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The House of PlayStation took a risky leap into consumer-grade VR in October of last year. Early-adopting consumers – along with yours truly – couldn't get enough of Sony's sci-fi helmet, despite the very real danger of chronic hat-hair. Earlier in the year, Andrew House, (now ex) head of Sony Interactive Entertainment, noted that the company's internal goal was 1 million unit sales inside the first six months, and by February PSVR had sold 915, 000. Mind you, it wasn't until June that we got an official million sales announcement. Curious...
Either way, PSVR is going great guns when compared to the two major standalone headsets out there – the PC-based and much more expensive Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Sony is also now boasting more than 100 VR games available, which have cumulatively sold 10 million units, and that library is expected to expand by 50 more come Q1 2018. It's also worth noting that PSVR is still being given a lot of stage time at Sony's major press showings. When I recently attended Paris Games Week, at least half of the titles shown on stage and behind-closed-doors were VR experiences. In short, the enthusiasm for the product is still very much there.
For those of you fence-sitters wondering if the PSVR for you, I can't honestly give you a straight yes or no answer. There seems to be no formula to explain which gamers will be nauseated by which style of VR experience. I know lifelong gamers who have played first-person shooters since the dawn of the genre (Maze War, 1974) and they can't play Farpoint standing up for more than a minute before motion-sickness sets in (or for more than an hour when sitting down).
Conversely, I have mates who can play the entirety of Farpoint in “one standing”, but cannot stomach what I'd argue would be the more life-like and natural experience of sitting down and driving a car in Gran Turismo Sport. In my experience, it's wholly possible to “earn your sea legs” with any given game, by pushing yourself to play a little bit longer in repeated play sessions. Your body will get used to it, or you'll vomit and have a psychotic episode. Either, or. It's a bit of a crapshoot.
Speaking of the rhyme and reasoning of things, it's always worth knowing the credentials of any list curator. Basically, 2017 marks 30 years of gaming for me. One of my fondest childhood memories is the first time I picked up a TAC-2 joystick – in awe – to play Crazy Cars on the Amiga 500 that my dad had just brought home. I've owned (and still own) every console since the late '70s and I've been extremely lucky enough to have spent 15 years in the games industry (five in the retail space, ten editing full-time for major websites and nationally-produced games mags).
At a minimum, I've played every game that was eligible to make this list (except one or two truly awful ones that I was forewarned of). It's also worth noting that I'm blessed with a stomach of iron (though it's very much six-pack-less). Compared to my peers, I seem to have a very high tolerance to VR-induced motion-sickness, so that's the viewpoint I'm coming from with these assessments. Your results may vary. With all that said, let's get started...
To be completely honest with you, I wasn't a huge fan of Gran Turismo Sport when it rolled out of the factory. Sure, it was TV-lickingly beautiful, but what I, and many 20-year veterans, expected from “the definitive motor-racing experience” wasn't this thin solo offering which, oddly, needs you to be online to pick at said bare bones, or even save. On the flip side, Polyphony Digital had their eye in on the multiplayer, but its “sportsmanship rating” dicked innocent bystanders out of progression just as much as it did newbies cornering by braille (and deliberate trolls).
Looks and feels so damn good.
Despite that rookie L-plater stall at the green light, GT Sport is heading back on track thanks to the magic of post-launch updates. The car physics simulation model has been improved, offline gameplay restrictions have been rethought and a slow trickle of new cars has started to drip in. All that said, you should know that the "VR Tour" mode we PSVR gamers got was drop-dead gorgeous but incredibly limited. All 177 cars can be used (if you own them), but only a third of the tracks can be used to race against one AI competitor. I'm hoping future updates expand this, because it looks and feels so damn good. Get unforgettable experience with Gran Turismo VR.
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Look on Metacritic, and it seems that I may hold an outlier opinion on this one. But I know I'm right, so I'm sticking to my guns – or Aim Controller, as it were. Because that's the only peripheral you should use to play this shrunk-down spin-off of DOOM (2016). Using twin PlayStation Move controllers to teleport about is a bloody awkward mess; trying to play this with a DualShock 4 is more viable, but doesn't quite give you the freedom you need to react to threats on your peripheral.
...a hyperactive shooter that'll stomp you dead...
