Jamiroquai had it right with his hit song “Virtual Insanity” in 1996, little did he know that he would have been predicting the year 2017. I’ve always been a tech head and I have always loved getting hands on with any type of virtual reality headset that I can get my hands on. My dad owns the Samsung Gear, I’ve played with the Oculus Rift at numerous gaming conventions and I’m looking into getting PlayStation VR myself, however, I have never touched the elusive HTC Vive (no matter how much I want too). With many of the conferences to E3 2017 finished now, we have seen a surge in both VR games being released and criticised for coming out. However, I’m here to plead the case that VR games can actually do more for gamers than we first originally thought.
Firstly, games look amazing in VR. The game I’m most looking forward too is Skyrim VR. This game world will look immensely beautiful when you’re actually standing in it, something I’ve been wanting to do ever since the game came out in 2011. Upon being thrust out of Helgen, you are left to explore the world, quests and creatures of this fantasy land at your own leisure, with your own to hands, in VR. If that doesn’t make you excited, then I might as well stop trying now. Not only will the worlds and games look good, but they will be more immersive. Take, for example, Arkham VR. A game that is a prequel to the Arkham series that put you into the cowl of the Batman himself. Many people who have played this have said that it is one of the most immersive experiences that they have ever tried in VR. They point out that the way Batman interacts with the people and the environment make it seem like you are running through the streets of Gotham. Not to mention all of the cool toys you get the chance to play with in the Batcave like the batarangs, grapple hook, forensic scanner, model viewer….I could sit here all day and continue to list. Having a more immersive experience will make the game so much more enjoyable for the play and will get them coming back for more.
Now, the aforementioned Skyrim VR has received many complaints from gamers saying that Bethesda are simply milking the game for all it has, a criticism that has fallen to all VR in general. Skyrim VR, Arkham VR and Until Dawn: Rush of Blood are all VR games that have their non-VR counterparts. Each of these counterparts have said that they have no plans to release anything extra to do with the series….until VR came around. I do, to some extent, see where people are coming from. I am a huge fan of the Batman games and hearing that Arkham Knight was supposedly the last one saddened me greatly. Upon the announcement of Arkham VR, of course I was excited, but I also felt slightly cheated, as if the Knight announcement was simply a ploy to make me sad enough to buy into whatever they released next. However, Arkham VR and Rush of Blood are no longer than an hour and a half and about 30 minutes respectively and reasonably priced at £15 for the UK. If the developers were simply making a poor port of Arkham Asylum or Until Dawn from the VR headsets perspective I would understand the outrage. However, these “minisodes” have entirely new plots, different settings and way more potential than the average game. Skyrim is the exception but I will defend its VR port to my last breath.
VR is a brilliant storytelling tool. You always hear developers telling interviewers about how they really tried to put the player “in the shoes of the protagonist” or they tried to get them to “see it from the antagonist’s point of view”. With VR, they can literally do this. Stories become much more enjoyable and believable. A game announced at E3 was “The Inpatient”, a game which takes place in the sanatorium of Until Dawn, 60 years before the game. You wake up with no memory and no reason as to why you are there. It’s your job to find out the truth. Just, for one second, imagine this game. Imagine the setting, the people, the noises (presented to you in 360 degrees) and the plot all being shown through a VR headset. From the sheer thought of this I can already tell that this will be brilliant. This is what VR does beautifully. It allows players to sit down for 3-4 hours at a time and, not only get in the head of the character you’re controlling, but you literally become them. Suddenly, just like that, you’re enveloped in this world, with no escape until you see those credits roll.
My final point is friends. Not the TV show, but the multiplayer aspect of VR. Most games for the headsets are single player experiences, but there are the odd few here and there that you can have multiple people play on one console or many people play over the PSN network. I have two examples that nail this; Star Trek Bridge Crew and The Playroom VR. The Playroom VR is a mix of 5 minigames that allow one person to wear the PSVR headset and 3 other people in the room to use the Dualshock 4 controllers. If you look at the headset and the controllers, you will notice that they both have LED’s on them. This is what the camera uses to track the movement of both. So while the person in the headset is playing as a snake and destroying the world, the other three players in the room can use their controllers to either help or hinder the headset user. This brings a whole new meaning to party game. One game that will bring a group of friends together is Star Trek Bridge Crew. Whether you are a fan of the show or not, the premise for this game is fantastic. Up to 4 people can hope into one game over the PSN Network and take control of the Enterprise, carrying out either scripted missions or randomly generated ones daily. Each player has a significant role as either Captain, Navigation, Systems or Weapons. This is just such a brilliant idea for VR as it not only makes you work together as a team but also puts you in the space you need to protect. When you’re actually sitting there, in the captain’s chair with your friends around you, it’s an entirely different feeling. The same goes for Sports Bar VR< where a lot of friends can join and play pool, darts, skeet ball all in an interactive bar.
My point through this whole post is that, although some games might seem milked, although people think it’s just a solo experience…it really isn’t. You just have to know where to look and who to play with. VR is the next generation of gaming and, I believe, in the next 5 years, almost everyone will own at least one type of VR system. So embrace it while its in its Alpha stage and run like the wind through Whiterun, beat your best pal in pool, be the bat or simply live long and prosper. Enjoy VR while it’s not a gimmick, embrace being sucked into that game world.