Virtual Insanity

The first thing that hit me when I stepped into EGX this year was the amount of open space. You may think this is a good thing, but it quickly became apparent that both Nintendo and Microsoft were absent this year. Whilst Nintendo's absence is not unexpected (although had they shown Zelda it may have been game of the show), the same can't be said for Microsoft. After pushing Sony hard to make up for lost ground they announced new technology and you could argue they have the best first party games coming out between now and the end of the year. Sure they had a couple games at EGX and a large Gears of War 4 presence, but to not have a stand was strange to say the least.

To be fair to Sony, they did their best to capitalise on Microsoft's absence with a strong showing including Horizon Zero Dawn and Gran Tourismo, but it was with virtual reality that they really pushed the boat out. Last year PS VR was strictly on a pre-booked basis with a couple of machines available for use. This year there were countless opportunities to try out the new PlayStation VR hardware either through Sony directly or with other developers showing off games on the show floor.

After playing last year I was initially impressed but my excitement waned with no clear games.  Rather we saw a bunch of tech demos with various degrees of immersion. I was pleased to find that this year there were actual games to experience and some of them really captured the imagination of the crowds. In the Sony VR stand itself there were around 15 booths to accommodate the masses. I had the chance to play some of the demos which will be shipping with the unit itself but also some of the more recent offerings such as Batman VR, Farpoint and Robinson: The Journey. The first game I got my hands on was The London Heist: Getaway and whilst the graphics were nothing to write home about, I soon found myself without a care in the world as I pretended to shoot bad guys and reload my gun with my dual move controllers.

In the days that followed I managed to play Driveclub VR twice. As soon as I put the PS VR visor on after already sitting in the force feedback racing chair with pedals and a racing wheel, the illusion was complete. It feels damn close to being in a real car. The sense of speed and immersion really shines through. No doubt it helped playing while using all the accessories (wheel, pedals, racing chair), it would probably feel less impressive on your couch using a standard controller, but as an experience at EGX it was top notch. The majority of people who played Driveclub VR were walking away singing it's praises. Some even scanned a code right there on the show floor to preorder using the handily placed posters around the venue.

Aside from the Sony stand there were four units at the show displaying a reboot of the old wireframe tank shooter Battlezone. This is one of a couple full price VR games at launch, and judging by the reaction it received, will be worth paying full price for.

The most glowing reports for VR came from a game called Tethered which is a mix of Populous and Minecraft. People played this for ages and didn't want to leave their worlds behind when the session ended. I think it was here at the Tethered stand where I felt the most hope for VR. The sheer passion the developers have not only for this game, but the many others in the pipeline, is refreshing. Whilst this is a relatively novel concept for us gamers, it is apparent that for developers this jump in technology is a real game changer. A chance for them to do things they only dreamed were possible just a couple of years ago. 

So what exactly will you have to play on day one when your new VR package arrives from Sony? As we confirmed on the EGX show floor, they will be including a fairly generous demo disc which consists of the following:

  • Allumette
  • Battlezone
  • DriveClub VR
  • Eve: Valkyrie
  • Gnog
  • Harmonix Music VR
  • Headmaster
  • Here They Lie
  • Job Simulator
  • PlayStation VR Worlds
  • Resident Evil 7 biohazard — Kitchen Teaser
  • Rez Infinite
  • Rigs Mechanized Combat League
  • Thumper
  • Tumble VR
  • Until Dawn: Rush of Blood
  • Wayward Sky
  • Within

This fairly comprehensive list is for North America whilst the UK and Europe will have to make do with only 8 titles on the demo disc. It's still plenty to give you a taste of what is out there. Those of you that have already tried PS VR will no doubt have made up your mind already, but everyone should try this new way to experience video games. The feeling of interaction and full immersion is pretty special and VR has certainly come a long way since EGX last year. With the most mainstream virtual reality headset literally a matter of days away, what exactly will the public think? Will they embrace it with open arms or sit on the fence and see how it goes? It's going to be interesting to see how it unfolds.

If you pick one up, please get in touch and let us know your impressions. Or leave a comment below.