I’ve always been outspoken about how I feel about virtual reality and its utilization in gaming. My perspective has been one of prudence, as I feel that virtual reality is going to thrive and become something much more than what the technology can offer to everyone in games. And while I still hold part of that belief inside me, I must admit that I haven’t truly experienced what great things can be done with VR in the right hands. Two games I played at PlayStation Experience 2017 from Polyarc Games and Sony’s London Studio showed me just that.
That doesn’t mean that I haven’t played a lot of VR games, on the contrary, I’ve played a lot over the years. But most virtual reality games lose their appeal by falling victim to their biggest draw, immersion. The selling point for virtual reality is making a player feel connected to the experience by placing them inside of it. However, most games never fully commit to that immersion or miss out on clever ways to enhance it. But it took a charming mouse and a secret agent to help me feel what virtual reality games can become.
On one side of the coin is a game called Moss, an action adventure game for PlayStation VR that takes a very minimal, yet effective approach to virtual reality. Instead of getting lost in the spectacle of VR interaction, Moss allows its charming heroine (Quill) and interesting puzzle elements to enhance its virtual reality experience. In my time playing the demo for Moss at PSX, I became fascinated with the whimsical and detailed world I was placed in, even though most of my actions were mostly tied to using a standard controller.
I was playing the part of an observer of Quill’s journey, which shows my reflection as a spirit of sorts, only helping in puzzle sections to move objects and structures around for Quill to navigate. There’s still action-adventure elements that one would recognize from most games in the genre, but taking on the role of an entity peering into the action up close made the experience feel vastly different. It intrigued me so much that I wanted to observe more beyond where the demo ended.
On the other side of the coin is a tense, gritty, yet stylish game from Sony’s London Studio known as Blood and Truth. Inspired by Hollywood blockbusters and classic action movies, Blood and Truth approaches VR on the completely opposite side of the spectrum. It’s all about making you feel immersed in the action itself, whether that’s having you reload a gun, monitoring camera feeds for a target, or crawling steadily through a ventilation shaft. Every action you take, you’re the one that’s doing it in real time.
During my time playing Blood and Truth, I had to make movements with the PlayStation Move controllers in my hand for every action I took outside of walking. In a massive shootout with enemies surrounding me, I found myself quickly unloading bullets into anyone peering out of cover, while simultaneously grabbing ammo clips from my holster to reload in one hand and activating explosives along the area with the other. It felt like I was becoming one part James Bond, another part John Wick, mixed together with The Kingsman… and it felt very freakin’ good.
What makes both experiences I had unique is how each demo made me love the immersion of virtual reality in very polarizing ways. One being very passive, while the other very active in VR. Yet the two of them never lost me in their experiences by getting caught up in any break of immersion. I wasn’t concerned with how I was moving nor how something was wrong, but I was invested in everything happening in front of me. Each time I looked up close to Quill in Moss and watched her wave to me, and each time I peered out a corner to shoot enemies or jumped out a window in Blood and Truth… I was in it. That’s something I’ve yet to really feel in any virtual reality experience I’ve had until now. OK devs… you got me good… count me in.