I’ve been a bit late to the VR party, but I finally picked up a PlayStation VR. It’s a curious device, with lots of tinkering and wires required to get it going properly. It’s like a weird realization of creaky, old sci-fi material, without what you’d expect from modern technology. At the same time, it’s awesome. The first time you turn on some software and it beams its way around your entire field of vision, well, it’s hard to even articulate. It’s a sense of wonder that doesn’t often come to people like me who criticize this junk for a living. As such, I have certainly noticed, well, problems with VR.
Movement Is Still a Problem
So, with VR, “VR Sickness” remains an issue. That’s one of the biggest hurdles, despite it not being something that hits every user. A part of figuring out how to combat VR Sickness, while the technology side is still working on it, is messing around with how movement works in games. The problem generally comes from horizontal movement, which will really trigger illness in people who struggle with things like motion sickness. Some games just go for it, while other games will have “turn-clicking,” and some even have you teleporting. Nobody can agree on what’s good, because everyone just wants VR to function like playing normal-ass video games. For now, they don’t, and it’s not the biggest problem, but it’s there.
The Novelty Factor Is Hurting Gameplay
I’ve played some recent PSVR games, including Blind, some MOBA/car game that was real bad, a One Piece theater joint, Home Sweet Home, and most recently FromSoftware’s Déraciné. Despite being in different genres, these games have a lot in common. They want you to pick up objects and marvel at your ability to twist them around in your face. When you do this, especially if you’re using the PlayStation Move controllers and have them approximated as human hands in the game, it’s dope. However, that can’t be all there is to your game. I’m good on picking things up and placing them elsewhere. It was cool the first few times, but I’m over it.
Too Much Pixel Hunting
On a similar note, besides rote puzzle and investigation sequences driven by staring at nicely-rendered objects you can rotate in your virtual hands, there also seems to be a lot of clicking on things and searching spaces for objects. It’s real bad in Déraciné especially. VR games only have so much fidelity, sure, but so much energy put into scavenger-hunting gameplay is not going to make the lives of VR evangelists any easier. Adventure games and mysteries are fine, but there needs to be more substance beyond the obvious.
Boring Meme Humor
Why is every comedy game on VR either absurdist goofery like Surgeon Simulator and Job Simulator, or loud, obnoxious Rock and Morty-style screaming humor? I get the appeal of stuff like Catlateral Damage, because it fits the technology and is pretty cute, but why can’t a funny game with actual writing seem to happen in VR? Where are the Sam and Max fans working on the next banger of a point and click adventure, besides a tiny little Psychonauts spinoff? This is the most subjective item on this list obviously, but man, I’m disappointed in this arena.
AAA Just Doesn’t Seem to Be Happening
This one’s a bit more obvious, but also frustrating. AAA gaming has just completely abandoned the idea of even trying VR, even as little side projects. There’s no Square Enix, no Capcom, no Activision, no EA, nobody is touching this stuff except for the occasional Sony joint and that Batman game that came early on. I get that VR isn’t printing all of the money, but of course it isn’t because nobody is trying to elevate the space to that level. Sure, you can’t just drop an Assassin’s Creed port on the thing, but what happened to taking small risks? Put a B-team on it, slap Call of Duty on a dope, arcade rail shooter and you’ll get people excited. Sure, there's Astro Bot Rescue Mission, but a platformer isn't going to cut it in 2018.