The VR Conundrum

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Oh fricking sweet news. LA Noire coming to VR...



Just 7 cases from the original rebuilt, but they're slinging in the driving and shooty bits too, not just reformating point-and-click to be 'prod and point'. (The free writing notes in a pad, while a nice bit of flexibility, does have huge silliness potential though. Pens I've used to date in VR have tended towards the enormous ).

With each of the seven cases rebuilt for virtual reality, players can use real world physical motions including grabbing, inspecting and manipulating individual clues or using the detective’s notebook to make notes or draw freehand. Experience first person driving in VR with additional real-world vehicle interactions including steering, operating car doors, changing radio stations, shooting from vehicles and much more.
The things that spring to mind are:
  • I bounced off this hard because the point and click aspect was so tedious. Also the driving and shooting were just too damn familiar. Shaking those aspects up, and placing me right in there under the detective hat, are at least addressing some of those issues.
  • On the plus side, having bounced, most of the content would still be new to me.
  • If they can get this working, then GTA V............?
__________________
Virtual Reality chatter on a movie site? Got endless amounts of it here. Reviews over here



"Money won is twice as sweet as money earned."



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Foolish Purchases of the Day!

X-Rebirth VR: £15 (54% off)





The Early Access rework of the much-maligned (then much loved) X Rebirth. What can go wrong?

In theory a solid amount of content in there, lotsa single player silliness and vibe to soak up hopefully.

---

Aaannd:

Ship It: £3.50 (50% off)


Packing Tetris blocks into suitcases...

(What can I say, I chatted to the dev a while back and he seemed like a nice guy )



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Aha, so yes, The Gallery: Episode 1 was indeed pretty short. And a bit more Laura Croftian by the end, stylistically, as that non-spoilery shot shows.

Possibly 3 hours all told, and that's with lots of digressing and bouncing things off things for fun. Maybe only two real set piece puzzles as such, with diversions and tricks linking them up, and an ending that was more narrative then anything. Hard to review, but the experience was enjoyable, and classy at points . Just short...

EDIT: As cool as the feeling of being on this 80s adventure was (
), and even though I got it for £8, the length and challenge do have to weigh against it, so I've dropped it to a [rating]3_5[rating]+++. It's as much vibe and techniques as actual puzzles. What was there was pretty cool, it just couldn't build too far. (Next version is pitching to be 3 to 4 x longer supposedly).

Here is another inaudible vid . Demonstrating one of the cool touches: The rucksack menu...



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EDIT: Initial impressions: here.

EDIT: REVIEW: Episode 2



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Foolish Purchases of the Day - 2

Vertigo - £11



Figured I'd jump now rather than wait for a sale on this one, the devs seem worth the full hat tip. Generally summed up as 'A budget Half-Life in VR' (so no pressure ). It's got around 6 hours playing time, and seems to layer up new tools and odd environments. Supposedly buggy in places still, but a fair old adventure too. Intrigued



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Foolish Purchases of the Day - 3

Aaand, another audio-tape-driven, narrative-through-location, puzzle-lite, walking sim...

Pollen - £7



Again felt like rewarding the fair pricing here, so didn't wait for a sale. Although the original £20 launch price was clearly nuts for what appears to be a few hours of prodding and tinkering, the price-drop response to it bombing, and the general detail apparently lavished on the walking sim side, all make it worth a punt. Also the fact they've added hand control now.

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iOMoon - £4.50



Probably a daft purchase this, as it's clearly on the hokey, Jules Verne, end of things, but I'm a sucker for space craft stuff (and at home with the mild nausea it involves, as it always feels fitting). Music from the Bioshock guy helps (and again the enthusiasm of the dev, who jumped from working on the likes of GTA V to go lone passion project for this).

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Stimulating Walking?

