One year ago, Sean Cleaver spent upwards of £450 on Sony’s newest technological toy. Critics and consumers may be a bit cold on the tech now but he still believes that there is much to celebrate
I am often asked about the state of virtual reality. It's not just at trade shows or visiting studios. I'm asked at weddings and family functions and I say the same thing every time – I love it but it’s not fully ready yet.
That is my opinion and it’s a slightly biased one as my only access to VR is the impressive yet underpowered PSVR. I don’t have the fidelity or power of a PC based set up, yet this isn’t a problem.
My partner loves VR. VR doesn’t have any issues with controls that are hard to understand. You can sit there and enjoy the standing in a shark cage or sit in the Apollo 11 command module without having to touch a single button. We take for granted, as gamers and people that interact with gaming technology on a daily basis, how natural a dual analogue stick control is for us.
For home gaming, VR is always going to be a bigger and better application
So in some ways, I’m a big supporter of the technology. It enables people that otherwise wouldn’t play games to do so and it is a great way to experience something like a moon landing. But you have to point out the limitations in the tech that stop people playing.
To name a few: the human need to not look stupid while doing something is obviously negated by the big plastic headband strapped to you. The body does not like being tricked into immersive movement or else it can make you nauseous. Technical limitations in tracking and connections can make it a technophile’s party piece rather than an out of the box household go-to.
Sales figures certainly back up a relatively positive and surprising take up in the technology. So what we are really ending up with here is a bit of an identity crisis. On the one hand, you have a great bit of technology that can put you into a world like nothing else. On the other, an expensive plastic shell that you wear, like goggles in front of a Bunsen burner.
It’s fascinating then to see that the market-leading VR headset is at times lacking the kind of games that make the medium what it is. The tracking mechanisms employed by the PlayStation Camera can hamper PSVR’s shooting gallery games. But the PSVR does have some of the best examples of VR games. Superhot VR is possibly the shooting game at present and it is the cleverest by far, despite the PS Camera's FOV occasionally dampening the otherwise smooth experience. But that, along with games like Arizona Sunshineare great examples of how VR is great for wave attack and shooting games
On the other side of the coin, racing games are almost a marriage made in heaven for VR. You only need to look at what PC based VR has achieved in this field with Project Cars and Assetto Corsa. PSVR sadly has been left a bit in the dust on this one, although Gran Turismo Sport’s new 1v1 mode might bring it back to the fore. Is the system powerful enough to deliver the quality so desperately needed for driving games though?
I’ve been surprised by the lack of horror titles so far on the PSVR but again, we have some stand out examples. Until Dawn: Rush of Blood and Resident Evil 7: Biohazard are great games. It saddens me though that we haven't had a game that utilises the PSVR's in-built microphone for the horror genre.
Something incredibly creative is going on with VR and that’s very exciting. Games like Lola and the Giant by Climax Studios, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes by Steel Crate Games and even triple-A games like Batman: Arkham VR, Skyrim VR and Doom VFR all bring something new, and exciting to gaming, even if the games are older titles. It’s both a reinvention and revolution.
AR is going to be big for mobile games and industrial applications, but for home gaming and experiences, VR is always going to be a bigger and better application. We probably are a bit critical of the medium because yes, it is clunky, it’s expensive and the cheapest VR entry kit isn’t powerful enough to create what other headsets are capable of. We also are critical of publishing approaches too – Where is the marketing? Where is the PR?
A year will have passed since PSVR came out by the time you read this and, in that time, 248 titles will have been released or announced. That includes games, interactive movies, streaming cinemas and experiences. Sure the medium is young but it’s a lot of fun and I’m sure it’s here to stay.