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Fallout 4 VR Preview: My Space-Time Manipulation Experience at QuakeCon 2016

Observing the other journalists twist, aim and react to nothing at all changes the Fallout 4’s common descriptor: Immersive. A dubious term, immersive often implies that the player is so engrossed in the experience that he or she believes they are part of it, when in actuality their brain is so engaged with the mechanics that they begin to lose track of time. After seeing genuine emotion on their faces so widely expressed that not even a bulky visor covering half of their heads could obfuscate it, I couldn’t help but believe that perhaps Fallout 4 VR might be the real deal. That perhaps Fallout 4 in combination with a VR headset and headphones, is truly the immersive experience for which we gamers crave. That perhaps, as I would later come to learn, that it is only the VR that is truly immersive. That perhaps I was meant for greater things like becoming a God!

With my limited VR experience, I encountered minor anxiety followed by a string of second thoughts. But eventually, that fear subsided and in its wake came excitement – the kind that might be misplaced for a radioactive apocalypse unless you truly do not get along with society. Fallout 4 is the kind of post-apocalypse that upon leaving the vault is worth pausing and observing the landscape before venturing forth. VR technology, which grants the user the ability to simply turn one’s head rather than the right directional pad, is the perfect complement for the initial awe, or it would be if the demo wasn’t limited to just a gas station. Still, that didn’t stop me from stopping to smell the flowers – well, at least the remaining irradiated stems.

Fallout 4's VR demo took place at a gas station.
Fallout 4’s VR demo took place at a gas station.

Then it was time for me to take my first step or teleportation as the PR representative explained to me. Which way would I go? Why to the gas station of course – or rather the top of the gas station by complete and utter accident. “Wow, I think you’re the first person I’ve seen to teleport to the top of the gas station,” he said. The teleportation mechanic is awkward. I can turn my own body and then click the left trigger of the HTC Vive controller to move in that direction. It’s almost impossible to gauge how far into the distance I’ll travel, however, and the boundaries are virtually limitless. At this point, the role I was expecting to adopt–a survivor in a desolate wasteland – was ruined. However in its place, I adopted a new role that was obviously unintentional on the developers’ part: I became Loki, a trickster God of space-time manipulation.

Now, you might expect a devious God to rebel against the demands of humankind, but seeing as my time spent in this new virtual reality was limited, I decided to humor my mortal guide. The PR representative showed me how I can use the VR controllers, as well as my own body, to pick up and/or examine the various human artifacts. He decidedly thought that this was the most important part of the presentation, but nonetheless, I, Loki, prankster deity who ignores physical boundaries both visible and invisible to the human eye, found it amusing to use the pip-boy as a cat would bat at objects with its paw. Strangely, the Pip-Boy didn’t come into play all that much because of the time limit, although I have learned that it’s possible to bring the device up to your face to scroll through the menus. Of course, I didn’t need to check my vitals or inventory in this demo since I’m an omniscient being!

Eventually, I grew bored and decided to teleport – not crawl, not walk, not run – some more, eager to survey the land which I would soon conquer. Before I could get far, the PR representative stopped me. He nearly incurred my wrath – the wrath of a god – but unknowingly quickly nearly appeased my wrath by offering me bloodshed as a tribute. “If you return to the gas station, you’ll be able to test out the combat,” he said. I nodded in agreement and returned to the building, although in my mind I worried that the final product would allow only limited exploration. I stood in the middle of the fueling stations, biding my time mentally preparing myself to witness the potential strength of the mortals. Will these beasts of the wasteland be worthy of joining the armies in Valhalla?

Suddenly, one raider appeared and after I shot him down with a laser rifle, the first of the three weapons, a band of raiders poured through the fueling stations, lining themselves up for me to smite them. In this first battle, I didn’t need to move. For the second wave, I decided to switch positions anyway. I teleported into the diner by complete accident and was jumped from behind by a few more raiders. If death were something I’m afraid of, I’m sure I would have jumped, but thanks to my ability to instantaneously teleport into or out of buildings, I felt no such rush.

Combat was satisfying on so many levels.
Combat was satisfying on so many levels.

I did get a good luck at my foes from such a short distance, however, and they too would glitch in and out between walls and furniture – as if they too thought of themselves as Marvel-cinematic prankster gods. I switched between the shotgun, pistol, and laser rifle not out of necessity but out of amusement. Ammo was also surprisingly plentiful, and wielding them with the HTC Vive’s controllers felt natural and intuitive. Normal humans might rely on the V.A.T.S system to momentarily pause the game, allowing them ample time to pick and choose an enemy’s vital targets – perfect for when you’re low on ammunition. Those very same mortals would have bowed before me if they could witness my extreme firing rate without every pausing to reload. What’s the mortal saying? A good magician has no need to explain his tricks to the dead? Something like that.

Eventually, my tour of Earth as Loki, trickster god of space-time manipulation came to an end, and as soon as the PR representative removed both the headphones and the visor from my face, I regained my human form. I confirmed this myself by bringing my hands to my face. Of course, I now know that my experience was silly yet enjoyable. Being able to manipulate objects using my hands and the Pip-Boy was incredible and I can see why my guide seemed to encourage me to focus on interacting with the environment.

However, interacting with objects in virtual reality isn’t an exclusive experience to Fallout 4 VR. Neither is moving the body, clumsily tripping over the cord as an enemy suddenly surprises you from behind (and yet strangely politely moving to my front before attacking me) to blast him in the face with a shotgun. My experience previewing the game was an excellent demo for VR, but not necessarily the best representative for the franchise. You might as well replace the survivor in Fallout 4 with anybody or anything.

Fallout 4 VR launches on HTC Vive next summer. Are any of you planning on checking it out? Please feel free to let us know in the comments section below.