I came to E3 to try as many games as I could, get as much contact with as many developers as possible, and try to highlight all the good on its way. There’s one thing I’ve been finding myself drifting to quite often during E3, and that’s VR games. I own a PSVR headset at home, and I love the thing. So I made it my goal to try as many as I possibly could. Sure enough, I found great experiences in every upcoming genre, for any crowd. More than I could ever dream of.
Anderson and Kaisuo
It feels fair to start with the first two VR games I got to play: Anderson and Kaisuo. Both games are pretty similar in style, being puzzle games based on smaller locations. Anderson isn’t too far from an escape the room styled game. A hilarious robot tries to help you out of a trapped room. Kaisuo, on the other hand, is a puzzle game based around Chinese puzzle boxes. Both games offered unique and creative puzzles, which left me scratching my head for a bit.
Anderson was the shorter of the two, the full game being available on the game floor and only taking about ten minutes to finish. For those wondering, it’s a free game, so you don’t need to worry about not getting your money’s worth. Kaisuo was just a demo, where I had to solve increasingly complex puzzle boxes to advance. One neat puzzle saw me adjusting the world around me by turning pieces of a fake tower, and combining that with a key to unlock more sections. They’re both extremely interesting games that I can see people wanting to try.
Anderson is already out on HTC Vive and Oculus Rift for free. Kaisuo will release for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift at a currently undetermined date.
When I got to check out Rebellion’s games they gave me a first look at Arca’s Path. The game sees a girl named Arca who discovers a mask that transports her to a digital world. The closest comparison I can make is bringing up the Super Monkey Ball series. You don’t use the controller at all, rather Arca just moves towards where you’re looking at. Since Arca is a ball in the digital world, she is constantly moving. You can look closer to her to slow her down, or farther away to speed her up.
Of course momentum plays a key role. You can’t just speed through the game as fast as humanly possible you’ll end up flying off the end of the world and being lost to the void below. Instead you need to take your time, ensure you’re not taking corners too sharply or launching yourself off of a ramp. It’s simple, so easy to pick up, but has a ton of hidden depth. I can see Arca’s Path being a great starting point for VR.
Arca’s Path will release in 2018 for PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, and Oculus Rift.
Creed: Rise to Glory and Electronauts
Yet of all the VR games I played only a single one made be break out into a sweat and tired me out. That’s Creed: Rise to Glory. Based on the popular boxing movie, here you’ll take the role of Creed as he partakes in various boxing matches and training. The game will actually feature Michael B. Jordan returning to play Creed, and talks are currently in the works to get Sylvester Stallone in the game as well.
My demo started with a training montage, where I had to either speed punch, hit a target a set number of times, or hit a mannequin in specific locations. This was both extremely Rocky-like and served as a great tutorial for the fight proper. Also it plays the Rocky theme song, so what else do you need? Once I got to the actual fight I was impressed just how much fun I was having with the mechanics. Simple jabs, dodges, and face punches made it feel like I had some serious impact and flow in the fight. One particularly great mechanic came about if you were punched too hard. This saw you fly out of your body, like you’re having an out of body experience, and forced you to run all the way back in before your opponent can get free hits. It’s dramatic and works way better than I could ever have expected.
Survios brought more than one VR game to E3 though, with Electronauts also being available to try. I’d feel like it’s better to call this one an experience instead of a game. You don’t really have much of a goal other than to rock out. You’re a DJ, listening to a song and given all sorts of ways to alter it. For example, I had a laser harp I could strum, drums to hit, and grenades that I could throw to make musical explosions. This is mostly just a tool, and it’s a particularly cool one that allowed me to do some silly stuff. I couldn’t even manage to make the song sound bad, no matter how hard I tried.
Creed: Rise to Glory will launch in Fall 2018 for PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, and Oculus Rift. Electronauts will be coming out in August for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.
While Survios may have given me a work out, I also got a pair of scares. Ubisoft’s Transference was a great chance to step into the realm of psychological horror. It was so good I gave it my game of the show. My demo started off with a quick introduction to the “Walter Test Case” by actor Macon Blair. The performance is, simply, fantastic. It’s so unsettling, a father who may honestly love his family and think he’s doing the best for them, yet not in a way that has any chance of turning out pleasant. You see, Walter has uploaded his family into a computer, and now you’re exploring that computer to figure out what happened and if you can help them.
