I love VR. Sure I may only own a PlayStation VR, but that doesn’t stop me from checking out all the VR stuff on display at E3 every year. Last year I found some games I’d come to love, such as Transference and Astro Bot: Rescue Mission. So once again I made it a goal to try out a bunch of VR games at E3.

This year I checked out 9 different games. Some were great, some less so, but each one felt like something unique and I can’t want to play them more. So without further ado, this is the weird and wonderful world of VR at E3.


Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot

I should love piloting a giant mech to smash Nazis. Should. Everything about that sentence appeals to me. Which means having to deal with an unfortunate reality: Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot is just really boring.

The basics are all here. You sit in the pilot seat of a mech that you’ve hacked. In your right arm is a machine gun, and in your left is a rocket launcher. There’s also a panic button that, if hit, throws a shield over your mech that prevents you from taking damage. If you slot your right hand on your right side, you can repair the mech. There’s nothing wrong with any of this, and there’s even a few cool things worth pointing out. For example, your hud is built right into the mech itself, which is really neat to watch when you take damage or run out of ammo.

While it may hit the visual tone, it’s just not fun to play. Nazis show up and they’re gunned down with hilarious ease. Eventually big Nazis in power armor show up and I had to stand in one spot dumping three clips of machine gun ammo into him to drop them. I figure that meant it was time to use my rockets, but I still needed at least one full clip of rockets to bring them down. There’s nothing fun about standing in one spot holding down a button to shoot, which means there really isn’t anything fun about Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot either, and nothing in my demo really looked to change anything up. Before long I let some Nazis kill me and called it a day.

Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot will be launching July 26th for HTC Vive and PlayStation VR.


Sniper Elite VR

In a simple way, Sniper Elite VR makes a ton of sense. It’s sniping, and it’s in VR. These are two things that go extremely well with each other. As I expected, this makes for a package that works just like I’d want it to.

Everything I expected from a Sniper Elite game was here. I would move around the battlefield lining up shots and taking out Nazis, being careful of both gravity and wind resistance so my bullets hit their mark. I also had access to a sub machine gun, grenades, and could pick up and throw wine bottles at Nazis if I was in the mood.

This does lead to something weird about Sniper Elite VR. The demo I played was action packed. It saw me as a member of the Italian Resistance, and I was dodging explosions and running along rooftops while gunning enemies down. It felt more Call of Duty than Sniper Elite, though the developers did insist that the game would contain more of the slower sections that we’re used to seeing from the franchise.

Despite this, I did see all the elements I would expect. Bullet cam still exists, and shooting a Nazi has a chance of letting you see just how a bullet wrecks their insides. I wouldn’t suggest anyone who isn’t very used to VR use this option though, as suddenly following a bullet while in VR can be a very disorienting experience. Rebellion told me that the feature has gone through many reworks in order to get it at a level where they’re happy with it, and it still has many more to go.

I could slow down time, which would help me aim and make sure I was always shooting where I intended. Also I shot off some Nazi’s balls, so there’s that. If you don’t mind the change of pace, Sniper Elite VR may be well worth looking forward to.

Sniper Elite VR will be launching for PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, and Oculus Rift at a currently unannounced date.


Espire 1: VR Operative

It’s James Bond but you’re a robot. I like to believe that was the basic pitch behind Espire 1: VR Operative, but this is also because the entire time I was playing the game I kept muttering “My name is Bot. James Bot.”

You hijack a robot, known as an Espire 1, and use it to perform some stealthy missions. Or you can do what I do and just shoot at people, because frankly I’m just not very good at stealth. I quickly found a tranquilizer gun, a pistol, and an assault rifle, and each of these weapons just felt great to use. In particular, I loved how the assault rifle had two pair of sights that you could swap between by tilting the gun.

It’s good that, despite being a stealth game, Espire 1 was fun to let loose and shoot things in. I never felt like I was penalized for wanting to go wild. Plus, super technically, if everyone is dead then that’s a form of stealth because no one will be able to remember me. Right? Right.

If you do choose to stick with stealth, there’s also some great options there. The Espire robot can climb up any metal walls simply by attaching itself to the surface with its magnetic hands. This is always a fantastic move, and there’s a real joy in getting around an enemy through clever use of climbing.

Another feature I loved? Get behind someone, point your gun at their backs, and shout “Freeze!” The microphones will pick that up and the enemy will surrender. There’s a certain joy in this, it’s one of those ultimate spy fantasy wish fulfillment things, and you can then interrogate the enemy to learn where your objectives are.

Even if I finished the mission with zero stealth stars (whoops), Espire 1: VR Operative‘s demo is something I’d give all five stars to.

