I have been cynical about VR games so far. It seems like so many are experiences, rather than actual, fully fledged games. Play some tennis! Walk around an area! Pretend to work at a silly job! Experience a stripped down version of an existing game that you love! I was concerned that this first generation of headsets would not amount to anything game-changing or substantial. But, after playing a number of PlayStation VR games at the PlayStation Experience 2017, I feel a lot differently. It feels like Sony is cultivating and encouraging an environment where there is more to do and the activities actually feel like games.
I realized that Sony and its PlayStation VR might have what it takes to redeem VR gaming this generation when I first played Firewall: Zero Hour. This is a first-person shooter where players are divided into two teams of four and must try to complete their objective or entirely wipe out the opposing team before they complete their objective. Rather than something that felt like a skimmed down version of what we expect a FPS to be, even the demo felt like a full game.
Firewall: Zero Hour impressed me in every way. The map was sufficiently large, with a two-floor house that had many rooms and paths through it. Objectives were easy to see. I had different weapons to swap between and two kinds of grenades to use. I could crouch, walk, or run. VR let me peer around corners and really explore the environment. I could even set my role, which was based upon my loadout, before each match. I ended up playing it three times at the experience, each time getting better and feeling more convinced that this was more than some truncated, stripped down version of a game that would be better on just the PlayStation 4.
The Wipeout Omega Collection’s VR mode was just as convincing as Firewall: Zero Hour. I went through both of the tracks available in the demo, and it felt like being in the driver’s seat of the full Wipeout game. Which makes sense, because it takes everything already in this remastered PlayStation 4 collection and makes it compatible with the PlayStation VR. The cockpits for the different ships were detailed and amazing. The multiple viewpoint options made it easy to find something I was comfortable with. Most importantly, it did not make me sick. Even though I was moving at fast virtual speeds and had some adjustment issues to feeling like I was really behind the scenes of this vehicle, it felt natural and not nausea-inducing.
The Inpatient was a PlayStation VR game that had me worried, but again pushed aside any concerns once I actually played. With it being more of an adventure game, I thought it would just be a slightly longer “experience” and take on a walking simulator. But it is not. This was a genuinely scary and immersive game. I was speaking the lines to talk to the other people, rather than looking at them and clicking a button. I was picking up objects and interacting with them to open up the world. There was quite a bit of walking, sure, but it felt like there was a real purpose to it and more weight to these actions.
VR may still have a long way to go before it is widely accepted and becomes a big part of our gaming lifestyles. But from what I have seen with the PlayStation VR, it feels like Sony could be leading the charge to make it more relevant. The games it has planned go beyond the stereotypical “experiences” that let us briefly see or or interact with things for 30 to 60 minute blocks. These are full of substantial gameplay, which is great for the future of this peripheral and VR in general.