Sony’s virtual reality gaming and experience compilation PlayStation VR Worlds is a virtual reality taster selection of sorts from Sony’s London Studio, designed to show off just what their forthcoming PlayStation 4 powered VR headset is capable of. Frank He goes hands on with two of the newer experiences.
Playstation VR Worlds is a compilation of games and experiences by Sony’s London Studio created to demonstrate the power and range of VR. It includes 5 very different experiences: ‘The London Heist‘, ‘Into the Deep‘, ‘Scavenger’s Odyssey‘, ‘VR Luge‘, and ‘Danger Ball‘. At E3, Sony let people play Danger Ball and Scavenger’s Odyssey for the first time. I went hands on at E3 2016 this week, and here are some of my initial experiences.
Before getting into the games themselves, you begin in a sort of hub area with an old architectural theme. You can select which of the games you wanted to play by switching between using your PS4 controller, which was motion tracked and displayed in VR. The hub screen features some neat touched, for example, when I had Danger Ball selected, a ball that looked like it came from the game appeared, floating in front of me, allowing me to whack it with my controller, the physics reacting appropriately, bouncing the ball all over the place and even creating explosions. Switching to Scavenger’s Odyssey, the ball morphed into a mini-asteroid, which I could also play with. The games took a dozen or two seconds to load, so it was a cute little feature to occupy the time while you waited.
The first game I tried was Danger Ball. It’s basically Pong, but re-imagined for VR, and with greater levels of graphical detail, flashy particles and effects, some destruction physics where the walls could be broken apart, and an attractive Tron-like art style. However, it did seem to me like the resolution could have been better, as I was able to notice aliasing in the game. That may be a limit of the software, a limitation of the PS4 hardware in providing enough processing power to adequately anti-alias the scene or a side effect of PSVR’s single 1920×1080 OLED display. It’s difficult to say for certain at this time because my time with the games were limited.
As for the gameplay, again, it’s Pong except in 3 dimensions, and the position of your paddle is controlled by your head’s position. So for example, if you look to the left, the paddle goes to the left, something we’ve seen implemented before. Despite the game’s retro roots, the high production values Sony have lavished upon Danger Ball were clear to see.
Next up, I tried Scavenger’s Odyssey, a sci-fi adventure shooter where you’re an alien treasure hunter piloting an agile robotic vehicle. This one felt much more fleshed out. In the demo, there was a tutorial section and then a more lengthy level. You start out in your cockpit, and you notice the robotic vehicle is a sort of mech, but with interesting crab-like feet. Those legs provided the agility felt while controlling the robot, allowing you to move and turn in any direction. Your craft was also equipped with tractor beam technology, allowing you to jump to and from different platforms as if you were magnetic, and physically manipulate objects in the environment with, well, a beam of energy. Additionally, your craft is equipped with a laser cannon, aiming for which is controlled by gaze, whevere you look, is where you shoot.
In short, this game requires a lot of motion. Not only are you moving back and forth, but you’re doing stuff like rotations and flips. Yet, surprisingly for me, I didn’t feel like I would get motion sick, even though usually this type of movement does give me some indications of that feeling. The cockpit’s ever present frame of reference that the game gives you, which some have found helps them with motion sickness, may well be the reason. Your own personal mileage may vary of course.
Either way, I blasted through the demo in a breeze. You progress through a disintegrating spaceship, shooting myriad aliens, some jumping at you like headcrabs and some flinging projectiles at you. Sometimes your laser would overheat, forcing you to wait for it to cool down before shooting.
Danger Ball and Scavenger’s Odyssey present two solid entries in the PlayStation VR Worlds compilation. They’re both visually appealing, with accessible gameplay with only a few concerns over the intensity of Scavenger’s Odyssey a lingering concern for those with minimal hours clocked up in VR.
PlayStation VR Worlds will ship with the PlayStation VR headset when it’s launched on October 13th. If you opt for the Launch Bundle at $499 it’ll come as part of the package.