I'm really not normally a 'soak in the vibe' style walking sim guy. I do kinda like piecing together background lore sometimes (say Fallout 3), but normally as a backdrop to more activity and game mechanics. VR is making it all more appealing at the mo though. If the world is well realised then the 'prod and tinker', 'sit and ponder', 'amble slowly' aspects all seem to gel well together. Tempted by picking up longer experiences down the line IE : Obduction and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. (Although I do kinda wish they'd get hands in for both of those too, it really does bring you further into the world).

EDIT: Oh yeah, I remember now. Both of those bulky adventures have hella high requirements, and run into trouble even on top machines. That's why I was holding off. On the plus side it seems Obduction has actually added hands. But unfortunately not very well. Will keep tabs though.



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FIRST LOOK: POLLEN

Ok sweet, this is proving worth the punt so far



Got off to a very rocky start (Pro Tip: Unplug any peripherals like joysticks if you want the menus to work...). Then, despite a neat little intro, Titan's surface storms were only partially impressing on the settings I'd juggled together, and involved some ludicrous load times when transitioning inside. But get inside the complex I did. And things got better



Like better in a 'hairs on the back of your neck' way, without being outright horror. No jump scares, more the unnerving clank of a disconnected ventilation tube banging away as you approach, wondering 'Who would disconnect that? And why?', as you shine your helmet light into the murk of the next room...

It's very much a 'piece together the story' scenario, with a mix of minor engineering puzzles and alien mystery as the main pillars. But also with plenty of bonus chaff and fitting items to peruse and kick around. (Did I have to sweep a load of stuff into a storage cupboard with a broken mop, to improve a slovenly room? Nah, but it amused me . Do I have to read every taped note on each box of tupperware? Nope, but I'm liking that each is unique. Did it matter that I didn't depressurise those random tubes, or that I left the heating tray on in the kitchen? Not sure yet...)

It seems to have various little working systems and item arrays around the place that don't exist to propel the story on, but purely to cement the world as a place. I'm definitely in the mood for that kind of thing.



It's not perfect, it's definitely budget. I don't even have hands, despite being human. I've got these (admittedly swanky) controllers instead. When I heated up a can of delicious salmon soup until it smoked, no yelp was heard as I picked it up. When I hear the solid audio tapes humanising the missing crew, I feel a tiny bit odd that I pressed play with my plastic mandibles. These little things are a shame, but I can appreciate that they took the other details as far as they did...




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Dirt Endurance Update:

Man, I thought this was losing its grip on me. My new Renault Turbo wasn't feeling as peppy as the trial version, Sweden had stupidly narrow roads, and Germany? Germany can flip off with its endless artificial hairpin turns. I was getting some joy out of clambering around the place, but it was feeling increasingly grindy.

And then I realised I hadn't unlocked the turbo yet

And then Finland happened



Endless ribbons of fast slidey gravel with evil gullies and horse-bucking jumps, some so ramped they obscure the trees you thought would always show you the bend, or threaten to flick you clean over other nested corners. I ended with my car about a foot shorter, scraped down both sides, and with a radiator so crumpled it was emitting a high pitched whine that cut through the cacophony of other rattles. (All the engineers ever wanted to repair was my suspension ). But hell that was fun again

To be honest, it's mainly that I had my crazy kick back to get me out of trouble. I could have enjoyed the channelled fish-tailing of Sweden again, even the composed poe-facedness of Germany, with that back under the hood. Dirt really does like to punish you in the noob stages of each discipline :/

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Elite Dangerous - Arena:

I'm essentially on repeat here, and I'm preaching to the non-converted because Arena is so damn hard to break into, but damn it's good to get a game in. Only Deathmatch was populated (I prefer Team), and I barely broke even on K/D terms, but the gaps you can zip through in VR, and the intensity of the duels as you track your opponent visually while on the move, just takes it to a whole other level . Flashing through a gap and seeing the sun flash back, as you death dive down and between the struts of a space elevator. All while feeling like this **** is really happening... It's properly immense

I can only spam this old vid again to get even halfway to what it's like when you dodge a pursuit and hear the boom of them hitting the superstructure instead of you




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-- VIRTUAL REALITY: ONE MONTH REVIEW --

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THE WOW FACTOR:

It does feel a touch less miraculous to pull on the headset now, a bit of that wide-eyed magic has been tamed by daily use. As some of the cherubic glow clears there's a stronger strand of objective crit emerging instead, now I've got a feel for what the games can or can't do. (If a game's not working for me I certainly seem more likely to dwell on the graphical imperfections too...)

