VR is the Real Deal for Immersion
PlayStation VR has been on store shelves for just over a month now and it was in development for years before that. Over the course of VR’s rise, whether it be PSVR or Oculus Rift or any of the other various platforms, there have always been arguments over its lasting power. Is it a fad or is it here to stay? Will it be good enough to gain enough supporters to keep it around? Much like when I bought my 3D capable HDTV six years ago, the discussion of whether or not VR is relevant enough to be a permanent institution in gaming is still going strong. It turns out that 3D at home is going the way of the dodo but after my experience with PlayStation VR I honestly think that gaming has found its new muse.
I was never a detractor of VR and approached the idea of it with a very open mind. The handful of times I was able to try it out before its mass release, at events like E3 and PAX, I always left with the thought that there was a real chance at success. Sure it was rough around the edges and the goggles were clunky and the graphics were blurry BUT if they could iron out those kinks they might be on to something.
The release of PlayStation VR was my chance to dive into VR at home at a price made for the common man… kinda. It’s still not cheap but the cost of a PS4 and PSVR versus the cost of a solid rig and Oculus is a notable one. Nevermind that I sadly lack the know how to put together a great gaming PC but that’s a story for another time. PSVR is VR for the masses and while it suffers a bit in terms of power it brings a lot to the table in these early days of at-home VR.
I had a handful of games to play in order to get a feel for what PlayStation VR was capable of. PlayStation VR Worlds is your basic intro into the device and what you can do with it. Participating in events like VR Street Luge or what’s essentially a virtual air hockey type game in Danger Ball are interesting no doubt, but they still lacked that total immersion I had hoped for. That feeling like you’re inside the game COMPLETELY. Other mini-games in PSVR Worlds like The London Heist or Into the Deep felt more like VR experiences than games too. You were inside that world but the interactivity just wasn’t what I needed to feel like I mattered. I was a spectator.
Arkham VR was certainly better, turning me into the Caped Crusader himself. I read my first Detective Comics issue at six years old and since that moment I, like many others who grew up nerdy, wanted to be the Bat. The first words I uttered as I slipped over the PSVR goggles were a hushed, “I’m Batman!” and I never looked back. As with a few of the PSVR Worlds games, however, the Arkham VR experience (review HERE) was more narrative than game. I solved a mystery, I threw a Batarang and it was cool but it didn’t feel like enough of a video game experience.
Since the release of PlayStation VR, we have covered a vast number of games for the platform ranging from virtual pinball to soccer to flying like an eagle. Most games have scored in the 70ish range with a couple 90s in there that show potential for where VR can go. Despite my criticisms above I still think that these games all exhibit great potential for what will be possible during this first round of VR’s life cycle. If I had walked away at this point I would have marked myself as a semi-believer but not 100% sold on the platform. That was before I played Santa Monica Studios’ Here They Lie.
I’ve got to be upfront at the start that I didn’t get far enough into the game to give it a review. My opinion on it is purely experience based but not deep enough to give it a score of any kind. I should also come clean that I am a 6’1″ mass of man-sissy. I don’t do horror games. P.T. nearly put me in the hospital. Why I agreed to play Here They Lie is still something of a mystery to me. Apart from the entertainment of others, there is no reason on this earth that I would want to do that again. Funny enough, though, playing a game that scared the ever living shit out of me is exactly what I needed to sell me completely on virtual reality.
Remember that ‘total immersion’ I had asked and hoped for? This was the first time I had truly felt that not only was I inside the virtual world but that I had a decent amount of control as to how the game turned out. I was on that train, I was inside that creepy tunnel, and I was ghoulishly murdered by some antlered demon from hell. By the end of my time with the game, I wasn’t just scared but I was physically and mentally exhausted by it. It was an experience more than a game. I’ve sat on my ass and played games more times than I can count but this was visceral and felt real. Sweat rolled down my back and my heart raced as I cussed out and ran for my life. THIS was the experience I was hoping for and THIS was what finally sold me on just how far VR can be taken.
Alright, so my underpants have long since been washed and no, they weren’t literally crapped in (that’s my story, I’m sticking with it) but the palpable fear and full immersion that Here They Lie gave me made me a believer through and through. Is VR a fad? Perhaps, but for right here and right now I believe in it as much as I believed in my 3D TV when I bought it. Let’s hope I’m more right about VR than I was about that.