Doom VFR is like its older brother – a hyperactive shooter that'll stomp you dead if you back off to “aim”, or even try to take a breather. If you can't keep up with those demands, of course you're going to have a bad time. Being the fastest PSVR shooter by a wide margin, this four-hour gorefest represents the deep end for motion-sickness sufferers (and that runtime can be greatly extended if you unlock the Classic Doom levels or tackle the save-deleting Ultra Nightmare difficulty). According to other critics, this was their hell on Earth, but I beg to differ. For the right kind of player packing the right type of controller, this is VR shooter heaven. Experience DOOM combat and its iconic weapons and demons from an entirely new perspective.
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Tim Schafer – the creative genius behind Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle and many, many others – is responsible for some of the most hilarious video games in existence. What a pleasure it is then to be physically transplanted into his wackiest world, thanks to this PSVR spin-off of Psychonauts (2005). The old platforming aspect may have given way to pure puzzling, but you'll still get to reacquaint with the old nutcases, a very colourful group of international psychic secret agents led by Raz (Rasputin).
Think of this as a cartoony version of last year's Batman Arkham VR, except all the gritty villains have been replaced with gormless-looking fishfolk, and your bat gadgets are telekinesis, pyrokinesis and the ability to leap into the minds of others. Schafer's comedic writing is on point, and the many weird environments are highly-interactive and incidental hijinks opportunities are everywhere. Basically, this is the most side-splitting PSVR game since Job Simulator. It's also an essential bridging game between the 2005 original and Psychonauts 2 (2018).
Suit up and pull on your sci-fi looking helmet (both in-game and out) for the flagship title that proves the viability of Sony's admittedly-awful-looking Aim Controller. If you're new to VR and want to ease yourself into the sensory overload that can be first-person shooting, Farpoint is the perfect gateway to prepare you for more frenetic fare, like Resident Evil 7, Skyrim VR and Doom VFR. Unlike the aforementioned, this sci-fi Robinson Crusoe tale has been built like an off-rails light gun game: the gunplay is intense, but the movements asked of you are more sedate than other circle-strafe fests.
The action in the five-hour solo campaign is a blast, but the generic sci-fi plot is nothing to phone home about. Farpoint has a great post-game arcade mode and is still expanding with decent DLC, however, plus there's some online – a two-player co-op survival mode – that's surprisingly decent. All that being said, try to play this without the Aim, and you'll feel the urge to blow it out the airlock in no time. Set off on a perilous journey into a hostile alien environment in Farpoint, exclusive to PSVR.
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Set off on a perilous journey into a hostile alien environment in Farpoint, exclusive to PSVR.View details
If you’ve ever seen the impossibly cool intro to Casino Royale, you already have the visuals needed to imagine how a gunfight in Superhot VR goes down. Faceless outlined hitmen rush in to beat you to death, or fill you with bullets that lazily drill through the air. Providing you have two Moves and deft reflexes, Superhot will do a wonderful job of making you feel like you’re a super spy who can fight their way through micro-levels filled with seemingly no-win scenarios.
Feel like you’re a super spy...
Defeating five knife-wielding hitmen while deflecting sniper fire with a nearby ashtray might sound suicidal, but not when you factor in the unique time mechanic where everything occurs in super slow-motion until you make a move. Pull back a fist for a haymaker – the enemy is given time to wind up, too. Fire a bullet at a hitman sprinting around cover – if you don’t lead that shot, it’ll zip through the space he used to inhabit. Being forced to think fourth-dimensionally, and quickly formulate plans with the equipment available, makes this a puzzle-action experience unlike anything else. It sucks that the story carks it in under two hours, but the Endless mode should keep the diehards going, until they die...hard.
SUPERHOT VR from Green Man Gaming
Much like the cosmic ballet of a solar eclipse, the true majesty of Star Trek: Bridge Crew occurs only in the rarest conditions. You need three mates to be online for about five hours, and everybody needs to have two Move controllers and a PSVR headset. As if that isn't wasn't too hard an ask already, you'll also need your prospective crew to not be idiots, because Bridge Crew doesn't suffer inept newbies who can't function as Captain, Helm, Tactical and Engineer – asynchronous parts of a whole. (Note: you can use public matchmaking online, but why would you?)
I've consumed this as it was originally intended, and there's not a multiplayer experience like it (plus, with its mission generator, the party need never end). It didn't matter that I only had a cursory knowledge of JJ's reboots; Bridge Crew had me live-roleplaying like Kirk in no time. Forget about the solo play with iffy AI and a flawed system of crew member body-swapping. You need real people in that bridge with you, barking orders, torpedoing Klingons off your starboard bow, managing power systems to beam people aboard, or keeping you silent for intense stealth runs. If you can fulfill its steep requirements, I say boldly go without delay. Explore a largely uncharted sector of space known as The Trench and make strategic decisions and coordinate actions with your crew to fulfil your mission, today!