That said, the core joys are still in place . I'm not uttering 'holy f*ck!' and dropping my jaw every five minutes, especially now I've consumed the main freebie 'experiences', it's true. But... I am still encountering flabbergasting audio-visual showcases that make me stop and grin, still gasping my way through high octane 3D-fu, and still enjoying the quiet moments of 'presence' which ground these conjured worlds. All those things are still holding true


NOT THE GAME YOU'RE LOOKING FOR?:

As a corollary to the above, there are generic negatives worth noting. Fundamentally, certain game types may never work swimmingly at this resolution and with these immersion limits. (Ones built on detailed menu management spring to mind, or on untrammelled movement at speed). The shape and beats of old favourites are altered necessarily, and still in experimental form. Many require degrees of upright activity, and may involve you leaning foolishly on an imaginary shelf by mistake, or kicking a very real table. You'll have to remember to do things the opposite way to your natural one (so that your cable doesn't end up like a pretzel, for example). Online games are also not well served by the small-ish community.

At this stage I'm really not feeling the bite on any of these fronts though. Pros definitely outweighing cons. But this may change if I run out of...


GAMING CHOICES:

The bulk are more on the indie end certainly, and so require a forgiving nature at times, but there are definitely more varied and considered experiences out there than I initially figured. (Lots of devs clearly got busy very early in the tech's life cycle, as these are often the fruit of 2yrs+ dev). Established vehicle sims, exploration narratives, adventures of various lengths, puzzlers, shooters, online, offline, yadda yadda, there's a decent spread of styles.

The coming of old title conversions like Fallout 4, LA Noire etc are interesting forays by the big guns, but it's perhaps the bespoke AA & AAA exclusives dropping month by month that suggest a decent pipeline of sorts is open.

Pricing bang-for-buck on the other hand? That still sucks pretty mightily as a rule of thumb. But there is this cheaper back catalogue out there. And you can also broaden your options considerably with the help of...


THE SENSOR SET UP:

The 360 roomscale set up has been key in the end. It made a load more games playable and improved most of my existing ones. Neither too pricey or tricky to do once I bit the bullet, but it will vary depending on your playspace. There's the odd detection wobble now that I've got the two sensors facing each other, but the coverage is generally solid for a small 2mx2m space, and the benefits of having your hands tracked wherever they are, and being able to rotate 360 freely, are pretty wide, improving everything from chilled exploration games to hectic shooters. Plus it also helps with...


PLAY COMFORT:

Nausea Stuff:

I've found a locomotion system that works for me: 'Point walking' (which still lacks an established name ). Essentially pointing your preferred direction with a casual gesture and pressing to proceed. Becomes second nature very easily. You can combine it with 45 degree snap turns etc to travel everywhere, but I've found it far more enjoyable when I can just turn 360 (and deal with the inevitable cable loops that follow ). Done right it sorts all of the issues brought about by classic strafing (vid), acceleration and rotation (vid), while still working well for a lot of game styles.

Kit:

Long play sessions definitely start hitting a wall. Either my face or the back of my head will start getting uncomfortable 3+ hours in. It's not huge, as taking a break is a good idea anyway, but once you hit that point the breaks normally start beckoning every half hour, and that can get annoying.

