Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is headed to PlayStation 4 January 18th, and while it’s true Bandai Namco isn’t letting players experience the entire campaign in VR, instead creating bespoke VR-only missions, at very least it appears to translate a bit of the flatscreen game’s charm to PSVR headsets in a new demo from Sony’s ‘PlayStation Underground’ team.
The PSVR-specific demo comes right at the five-minute mark in the video (linked above and below).
While understandably less visually detailed than its PS4 counterpart, the PSVR missions aim to ramp up the game with greater immersion. Flying through clouds creates condensation on the canopy and destroying an enemy from behind results in a rain of fiery shrapnel that looks pretty convincing.
When asked why the the studio didn’t put the whole game into VR, Bandai Namco’s Kazutoki Kono said in a 2016 interview with Monster Vine that VR development “turned [out] to be a little tricky than we thought. So we’re actually in a way developing the Ace Combat and the VR experience independently.”
Despite some clear advantages to player immersion, in our time demoing Ace Combat 7 we foresaw a few other potential hitches that might have made the time investment less worthwhile.
In our hands-on at E3 2017, we noticed that despite its high speed and twisty turns, the game was ultimately a comfortable experience thanks to the cockpit, which is considered a tried-and-true method of keeping VR users grounded. At face value it was also pretty visually impressive, but once you get into the meat of the game, the fluffy clouds and gleaming oceans are less important to the task of keeping an eye on enemies:
Spoiling some of the fun, enemies seemed like an eternal jumble of tiny pixels in front of me, fuzzing into a blueish background. This issue can be blamed on two main factors: PSVR’s limited resolution, and the unavoidable problem of being literal miles away from enemy fighters. You can’t really knock Ace Combat for being Ace Combat in that department, as you almost always rely on the plane’s targeting system to keep an eye on distant baddies, VR headset or traditional monitor. While lower perceived resolution doesn’t effect the gameplay at all, highlighting a singular, low-resolution object that you’re constantly straining to see is a bit of turn-off visually.
Although pure speculation at this point, level difficulty might also be a limiting factor here as well. The flatscreen version of the game offers both third and first-person views, the former giving users an impossibly large field of view to make keeping an eye on enemies an easier task.
Naturally, you’d have to keep your head on swivel in VR to keep every bad guy in your sights, and it may just be something that didn’t playtest well enough for the company to confidently market the game as a ‘PSVR compatible’, instead giving it the subtitle ‘PSVR mode’.
While the VR mode alone probably won’t justify the $60 price tag (it’s still not clear how extensive it is), if you’ve been sitting on your hands waiting for Ace Combat 7 since before the PSVR was even available, you can at least rest easy knowing the day is almost here.