To do so you’ll be solving puzzles. There’s actually two different worlds in Transference and you can move between them by hitting a light switch. More importantly, you can also bring items between these two worlds if you’re holding them while you hit the switch. Your goal is mostly to find the ways in which these two worlds interact and use that to advance the game. For example, early in the demo I found an area that was blacked out and said it needed a door knocker to be repaired. By popping into the other world I could find a door knocker slamming itself against a door repetitively, and by taking this back with me I could advance further in the game.
The presentation in Transference is simply spot-on. The entire environment is always glitching out, briefly becoming full of static and losing its color. It sells the fact that you’re inside a malfunctioning computer better than any game I’ve ever seen before. In addition to this there’s a mysterious presence roaming the world. Made up of a black shadow and red eyes, this “creature” always looked like it was having trouble staying in the world. Its erratic movements looked closer to something glitching in and out of the world, and I’m excited to see how that monster will continue to appear in the game.
Transference will come out in 2018 for PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, and Oculus Rift. It will also be available in non-VR on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
Home Sweet Home
This is not the only monster I met. I got to spend some time with publisher Mastiff Games and they let me play Home Sweet Home, a horror game heavy in Thai themes. You play as a man trapped inside of a college dorm, and wandering the hallways of this dorm is a ghost woman carrying a box cutter. For whatever reason she’s very interested in stabbing you to death. You need to avoid her using stealth, by ducking low and hiding behind objects. You can’t fight back, though if you find a radio you can turn them on and they’ll play monks chanting, which causes the ghost to avoid that area. It leads to some tense moments, like some one took Amnesia and gave it the VR treatment.
I was told that the developers went through a real Thailand college and used pictures of it to create the world of Home Sweet Home. This is something I totally believe, as the environments were well crafted and felt realistic. There’s some serious hard work put into making sure you really feel like you’re trapped in a college with a terrifying ghost. The sound design is also spot on, and the sound of the ghost messing with her box cutter will always stick with me.
Home Sweet Home is already out on HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and non-VR on PC. Coming soon to PlayStation VR and non-VR on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Heavy Fire: Red Shadow
Want to know what else will always stick with me? The game IS Defense, a game I gave a 2/10 to and received a lot of angry comments and an honest to God doxxing attempt because of it. Mastiff appeared to have disagreed with me and is trying to give the game a second shot with Heavy Fire: Red Shadow. Just to get this out of the way, the game is indeed a reworking of IS Defense and has the same gameplay style, upgrades, power-ups, environments and enemy types as that game.
That said, they are trying to improve on it. The game controlled much better, and it was no longer a hassle trying to get to enemies that spawned at my sides. There’s also a new side mission feature, which gives me little tasks in the middle of missions that would reward me. I also noticed that levels are separated in waves and can actually end, rather than every level being an endless survival mode. Finally, I was told there was a new story being written for the game. I’m still unsure if any of this is enough to save IS Defense, but I at least came away feeling better than I did about the original product.
Heavy Fire: Red Shadow will come out Summer 2018 for PlayStation VR. The game will also be available in non-VR on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
Speaking of games getting ports, Moss just got ported to HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. Polyarc was nice enough to let me try out the Oculus Rift version. It’s still Moss, a game I loved enough to both give an extremely positive review to and go out of my way to interview the art director. The new version now allows you to use both hands rather than just one, and has updated graphical fidelity. In particular I noticed that the water looked far better in this version than in the original release. If you haven’t had a chance to play Moss already, now is one of the best times to do so.
VR is also being used to bring back dead series. In 2002 we got Gungrave on the PlayStation 2, and its 2004 sequel Gungrave: Overdose. Now the series is back, with the new Gungrave VR. I got a chance to give it a shot at the XSeed booth. The demo offered two different levels: a third person level and a first person level. The third person was the more interesting of the two. Here you had full movement over Grave, allowing him to run around an open arena and dodge attacks. It was a bit confusing at first, as the left stick moved Grave while looking around moved an aiming reticle around the screen. I could dodge roll and shoot at various enemies so long as I could see them. Over time I got access to a super move where Grave took a machine gun out of the coffin he carried with him (anime, amiright?). It suddenly switched the game from third to first person, something that’s rather awkward in VR. Still, it was nice to see some full third person content in VR.
The first person level is much more simple, just being an on-rails shooter. All I had to do was aim and shoot, with a button to slow down time also being available. It left Gungrave VR feeling rather weird. I don’t think it’s a bad game, in fact I had fun with it, but I’m not entirely sure it needs to be a VR one. Still, I can see this being a perfectly fun game, and it’s nice that the series is making a comeback.