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TLDR:

The tech is properly cool. It and the gaming ecosystem do have their limitations though. Currently pros outweigh the cons



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Indie Options:

Some more intriguing long-tail indies added to the Wishlist. Yeah they're both zombie-spanking-spellcasters (a more trodden path in VR than bow-wielding wave shooter...), but def worth keeping tabs on:

Spellbound:

This 'first chapter' Early Access seems ludicrously short, but having read this cool long read by the dev about how he got into VR (started developing about 3 years ago it seems), and heard some good things about the attention to detail, I've got a feeling he's going to keep plugging away at it, despite the current gap in updates. More a watch and wait, but could be fun:



Left-Hand Path:

Dark-Souls-inspired (natch) gesture spellcaster with recent updates and what seems to be at least 6hrs+ of content. Don't really know if my game time will love something with such cruel edges and disparate save points, but production looks decent for an indie.




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Trying to Verbalise VR: Part 3

I know these pics are thoroughly underwhelming, but they represent moments where I could happily stare at an object for an age and absolutely believe it was there.





In both cases I think it was the appropriate reflections as light passed over the object that helped suggest physicality. Something about it really communicates the sense of shape, and perhaps of material make up too ('plastic' surfaces seem particularly effective), in a way that just overrides other graphical infidelities or counter-info. At these times objects can appear strikingly solid and palpable.

The reflection tech isn't novel, but in stereoscopic view, while freely touting the dinner tray about, it seemed so present that I felt I could bash it over my head . (It probably helps that you can also fling it instinctively through a gap somewhere, and hear it make a suitable tray-clatter sound. All these interactions and possibilities reinforce its 'presence' too)

I do wonder if one appeal to developers is that they get to see technical details and touches they've always added to 3D worlds spring to life in this way?

Anyways, it's pretty impossible to communicate just how weirdly convincing some of these tech strands are when running in tangent, but I'll probably keep trying

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Perusing Pollen: Part 2



Pollen's timeline uses the slightly silly conceit that computers never took off even as interstellar travel did. It doesn't bear too much scrutiny, but I can see why they did it. The paper notes & giant push buttons come with two benefits. One is that you feel like you're in an early 70s sci fi movie where people were still using clipboards (and it's consistently done). The other is that things like paper notes with the watermarks of past scribblings, and things like analogue counter wheels on old tapedecks, are very satisfying to scrutinise and prod. (I can see Minority Report style interactive screens being just as fun and detail-rich, but this is still a cool retro approach).



I'm not sure the game would merit lionisation in normal circumstances, but the attention to detail is still the stand out aspect in VR. There are a fair few tropes used (recycling of locations etc), and I'm pretty sure the story won't be ultimately stellar, but I'm enjoying just flipping everything over and tracing the actions of the missing astronauts. I keep seeing examples of dev efforts put into making little aspects function and little incidental moments convince. For that I can forgive the odd crash, spaced out save points, and the horrendous initial load times



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Indie Offerings to the Gods of Affordable Gaming:

I may have overpaid here . But got these for 75p in the latest Indiegala bundle....


Hey, I've always wanted to fly


And I've always wanted to smash an imaginary city up too, sure

Gave my last bundle purchase a try, which is now £18 on Steam (!), and it looks pretty promising. Run of Mydan takes the uninspiring route of 'rail shooter', but ups the skill level by allowing you to dodge around the moving platform (skipping past the descending swords of GIANTS etc) while also slowly strafing the platform about to help you psyche opponents and aid your dodges amongst environmental machines. The choice between your own projectile or shield when dealing with mobile enemies seems standard fare, and the whole affair might be toooo gymnastic for my tastes and roomspace, but alongside the fairly lovely art design first impressions are decent




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Wishy Washy Wishlist:

A dinosaur-strewn land? Made by Crytek? Should be a no-brainer right...



And given they've just added to motion controls to its puzzle-lite environments, I reckon I will nab it . But not at £30 for 5-ish hours. Just no. (Also need to wait and see if they've broadened the locomotion options, as it was considered something of a vom comet at launch).

