2020 has renewed interest in VR and it’s not just because of the pandemic. There have been tent pole releases like Half-Life: Alyx, and Oculus Quest continues to grow in popularity with a rumored new version on the horizon. Especially July had many new games and releases.
We can not cover every new VR game when they come out, but I thought it might be a good idea to take a step back from time to time to provide an update on what’s going on. And please, let me know if there is anything in particular you want us to cover or focus on!
FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY̵
7;S: HELP WANTS
VR version of Five nights at Freddy’s, the hugely popular indie horror series, came to Oculus Quest in July and immediately became the fastest-selling game on the platform. “Five nights on Freddy’s VR: Help Wanted has done fantastically well, said Steel Wool Studios CEO Andrew Dayton UploadVR. “We can not say specific numbers but we are free to share that we broke the Oculus Quest ‘one-day sales record as well as its one-week sales record.”
I can not say that I am a big fan of the series, but I watched the Quest version of Help wanted and it’s really well done. The core mechanics of switching between security cameras to track murderous animatronics while handling your use of other protection products are perfect for VR and Quest – it feels more natural and even more nerve-wracking to interact with these environments on a 1: 1 scale. The game is not visually stunning, but it looks suitably dark and scary on Quest’s OLED screen.
I just want to warn you that this is definitely not for someone who is not down with hope dread.
Forward, a realistic military first-person shooter, was released on Oculus Quest last week. The game is a PC VR staple, first released in early 2006, shortly after the original Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets launched the first round of VR hype.
When VR experiences go, it is quite intense. The emphasis is on realism, and you move around with an analog stick rather than the teleport systems that many first-person VR games use to maximize comfort. Forward also emphasizes tactics and communication for their multiplayer teams; developer Downpour Interactive describes it as “the most realistic combat experience available in gaming today.”
In other words, it’s not the type I normally associate with the low-powered Quest, which tends to be best with abstract, casual experiences. But the Quest version of Forward actually works well. The graphics are severely cut – it basically looks like a very high definition PS2 game, with objects that often appear up close – but the controls work well and Quest ‘wireless character fits well Forwardis realistic movement. This is a game where you often find yourself ducking in cover or thumbs around a corner, and not having to worry about wires increases immersion despite the graphic flaws.
ForwardHowever, the Quest version has not come without controversy. Apparently to accommodate cross-platform gaming, Downpour has issued an update to the PC version that has a significant technical hit. The graphic quality has decreased quite sharply and the Steam reviewers are not satisfied. The developer apologized on Reddit and promised to improve the PC version in future updates.
It’s understandable that Downpour would like to maximize its gaming base when launching on a popular new platform, but aggravating the existing version for all players without warning was probably not the best way to do it. However, the move serves as a strong indication that VR developers are likely to continue to prioritize Quest over advanced tethered PC experiences.
One of the most anticipated PlayStation VR games finally came out in July after several delays. IP licenses do not get much bigger than that Iron Man VR, but due to cumbersome controls and unlimited load times did not leave the final product The limitChaim Gartenberg feels like a superhero.
Here is his review:
… Even if the pieces are good, the problems are with Iron Man VR arrives when they meet in the game, which is simply not deep enough to support a full-blown title.
In practice, Iron Man VR is very repetitive. There are only a handful of enemy types, whose tactics never really change. One drone will hit players with laser blasts, another will try to hit you, while a third must be avoided before the shield is down. Each enemy is effectively designed to be countered by a specific weapon in your arsenal (you shoot the firing drone, you hit the hitting drone, you hit the tank), and the only variety really comes in how many games the game throws at you right away.
The result is that each of the 12 levels (which are divided into 15- to 30-minute pieces, well suited for VR) is more or less broken down into a cycle of “defeating these identical enemy waves with identical weapons in identical locations” until the next expository number happens.
IN DEATH: JOURNEY
I Death: Unchained is the Oculus Quest version of In death, which came out for PC and PSVR 2018. It’s a first-person action game centered around bows and arrows, with a roguelike-style structure and procedurally generated scenes. The best smart twist is to use your bow for movement and combat by shooting “teleportation arrows” to get around.
Unchained is a really good adaptation. It’s one of the coolest games on Quest, despite the slightly cropped image, and its controls adapt to inside and out tracking as well as could have been expected. Frames can be difficult for this type of hardware, as you often have to move the controller in your string hand out of sight of the headset camera, but I did not think the controls were a problem unless I went out of my way to break them.
In death is a challenging game, not least because it gives your bow arm deltoid muscle a serious workout. But Unchained works very well on Quest, allows you to dive in and make some progress with minimal hassle.
pistol Whipping was one of the best VR games last year, and it’s finally available on PSVR, giving it a fresh start Superhot-meets-Beat Saber-meets-John Wick action for a wider audience. I have not been able to check out this version yet, but it should be a decent fit for the limited PSVR hardware – the movement is handled automatically, and you just shoot and avoid bullets.
Finally, VR for Media Molecules updates ambitious game-creating tools Dreams was recently released. It’s early days, but I’m happy to see what comes out of it – as an easier way to get experimental VR ideas out into the world, it has lots of potential.