Gungrave VR is releasing Fall 2018 for PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, and Oculus Rift.
Firewall: Zero Hour
Of course one of the biggest bringers of VR to E3 was Sony, who had a whole PSVR booth set up with plenty of games to see and play. I got a chance to get in and play four upcoming title: Firewall: Zero Hour, Ghost Giant, Astro Bot: Rescue Mission, and Megalith. Each of them was a unique experience that offered up something new.
Firewall: Zero Hour is probably shaping up to be one of the underdogs of E3. The tactical shooter sees a team of four attackers with the goal of planting a beacon to take down the defender’s team’s firewall, and then hacking a computer. The defenders simply need to stop that. Each character in the game only has a single life, which means you really have to be careful and plan out what you’re going to do. I found the blend to be fantastic, and that I had to spend time peeking around corners as carefully as possible. There was no chance to just rush out and be Rambo.
Firewall: Zero Hour will launch on August 28th for PlayStation VR
There’s also no chance to be Rambo in Ghost Giant, but that’s more because that game is primarily a puzzle game. You play as, well… a giant ghost. The only person who can see you is Louis, a young and lonely cat. Your goal is to try and help him through various situations. For example, he’s being bullied by a pair of much older kids. So you have to find a way to get them to leave him alone. Ultimately, this means creating a fake ghost that they can actually see and using it to drive them away. Just in my short demo I was able to connect with Louis and understand his problems with being lonely. It made sense to me, and was clearly made by a group of people who cared. I also liked that basically everything in the environment can be interacted with, giving me tons of weird things I can do.
Ghost Giant will be launching on PlayStation VR at a currently undecided release date
Astro Bot: Rescue Mission
Not every VR game is first person though. For those who remembered The Playroom VR, the free software that came with PSVR, they may remember the awesome Robot Rescue mode that was part of the game. This 3D platformer was an absolutely lovely proof of concept that was easily one of the most popular things to come out of The Playroom VR. It seems Sony has noticed, and now they’re spinning it off into a full game in the form of Astro Bot: Rescue Mission. This is easily one of the most joyful platformers I’ve played since Super Mario Odyssey.
The demo’s level simply had me running through it collecting trapped robots along the way. It’s one of the most bizarrely delightful levels I’ve seen in a game. Some fantastic art means the world really pops out, and the whole level is really colorful and unique. In addition to this, there’s a wonderful soundtrack that perfectly fit the game. Of course presentation can only get you so far, but thankfully Astro Bot played great as well. The simple platforming kept me engaged, and the level was full of secret areas that I could discover by leaning around to look through the level.
Once I finished it I then got to play a boss fight. Before the boss I was given access to a grapple, which would sit inside my controller. All I had to do was point the controller and flick forward on the touch pad, and the grapple would shoot out and grab things. I could then yank back on the controller, pulling on whatever I grabbed. After taking an elevator to the top of a tower, I fought a giant robotic gorilla. The basic behind the boss is that it would occasionally bite the arena, allowing me to chip away at a tooth to expose the grapple point within, then I could grab and yank the tooth out. It’s an extremely fun fight that makes great use of the mechanics, and it ensured that Astro Bot: Rescue Mission is one of my favorite highlights coming out of E3
Astro Bot: Rescue Mission will be releasing Fall 2018 for PlayStation VR
To cap things off, the last VR game I played at E3 was Megalith, a 2v2 FPS MOBA. At first I thought it’d be weird playing a MOBA using two move controllers, but I actually got into Megalith before I was done with it. I was placed into the role of a robot with a grenade launcher, allowing me to pick enemies off from a distance. I had abilities that allowed me to do things like turn my hand into a grappling hook to get away from enemies, cause spikes to burst out of the ground, or turn my arm into a boomerang for a double hit. Deal enough damage and I could have unleash an ultimate ability that caused all my grenades to roll around and home in on enemies. It’s not quite as detailed as a normal MOBA, I don’t remember seeing anywhere to buy items or customize my character in anyway, but it’s a nice simple start that can be good easing VR-users into the genre.
Megalith will be releasing in 2018 for PlayStation VR.
Of course I didn’t get to play every VR game on the show floor. I missed out on some interesting ones like Blood & Truth, The Tetris Effect, Jupiter & Mars, or Echo Combat, all of which I never managed to get around to despite my efforts. However, between the games I did and didn’t play, I’m super excited for the future of VR gaming. There’s so many fantastic games coming out and I can’t wait to get my hands on them.