---

I wonder if this dev is right and rolling updates / ongoing soft support will be the way for a lot of VR titles:

Or as Schell puts it, "if you're not ready to take that long view you're going to run out of runway and be in trouble." Growth will be slow and steady, not explosive, which Schell points out is perfect for a pervading trend across the games industry at large: that of games as a service, supported and expanded for years after release, rather than a product.
I guess it could make sense. With fewer titles competing for attention, certain games will be able to maintain a steady-ish ongoing uptake. (I'm certainly raiding those types of titles now, and zoning in on the ones that are still updating).

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EDIT:

The Solus Project: (£6.50 in GOG sale)



It seems I'll need to do some command line short-cuttery to get it to launch in VR mode, but this looks likes some fine 'Indiana Jones archaeological exploration on an alien planet' walking sim content . Trailer says 12hrs of play (players say about 6 ).

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EDITEDIT:


XING: The Land Beyond (£15 - launch price)




Bespoke puzzle-n-chill game. Bit of a punt, but the buzz has been good, and it's supposedly 8-16hrs long, according to the main dev. Felt like rewarding the pricing too. (Many others have been slapping £30+ price tags on stuntier and less focused launches purely because they're VR compatible).



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REVIEW: VANISHING REALMS
(+)



Cutesy dungeon crawler & adventure-lite with some fun melee AI (vid). I ended up liking the cartoon stylings here (if also hankering slightly for a more grounded realism, and for the painterly outdoors to have more 3D form over implied shape on simple flat planes). All told it's a decent pocket adventure though ...

PROS:
  • The melee feels chunky, and although it was never hugely challenging, having the higher-end enemies vary the speed of their attacks and order of their combos upped the interest and made it feel more like a face-off. Especially the way they'd lock their eyes to your weapon and flinch or alter their attack based on its approach, or try and psych you with fake attacks. Experimenting with dual wielding and giant pole-axes and the like was all fun, especially against the giant beasties, and the ranged stuff was solid.

  • Atmosphere was actually pretty cool, considering how cartoony the art style was. Although I rarely thought I was going to get trounced by the mystical beasts, I often worried about what was hiding down the next misty corner.

  • Playful interaction: They make decent use of some simple interactivity, such as the ability to set fire to almost everything. Makes the world feel like a more realised place. Simple acts like picking up a skull to find the gold coin naturally stashed beneath is all very freeform here too.

CONS:
  • Length is still an obvious issue. Even at £10, having got 5 hours out of it via exploring every niche, it felt it had been padded out via the Arena setting of the second stage. Prior to that, despite some slightly shonky pathing and hint system (which really screamed 'lone dev'), it did at least feel like an adventure.

  • Although the locomotion is functional (teleporting around, then investigating in 'roomscale'), it would have been more immersive to have some free-roaming options. [EDIT: Aha! He literally added that and climbing today ]

  • It feels pretty clear at points that this is the product of one dev. Passionate, but threadbare of necessity in places.





(+)



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Pollen Review:
+++



Really torn on the rating here, as the bulk of the experience was pretty
-y for me, in an understated fashion, but it's definitely not a perfect game. Think my previous ponderings ([1], [2]) cover its main strengths and foibles. Perhaps it's a case of: Classical game components (
) + VR components placing you 'in' the scenario (
) =
+++

It's the details that are the stars, from the character of the locations, to the layers slowly added to the relationships of the missing astronauts. If you're up for sifting through such things, in an eerie setting (if not a horrific one), then this could be the space walk for you. (If you just speed run the puzzles needed to advance you could probably burn through this in 2 hours though :/. I've somehow managed to potter around it for nearly 8 )

PROS:
  • Solid hand crafting for the locations, ideal for poking around in VR. Along with some well executed audio that's essentially it. But it's a pretty cool it. Scenarios left in notes, tapes and sealed doorways...
  • They included the 'point to move' locomotion system, which I find a ton more immersive than teleporting, and has none of the nausea of normal strafe & smooth turn motion etc. Regularly felt like I was genuinely there hopping over tumbled tables and shuffling through dusty interiors.

