On the one year anniversary of the device’s unveiling, Sony has revealed a substantial upgrade to the Morpheus PS4 VR headset, a version which they say has nearly reached its final form for a launch by Q2 2016.
Everything about the 2015 Morpheus prototype has been improved since the 2014 version. It’s lighter, the FOV is bigger, the optics are sharper, the ergonomics are better, and the unit has 3 additional signature-blue LEDs (totalling 9) for more robust headtracking. And the demos? Better than ever.
For the first time in my life, I felt like I was in the middle of an action movie. Huddled down behind a desk, with a massive diamond in one hand and a pistol in the other. When the guards fired, I reactively ducked until they were done with their salvo. Then it was my turn to pop a few caps.
This was a new Morpheus tech demo called The London Heist by Sony’s WWS London studio, and the gunfight experience was preceded by an interrogation scene. A burly man sat in front of me in a dimly lit warehouse. A blow-torch by his foot was a sure sign that this ‘in medias res’ encounter would not be a friendly one.
At first he didn’t say much. He just gave me a death stare as he took a long drag from a cigarette and blew the smoke into my face. I had some info that this man wanted. When I looked around, I spotted a door with a bright red EXIT sign above. As I did, my captor reacted, saying something along the lines of “No way, you’re not going anywhere,” at which point he drew a pistol and shot the sign above the door. That’s when he sparked up the blow torch.
At the climax of his rage, a ringtone that was inappropriately cued for the situation reverberated around the room. The man stopped his threatening assault and pulled a cellphone from his pocket, begrudgingly. After a few moments with someone on the other end of the phone, he dangled it above my head, telling me “He wants to talk to you.”
Impatiently he said “Come on then, stand up and take the phone!” At this point I stood up from my chair in real life, and reached out with the Move controller for the phone. Using the trigger I grabbed it and instinctively put it up to my ear. It was a phone afterall. To excellent effect, the virtual phone that I was holding to my ear sounded like it was right there next to my ear. On the other end someone asked me what happened the night before, and that’s when I flashed back to the scene with the diamond and the gun.
I was plopped behind a Victorian-looking desk in an elegantly appointed room. Someone came over the intercom and told me to look for a safe. I pulled open drawing to see what I might find. In one of them was a key, which I grabbed, placed on the desk, and then returned my hand to shut the drawer. Then I found a cabinet with a keyhole and went to open it.
As I put the key inside, the beam of a guards flashlight flicked across the room and I huddled down behind the desk to avoid his gaze. Eventually he was satisfied with the empty room and turned around. That’s when I opened the cabinet to reveal a massive, sparkling gem, which also conveniently sounded the alarm.
Now the guards knew I was in there. I ducked down again and pulled open the center drawer to find a pistol and some ammo clips. I picked up the gun with the Move and found my first opportunity to fire at a guard who was not quite careful about his cover. Firing the gun was extremely satisfying, with the joy that can only come from intuitively aiming a weapon instead of using your view position (as so many are used to in the standard FPS). With the Move controller, I was able to remain hunkered down behind cover but peek my weapon up over the desk to squeeze off a few rounds.
But that wasn’t the only target. More guards came spilling in, some fanning out on a walkway above me. Their heightened position gave them an advantage and I knew they’d become a threat all too soon if I didn’t take them out quickly. So I focused on them, trying to catch them with a few rounds as they ran to their firing positions. I can’t remember exactly, but I think one of them flew over the banister as I shot them, just like you’d see in any self-respecting action movie.
At some point my pistol ran dry of rounds and I had to pick up a clip and slide it into the bottom of the gun to reload. It worked quite like you’d expect, with a button on the Move allowing you to eject the spent clip.
Once all the guards were dispensed with, I grabbed the jewel I had fought so hard for and casually tossed it in the air a few times before catching it again, like a master burglar satisfied with his work.
The demo wasn’t perfect. There were some tracking issues with the Move, especially when I was learning low behind the desk and trying to grab the spare clips. Yet it was one of the most interactive and intuitive gaming experiences I’ve had in VR. From grabbing the phone to firing the gun, this was an amazingly polished demo and one that would be a shame to not become a full Morpheus game when the headset launches in 2016.
There’s much more to be said about Sony’s 2015 Morpheus prototype, and we’ll be digging into another tech demo and technical details in an article to come.