Espire 1: VR Operative will be launching this August for PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Oculus Quest.


Phantom: Covert Ops

Ok, what if you were doing your stealth operations, but you were restricted to a canoe? This is the premise of Phantom: Covert Ops, and it’s way better than I would have expected.

You play as a member of the U.S. Navy tasked with sneaking into a terrorist outpost that can only be accessed by canoe. The goal was to disable their radio equipment while trying to remain at least vaguely stealthy. Thankfully, for people like me who can’t stealth for their lives, you do have access to a pistol, sub machine gun, and sniper rifle. The developers told me ammo was on the limited side because they didn’t want to encourage a “Rambo-styled blood bath situation.” Still, I did have enough ammo that I was able to advance removing the majority of the enemies from life. That’s stealth!

What really impressed me was just how well the canoe controlled. I expected to get annoyed by it, but I quickly found myself enjoying paddling through the waters.

It was neat how I could remain seated the entire time, and everything was within reach. The paddle and sniper were always to my left and right, and grabbing ammo meant leaning forward and plucking it out of a pack in front of me. I also liked how I could use my paddle to push myself off of walls or the shore, something I needed to do a lot at first because I’m really just not good at some things.

However, despite the fact that I’m bad at things like controlling a canoe and stealth, I really enjoyed my time with Phantom: Covert Ops and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for some VR stealth.

Phantom: Covert Ops will be available on Oculus Rift and Oculus Quest some time in 2019.


Ascend

I guess we can’t all be winners. I really wanted to like Ascend, a multiplayer VR FPS by some college students. However by the end of the demo I just couldn’t get into it.

The basic idea is that Ascend is an arcadey hero shooter in VR. At the time I was playing, there were two heroes to choose from. One had a pair of guns, while the other a pair of swords. I went with gun lady. She had a neat ability where you could turn one of her guns sideways and fire a special shot that created a field in which any shots fired into it would zip around and kill other players that entered. The goal of the match, which was a 1v1, was to collect two orbs that would randomly spawn around the map and bring them back to a specific place.

The problem is that movement just felt off. You have a jetpack and can freely fly, but to do so you needed to lean awkwardly while holding buttons. I never felt like I was actually flying, mostly because these lean controls just felt clunky. Trying to go the way I wanted was far too difficult, and I never felt like I could speed up consistently.

I also suspect part of the problem was due to the way the play space was set up. Every time I leaned I would exit the play area, meaning a big purple grid would display on my VR device and obscure my view. It made the match feel clunky and slow in a game that I suspect was supposed to be fast-paced. Ascend‘s ideas aren’t bad, but there needs to be a lot of work to make this arena shooter viable.

Ascend will be available in summer 2019 on HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.


Lone Echo II

I’ve only ever owned a PlayStation VR, so this means I’ve missed out on Oculus’ exclusive games despite really wanting to play them. One of these games is Lone Echo. Thankfully I got a chance to sort of correct this by trying out Lone Echo II.

You play as Jack, a robot trapped in a space ship with a human named Olivia. Without any gravity to move around, you instead need to push yourself off of walls and hang onto handholds. T

his became my first challenge, as moving in Lone Echo II sure takes some getting used to. However, it makes a ton of sense and is rather intuitive once you get used to it. Before long I was able to fling myself exactly where I wanted while answering conversations with Olivia.

What did these conversations mean? Having not played the first game I wasn’t exactly sure what was happening in the plot, but the mystery seemed captivating and I’d love to find out.

Of course you can’t just wander hallways and fling yourself around all day. Before long, a mysterious biomass showed up. Touching this biomass was instantly fatal, something that always looked cool and was worth doing at least once. I was confident in my abilities to navigate before, but now I had to be even more careful.

Worse, living versions of this biomass, called ticks, would block my path. You can’t fight ticks directly, but you can abuse their attraction to energy to lure them where you want, and do something fun like eject them out into space. That’s one way to kill a monster, I suppose.

I certainly found Lone Echo II really interesting to play, and if I ever get around to grabbing an Oculus Rift I’ll have to give the first game a shot.

Lone Echo II will launch in Q1 2020 for the Oculus Rift.


Stormland

Of all the VR games I got to play at E3 2019, Stormland is the one I regret not getting more time to spend on.

In the short section I played, I took control of a robot that had just woken up from some disaster. In bad shape, it stumbled its way through a garden, trying to find any clue as to why it’s there. Ultimately, some sort of tragedy happened, but what exactly is still left as a mystery.