CONS:
  • It definitely has some technical issues. I've had one crash, fallen through the floor to my death, and had entire ventilation shafts disappear on me.
  • Initial load times are crazy. Stick it on an SSD if you've got one...
  • Save points are a bit spaced out. Bit annoying if you want to save for the night.
  • The story is ultimately eccentric.

Fair warnings: It goes properly 2001 by the end, don't expect a completely logical tying off of every line of inquiry. It's a journey-over-destination experience in that sense, although I did find the ending a mixture of tense and entertaining (even if it did feel that I'd been thwarted from pursuing a last few engineering heroics). The denouement is ultimately too budget-flambouyant for its own good, but putting my feet on the rungs of that final act, and approaching the final destinations, was amazingly tense in VR. Loved that aspect




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Holy crap I tried X Rebirth and I have no idea what I'm doing. I think this is some kind of defence drone that I've deployed...



But it could equally be one of the angry security guards that was trying to kill me. I may have shot some of the wrong things.

It's kinda pretty, in a painterly way. Helluva lot of menus to decipher tho...



There also seems to be a willowy woman guarding a pot plant in the back of the ship. I'm not sure what they're doing either.



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THIS POST IS ABANDONED NOW. **UPDATED REVIEW PAGE HERE**


REVIEWS:

--SHOOTERS & BRAWLERS--



SUPERHOT VR
- Superhuman slow-mo super-antics. Short but pretty perfectly formed.

Robo Recall
- Gaudy teleportation shooter, short-ish but slickly executed. It's future-90s cities felt like a place you were scudding through, but the focus was on the high octane gamery. [Rift Freebie]

GORN
- Ludicrous arena melee-fest that deploys its cartoon hammers and bendy swords to great effect. [Early Access]

Onward
- Arma-style 'realistic' mili shooter that really places you in the moment! [Early Access]

Hotdogs, Horseshoes and Hand Grenades
-- - Ridiculously replete gun simulator sandbox with bonus zombie sausage scenarios. Even though it's more a suite of mechanics than a game it's surprisingly good. [Early Access]

Run of Mydan
(+) - A short but pretty & trippy flying platform shooter which ends up like a duel inside a 1990s microchip [Early Access]


--SIMULATORS--



Elite Dangerous VR
(+/-) - Flying a spaceship never felt so real! (Some queueing for parking required...)

Dirt Rally
+ - 'Dark Soulsian' offroader that shows no mercy in its starter disciplines, but rewards with deep challenges.


--TEAM SPORTS--



Echo Arena
- Challenging and super-slick Zero-G team frisbee, Ender's Game style... [Rift Freebie]


--ADVENTURE / PUZZLE / WALKING SIMS--



The Gallery - Episode 1: Call of the Starseed
+++ - '80s adventure' with some neat tricks and touches, just ultimately light on puzzles and length.

Pollen
+++ - Explore an abandoned space outpost in search of missing astronauts - Tactile, 70s-style, and not a little bit trippy by the end.


--ACTION ADVENTURES & RPGs--



Vertigo
++ - Eccentric but pretty damn excellent 'escape the lab' adventure, with some stand out giant boss scenarios.

Vanishing Realms
(+) - Satisfying melee and cartoony consistency make this dungeon crawler overcome it's short-ish length. [Early Access]

Edge of Nowhere - 3rd person linear Cthulu-horrors don't tick my boxes, but the art and swirls of storytelling raised this above its more monotonous mechanics.
(+)



--PUZZLE GAMES--




XING: The Land Beyond
-- - Super zen puzzler which sees you flipping environmental effects and pacing around various natural zones.

I Expect You To Die
+++ - Giddy and gleeful physics puzzler, set in faux 60s Bond scenarios. Only let down by short content and some repetition mis-steps.

Form
- - Evocative puzzler that is unfortunately all form and very little substance.


