I’m pretty bored of the sort of games hitting consoles these days so I thought I’d try VR, picked up a PS VR primarily for Sony Japan Studio’s last titles but ended up playing much more.
Everybody’s Golf VR is probably the best of the bunch, since every facet of the game has been thoughtfully designed around the presence of “being there” - the entire game just wouldn’t work or exist without first person head tracking, 3D, and Move controls. It’s just really well thought out and the atmosphere of being on the golf course adds a lot to removing some of the abstraction behind using motion controls. Everything just feels right, from looking at your feet and seeing leaves blowing in tempo with the wind, or hearing the in-game music coming out of speakers behind you on the practice round. Superb stuff.
While Astro Bot was initially impressive due to the inventiveness of utilising you as a second player in the same game world as Astro, once that wore off the whole game fell apart for me. After world 2 it’s thin on genuinely new (or good) ideas, mostly lifting from older platformers but executing the ideas in a worse or shallower way, and you’re just left with a bad Crash Bandicoot clone that plays too slickly, with too restrictive controls. Cruise control is probably the best way to describe it, since playing the game is too effortless.
No Heroes Allowed VR and Déraciné are the two other Japan Studio titles, the former made in partnership with Acquire and the latter made in partnership with From Software. I’ve only played the first level of the former but it’s a very entertaining strategy game.
The last Japan Studio games aside, I’ve been playing three racing games on and off: WipEout Omega Collection, DriveClub VR and Dirt Rally. All very impressive stuff being in the driver’s seat, WipEout in particular is transformed into something pretty special. I thought I was sick to death of WipEout HD after having it on PS3, and the games it’s based on on Vita and PSP, but playing it from a first person perspective with head tracking adds a lot to vehicle control, locating and using boost pads is so much easier, as is aiming at other vehicles. Dirt Rally is fine, and DriveClub makes me feel a bit sick due to the regularity of camera shunts through drifting.
Also played Namco’s Summer Lesson, which is a cool tech demo with really impressive visuals and the sort of game a large company wouldn’t risk making anymore. Hard to believe the Tekken team was allowed to make it! Sega AM2 worked on Hatsune Miku: Future Live, which isn’t really a game but more of a digital vocaloid concert. It’s pretty well done with novel use of Move controls, transforming the Move into glowsticks, maracas, a giant leek and so on…
I’m currently playing through Blood & Truth at the moment, which is an unexpectedly entertaining first person shooter that doesn’t take itself so seriously, as a result setting up some entertaining set pieces for you to play around with. I was crying with laughter during the art museum level. It does really impressive stuff with two Move controllers - you can move your weapons between hands, grab a weapon with two hands to steady it, throw ammo up in the air to reload your weapon, and so on. Just wasn’t expecting that level of fidelity but it makes picking off enemies extremely satisfying to master…
Overall, then, it’s been a positive ride. It seems the most interesting of Sony’s first party output this generation was on VR, and it’s a shame they shut down the Japan Studio production arm. Apparently Sony is going to focus more on AAA games that are also playable in VR with the PS VR 2, which just doesn’t interest me as much as experimental titles built from the ground up around VR. As good as WipEout and Dirt Rally are, I can’t say I was chomping at the bit to come back to them after playing them for two hours each…whereas the original VR titles have kept me enthralled.