What isn’t a mystery is that the robot is damaged and needs weapons and boosters to get around. I had to do a bit of light environmental puzzling, such as shutting off power so I could pass through an electrocuted puddle. It’s simple, but fun enough. Then I got to a spot where I could repair the arms on my robot. How do you do this? Literally just grab your arm and rip it off so you can replace it. It’s a morbid yet entertaining process.

With new arms, I had new tools. My right arm had a laser on it, which let me shoot crates and plants in the way. The laser felt good to use and I stopped a few times just to shoot everything in the environment.

Once I reached the edge of the island, I could jump off and fly among the clouds. Doing so made me feel like I was Superman, extending my arms and soaring above everything else. It’s absolutely thrilling, and I loved every second of it. It’s a shame, then, that this is where my time with Stormland came to an end. I didn’t get a chance to fight anything or see how far I could fly, and that really made me sad.

Still, what little I saw I really loved, and I only hope I can manage to get a Oculus Rift myself so I can try out the full game when it launches.

Stormland will launch sometime in 2019 for the Oculus Rift.


Battlewake

We’re all pirates, deep down. From the moment I played Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, I knew this. Thankfully, Battlewake was available to try and allowed me to live out the pirate fantasy I always wanted.

You’ll get to step in the shoes of a pirate captain, with four different ones being available. Each captain had their own special abilities, and I went with one who was obsessed with the Kraken. She could summon tentacles to smash the water, or throw a coin in the water to bring up the entire beast in one special move. Her ship also moved fast and hit hard, even if it wasn’t very meaty, which I was quite the fan of.

Controlling the ship was easier than I thought it would be, with a steering wheel providing wide turns, or just being able to drop an anchor on either side to make sharp turns. To fire all I had to do was look at one set of cannons and hit a button, with another button being my special attack.

Levels played out with randomized objectives being given, such as destroying all enemy ships or finding treasure. There was a time limit to complete each objective, and finishing a full round meant I got a roguelite-styled random power-up that could increase my stats or give my boat new weapons.

Taking out ships felt great, with responsive controls and dramatic effects when I shot at them. As I advanced I saw some cool new abilities, like shooting fireworks instead of cannonballs, or firing axes from the front of my ship. Each level ended in a dramatic boss fight too, something that really put my skills to the test.

Once I finished my run, I couldn’t wait to go sailing on the high seas again, and Battlewake certainly captured me with its charm.

Battlewake will launch sometime in 2019 for PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Oculus Quest


The Walking Dead: Onslaught

I’m saving the best for last here. Half because The Walking Dead: Onslaught was the last game I played at E3, but also because it was the best VR game I played there as well.

A first person shooter set in the world of The Walking Dead, you’ll get a chance to play as some major characters while killing hoards of walkers. Right from the start I was told that The Walking Dead: Onslaught will be incorporating elements of Survios’ other games, such as the shooting from Raw Data, the movement of Sprint Vector, and the melee combat of Creed: Rise to Glory. In a way, this sort of makes it their ultimate mash-up game.

It certainly felt like it, using all these mechanics in a fantastic way. There’s something amazing about hitting a walker with your machete so hard that it actually becomes lodged in them and needs to be yanked out. In addition, you can cut off various limbs, and at one point I was even encouraged by a developer to carve my initials into one of the walkers. I did so. It was disgusting, but in the sort of way that I couldn’t take my eyes off it.

As I worked through the level, I kept finding new weapons to use. A lever action shotgun that I needed to flick after every shot was a particular favorite, mostly because it made me feel cool. Pistols and assault rifles are always fun as well, and I eventually came across The Walking Dead‘s infamous Lucille, which is a joy to use. When I wasn’t killing walkers, I could collect materials that I assume I could bring back to base with me, but didn’t get a chance to see.

What I did get a chance to see was the likeness of the actors from the show, which means you don’t get a situation like Square’s recently announced Marvel’s Avengers game that has everyone looking like a stunt double. I was also told that both Norman Reedus and Josh McDermitt will be reprising their roles as Daryl and Eugene respectively. I hope the rest of the cast shows up as well, as killing zombies with them would be an absolute blast and I already had a fantastic time with the game.

The Walking Dead: Onslaught will launch Fall 2019 for PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, and Oculus Rift.


There’s a lot to look forward to in VR this year, and even if I didn’t like the game I was playing I still came away impressed by something in it.


Samuel Guglielmo

Associate Review Editor

I'm Sam. Been playing video games since PlayStation. Favorite games include Ace Combat 5, Perfect Dark, Final Fantasy IX, Metro 2033, and MonsterBag. Also loves books and can be found face first in one all the time.



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