--SURVIVAL GAMES--



Vivecraft
-
Excellent mutation of the survival classic, featuring a huge suite of options, leading to some surreally immersive results. A ton better than the official version. [Free Mod]

Star Shelter
++ - Neat 'rogue lite' space scrounging simulator. Punishingly cruel at times, but has a certain something in its loops. [Early Access]


--PLATFORMERS--



Herobound
+++ - A pretty tight little combat/puzzle platformer, with some minor non-linear aspects. Gains almost nothing from being in VR, but hey it's 8hrs long and it's free. [Rift Freebie]


--EXPERIENCES--



First Contact
- Just an exceptional and super-slickly designed intro to the tech. Highlights what's special but makes everything feel natural. [Rift Freebie]

Batman: Arkham VR
- Super immersive, if super short, chance to don the bat cape and tangle with some dark Gotham dilemmas. On the light puzzle end, and more experience than game, but immersively good for all that.

Waltz of the Wizard
+ - Lovely free physics plaything, with the odd mini-narrative hidden in its playful folds... [Rift Freebie]

Google Earth
++ - The capture tech and motion freedom here can get pretty mind-blowing at points. Yes, it's blobby at human scale, and many bits of the earth are 'flat' scanned, but from flying like an eagle over natural formations, to settling in a favoured city dell, there's some strange joy here...

Interkosmos
- Great little 'land the lander module' mini-adventure, featuring tongue-in-cheek Cold War stylings & audio story.

Blade Runner 2049: Memory Lab
+(+) - Too short, and slight on a gaming front, to even rate if it wasn't free. But as a demonstration of what full actor capture could do, and for slipping into the Blade Runner reboot neatly enough, it's definitely worth a reco. [Rift Freebie]

Aircar
++ - Another free super short experience, which is never-the-less properly epic. It's just a wonderfully rendered cityscape experience, which is immediately evocative of the original Blade Runner. [Free]

Mission:ISS
- Another high class freebie, featuring solid zero G locomotion, the sci-steeped setting of the station, but what's genuinely glorious is the ability to space walk outside it all... [Rift Freebie]

Kismet
+(+) - A slight but slickly-present collection of Tarot reading, Astrology, & a fun little board game from Ancient Ur... well worth a sale snag, if missing hand control.

Farlands
+ - Delightful alien locations mixed with deeply tedious gameplay. Worth a download for the initial transporting sections though. (Warning, includes chirpy robot guide...) [Rift Freebie]

Mythos of the World Axis
- Super-short early proof of concept that makes your feel like you're controlling a tiny hero in a cavernous room of adventure...[Free]

Cycling Pathways to Mars
+
= ? - Buzz Aldrin in hologram form. Need I say more...? [Free]

The Body VR
-- - A hint of what education VR could become, but not there yet. Some of the scale as you passed over and into the mechanisms and environments of the inner cells was pretty cool though. [Free]

---

CAVEAT: It's really hard to come up with a number that represents these nascent games and golden nuggets fairly. I'm not even sure if I'm high or low balling the scores any more. (I'm afraid of rating some slightly too highly purely because they stand out amongst an immature market, or because the woo-factor is washing over more obvious software shortcomings. The bang for buck aspect also can't be ignored, and I've tried to factor that in. Some should drop to a more reasonable price over time of course, but their pioneer mechanics will also date...)

The brass tacks are though... almost every game here honestly feels like a
to me thanks to the immersion and novelty aspects etc, I've often just gone woooooo and given them a
anyway . Even if objectively there are enough flaws and downsides from a classical gaming perspective that I should really chip off at least half a point...



there's a frog in my snake oil
REVIEW: GORN


Think of this as a first-person Gang Beasts for VR. It's experimentally Early Access, foolishly physics driven, and its secret sauce lies in its jelly-legged action...



The sword and board of Vanishing Realms got me hankering for more meaty melee encounters. This may just be an arena wave affair with its tongue firmly in its cheek (until the tongue gets severed in some horrendous cartoon accident), but damn it is strangely engrossing

The ultraviolence is leavened by the sheer ludicrousness of your tiny-legged opponents and the actual tactical reactions required by their varied loadouts. It's hard to take a boss fight against a giant guy with tiny nunchucks that seriously...



