Now Playing: VR

I’ve been playing through the story missions for Mafia III for the past couple of weeks. It’s a longer game than I expected, and I think I’ve settled on my opinions for the game. But I think I may hold off until I finish it and maybe I’ll write up a review post.

I’ve been posting Let’s Play episodes as I go, which can be found here.

BUT my friend bought Playstation VR on day one so I was lucky enough to finally give Virtual Reality a try.

I’d been hearing a ton of stuff about it on the gaming news sites but VR is a tough thing to get an impression of without actually trying it yourself.

Since it’s such a new medium, I had settled into the thinking that I’ll let this generation play out and then seriously consider version 2 if the whole VR thing takes off.

My immediate impression once getting set up and diving into a game was that this is a wholly different gaming experience. Sure the graphics aren’t as sharp and the actual mechanics can get down right clunky. Plus there’s the stigma that comes with putting on the headset and completely blocking out anyone in the room with you.

But the experience is as immersive and jaw-dropping as you’d hope it would be. Even simple things like riding down an elevator had my body and brain convinced. I felt like I was actually descending in a moving environment. And I would instinctively dodge if a character or object came too close to my face.

Sony has done an admirable job building up a collection of VR games to prove that the system works and is worthwhile. Even though most of these come across more like tech demos and game snippets, they cover a wide enough gamut to give you a sense of what’s possible with VR.

The stand out games for me included Job Simulator, a deceptively fun and hilarious game that just puts you in various work environments. Its wry sense of humor reminded me of Portal and the simple graphics worked in its benefit.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is another simple premise with simple graphics that manages to use VR in a unique way. It was one of the only instances where anyone not using the VR headset couldn’t watch what the person was viewing via the TV. Instead, each person had to explain what they were seeing and instruct the other to collaborate on solving the puzzles.

But far and away the most impressive VR experience came from Batman: Arkham VR. It only ends up being a fraction of the length of the standard Arkham games but it was apparent that this project wasn’t phoned in by Sony or Rocksteady.

Setting you in environments such as high on the rooftops or in alleys underneath looming bridges really proved how expansive the sense of depth and distance can be achieved in VR. Looking over the railing down below caused queasy feelings in my stomach and the Batwing shining a beacon down onto me actually blinded me for a moment.

Finally, walking around in the dilapidated, dark hallways of Arkham Asylum gave me a sense of dread and fear that I didn’t really feel when running around with a controller and a TV screen. I was actually afraid to turn a corner or get too close to a window to peek in.

While I’m too much of a wuss to think I’d ever try out a full on horror game in VR, it proved to me that a whole other level of immersion is waiting to be achieved in video games. Just imagine standing on the top of a mountain with a 360 degree horizon to soak in, or diving into cover on a battlefield with bullets whizzing by your head.

It’s going to be possible. Soon.

I don’t think any developer has cracked the formula for the best way to traverse in VR. But like Super Mario 64 did for 3-dimensional gaming, I have faith that someone will figure out the solution that will be the blueprint for VR games.

I can’t wait!


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