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The concept of Statik is deceptively simple: plonk a PSVR on your head, sit in a chair, and try to get this…er, thing off of your hands. And we’re not talking about removing a pair of gloves here, kids. For reasons unknown, your job is to decipher and defuse a series of technological terrors that have been handcuffed to your virtual wrists. Worse, your progress is being tracked by a faceless, sleeping-gas-happy “scientician” who may have a few screws loose.
As the conundrums increase in complexity, you'll need a keen eye (and a head on a swivel) to spot the subtle clues hidden in every test chamber. After twisting the box on your hands this way and that and figuring out what doodads are affected by which buttons on your DualShock, (hopefully) a eureka moment will occur and you'll Houdini out of it. Your reward is a sarcastic slow clap from your (possible) captor, plus an odd intermission moment that hints a greater mystery afoot here. I've said too much already. Geniuses could clock this in a few hours, but there's more fun to milked from the co-op mode that lets a friend participate via the PS4 second screen app function. Become a lab rat, today.
The biggest downside to most VR experiences is that they have anorexic runtimes. You get five hours at best – typically the battery life limit of your average Move or Aim controller – and then it's end credits time. Somebody at Bethesda saw that sad state of affairs, dragon shouted “oh, game on”, and now we all have the medically-ill-advised opportunity to spend hundreds of hours playing Skyrim in virtual reality. Yes, this is the complete, epic fantasy masterpiece with an unparalleled sense of scale, depth and immersion. From battling ancient dragons to exploring rugged mountains and putting baskets on NPCs heads so you can steal their stuff.
Epic fantasy masterpiece with an unparalleled sense of scale, depth, and immersion.
How does it translate? Well. The DualShock 4 is definitely the preferred option, because teleporting about and the novelty of waggle-to-win swordplay with Move controllers gets old pretty quick. That said, using your head to intuitively aim ranged weapons feels great in either control option, and it's just such a glorious sensation to finally be in the world of Skyrim. Every version before this might look a shitload better, but they feel like exploring via Google Street View compared to the there-ness of VR. Ride horse, travel fast to discover the world and much more other exciting things with The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim!
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At the start of the year, I would have bet Gran Turismo Sport would have finished above Dirt Rally on this list. Surely a first-party developer, not a third, would deliver the more comprehensive and finely-tuned VR experience for PSVR, right? But no, Polyphony Digital gave us lip service, while Codemasters – for an extra fee, the cheeky buggers – offered us a virtual racing experience to blow the doors off both GT Sport and the blur-fest that was DriveClub VR.
DiRT Rally VR is the ultimate rally experience and, while it'll never give you heart palpitations like Resi 7, I challenge you not to generate some adrenaline as you're hurtling along dangerous, undulating roads at one-slip-and-you're-cartwheeling speeds. Better yet, this isn't some token mode – the entire game becomes your VR oyster, whether it’s the career mode, rallying, hill climbs, Rallycross or playing online. I should also probably mention that there's an experimental VR-only co-driver mode, too, which has all the fun of sitting still, paying attention, and reading maps (!!!). Ignore it. Go buy a decent wheel. Play Rally Cross instead. Thank me later.
Capcom’s greatest series returns to terrifying form thanks to a trip to Louisiana to meet the Baker family, who stalk you around their fixer-upper mansion. While playing five hours in first-person perspective is obviously a new way to experience this series (and can be spew-worthy if you're a VR newbie), Resi 7 is still very much about ye olde school survival-horror values. Tense exploration, piddly personal inventory space, limited save opportunities and the state of available ammunition frequently diminishes your options to bludgeoning or harsh language. Control-wise, the DualShock 4 copes well with both ranged and up-close combat - you'll not miss your PS Move controllers.
The third act shifts gears into some guns-blazing action that's reminiscent of more modern Resi titles. Not a deal-breaker, but the lovely stealth intensity is sorely missed. (Note: if you're after that kind of kick-ass, punch-zombies-in-the-face action, there's some free Chris Redfield DLC worth equipping.) Whatever your preferred approach to awful situations may be, Resident Evil 7 delivers. Capcom's successfully reanimates a dead series, and, if you have the requisite stomach and brown undies for it, this is a must for VR horror fans. Play and undergo with one of the best survival horror game with your family and friends, today!
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