really there. It’s the sort of thing that invites you to just look around – at the fish swimming by, at the sting ray that float past (you killed The Crocodile Hunter you jerks!). My wife’s inherent reaction was to reach out and touch this stuff that wasn’t really there – which made me realise how immersive it is, and also prepare for the eventuality that if we ever go to the Pacifics, that she’ll end up being killed by a stonefish
One of the Ocean decent experiences has your cage a little more than rattled by a great big shark – and the whole thing is unsettling. I found myself reeling back, afraid of its very pointy teeth. Once again though, none of this is really worth revisiting – but it is a great way to show off VR to people.
Danger Ball is the single game in the entire collection with any sort of replay value. It’s essentially futuristic VR Pong, complete with a Tron-like aesthetic. Instead of controlling a paddle though, you are the paddle, hitting the ball back to your opponent with your head. It’s oddly deep – allowing for spins, measuring the intensity ad direction of your attacks as you lunge forward at nothing like a pillock.
The increasing difficulty and intensity of your opponents, who have some unique abilities and a tournament structure make this the only game you’ll come back to. It’s fun, it’s addictive and I wish it was sold on the store as a separate, cheaper downloadable game.
Scavenger’s Odyssey broke my brain. Maybe it was too early in the morning, and perhaps it’s because I hasn’t eaten yet, but the free movement in Scavenger’s Odyssey made me want to reach for a bucket. It’s an ok game though. It has you, playing as some sort of alien, in some sort of mech, piloting the thing on alien worlds and in alien wreckage, looking for some artefact. Sometimes, you’ll shoot at things, sometimes you’ll jump around – Using your head to aim, and the DualShock 4 to control movement. It’s another look at the sort of things we’ll get in the future, but another short one, over in half an hour.
VR Luge is easily the worst game of the lot – because there’s very little to it. It has you hurling down streets at breakneck speeds, using your tilting head to control motion. There’s a bit of brain disconnect, because you see yourself as lying down on a luge board, even though you likely aren’t. You could try lying down, but the movement of your head doesn’t quite match your on-screen movement – so it can be jarring. Worse than making your brain want to rapidly exit your head (via your stomach) it’s just not fun to play.
It’s not a poor product by any stretch of the imagination – it’s just not a great vaue proposition. It’d be fine if it was free, instead of the R599 that it’ll cost when the PlayStation VR launches locally in January next year.
Last Updated: November 25, 2016