After a series of lackluster and even dangerous years at E3 for game companies, 2015 was surprisingly exciting and even managed to introduce a number of new technologies that have been in the development phase for a while, chief among these being several new virtual reality headsets and games. And unlike previous attempts to get a functioning market in VR, this year comes with a variety of working game concepts that explore the potential for the technology in context.
London Heist: Getaway
The second of the London Heist demos (the first was premiered at GDC this year), this one features an extended chase scene shootout sequence that succeeds mostly on its attention to detail. The demo allows you some time to explore the possibilities before the action begins while you’re sitting in the passenger seat of a van where you can adjust the air vents, play with the visors, and generally see how interactive everything is.
From there, you get thrown into a chase/shooting gallery where subtle game corrections for targeting and clever mechanics like making you change clips with Move controllers makes it very easy to get caught up.
Edge of Nowhere
It’s somewhat counterintuitive to set a VR game with a third-person perspective, and the paucity of information coming from developers Insomniac Games does very little to explain this. This isn’t to say that the teaser trailer about a scientist working her way through the Antarctic looking for a missing research team doesn’t look beautiful and incorporate some unsettling horror. Only that it’s a bit confusing when Ted Price assures gamers that they will make use of the technology, leaving people to speculate about how it will be incorporated in a way that makes VR the best platform for this type of experience.
More along the lines of a refinement on concepts coming out of the last wave of VR, Super Hypercube nonetheless seems to be willing to introduce the puzzle game to this new technology.
A game where the objective is to shift, turn, and rearrange a three dimensional shape to fit a hole in an oncoming wall, this nifty demo lets players get a full idea of the basic functions of the VR environment, allowing them to peek around the cube as well as manipulate it in front of them.
The Walking Dead
Perhaps the most complete VR concept game premiered at E3, Overkill’s The Walking Dead gives a 10 minute demo all of the horror of the show. At the moment still an on-rails shooter (your character is in a wheelchair being pushed by an NPC), it incorporates all of the fear of the show and produces an experience that is truly immersive and entirely horrifying. With assurances that the final game will be co-op, it’s easy to see the seeds of something special.
Another game that could easily be a proof of concept demo if it weren’t so detailed, ADR1FT takes the player out to space where they have to navigate a broken station and find out what went wrong. Since it’s being developed for the PC and consoles as well, you’d think it wouldn’t impress in VR. You’d be wrong.
The beautifully detailed visuals and clever mechanics make this a game worth looking out for in the future.
What might make VR actually take hold this year as opposed to the last few times is that what is being presented are actual games rather than proof of concept designs. Beyond that VR companies, like Oculus Rift, acknowledge they’re behind the curve when it comes to online gaming. The market for online gaming has grown tenfold as faster internet connections via fiber allow players all over the world to play with, or against each other, something VR companies can’t ignore. Jason Rubin, head of Worldwide Studios at Oculus assured users at this year’s SXSW that Oculus Rift headsets and games will go online “Beyond any shadow of a doubt”. This iteration of the technology is finally showing us how it fits into our hobby in practical terms, giving it the chance to finally take off.
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