I mean ultimately the tactics normally involve kiting at least one opponent while you splang the armour off key areas of another one, or contrive to get a weapon that will help with that. But aspects like slow-mos after a successful block, the ability to target chinks in armour, and last ditch desperate shoves allow you to manage mobbings and bring some refinement to the chaos. (Thankfully the game also allows for 'point to move' motion, which is pretty fluid, and weirdly not unsettling to use with strafing in this environment).

The game is famous for damaging household fittings, and I've already given my keyboard a good bash. (If you're dealt a blow by an opponent you've got a tiny window to finish them off or you'll perish. Much windmilling and desperate lunging normally ensues )

I've tried most of the main weapons already, and can see most of the longevity will come from the core mechanics staying fun, as much as expanded content. Happy to
it right now though, and call the £15 already well spent. It's sweaty cartoon escapism with some great little details. Plus any game where you can whittle an opponent's shield down to a stub, or accidentally backswipe your opponent clean out of the ring with a giant hammer, is alright by me

The updates are still coming strong, which is a good sign. The latest added a ton of content, including local Co-Op - although I'm damned if I'd risk standing near the whirling dervish in the headset

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EDIT: Actually there's only been one update since Early Access started. But it was a big one . Some info here.



there's a frog in my snake oil
REVIEW: SUPERHOT VR




I've already pretty much covered this, because at heart it's what you'd expect: It's clean lines, black humour, and feeling like an absolute badass as you watch a bullet whistle just past your chest... (before limboing into what you like to think is a deadly Matrix-style response )

Yes, a core 'campaign' that's only a few hours long, for £15 or so quid, doesn't strike as great bang for buck. But **** it this stuff is art. Or at least, it looks incredibly striking with its red-on-white motifs and the set pieces feel focused yet creatively fluid in action . Once you've got a handle on the throwing mechanic you can improv your way out of many a scenario. You can go all puzzle-king, pausing the action and parsing out the best response. Or get your kung fu guru on and blindfire over one shoulder while doing the half splits and firing under your armpit with another . (Which frankly, while often ill-advised, feels absolutely amazing when you nail it and get rewarded with giant 3D SUPAHAWT salutations )

The meta stuff felt more flavouresome than flat out awesome, but the framing kept things playful (if on the dour Polish end of play )

I'm not sure how many of the novelty 'end game' variants I'll play through, but revisiting the whole thing again on hard is definitely happening (suddenly item placements are much more vital, now hand melees aren't one shots any more, items only block one bullet, and guns only have one blast in the chamber...). Plus I'll definitely drop back into standard mode again just to feel like a badass



there's a frog in my snake oil
REVIEW: Elite Dangerous VR
(+/-)


I've written a bajillion things on Elite here, on its excellent aspects, and the tedium and grind you have to negotiate to enjoy them. But to just focus on the VR side, these posts probably sum it up [1], [2], [3]. Here's the 'first impressions' one:

Elite in VR:



So hard to describe how all the pluses and minuses combine here, so I'm going bullet points...

Pros:
  • Holy christ the scale. The DBX in the tutorial is ENORMOUS. It's an expanse of metal you can scud past for an age. Why this is so apparent now, given the fly-by takes the same time in 2D, I've no idea. It's really surreal. (I look back at pictures I took and they just don't convey the heights / widths / depths experienced at the time. Those hexagonal heat sinks on planets surfaces just are 50 feet high now. Things tower generally, hovering Goliaths hove mightily overhead, headlight glare and skimmer scans add extra voluminous vibes. It's striking stuff.)

  • The little things: The sun glares on cockpit imperfections really make it feel like there's a curved bit of uber-glass just in front of you. Shadows now crawl in '3D' over the ship's interior. Tiny bits of space debris zip past in ways which real make the external vacuum feel like it has volume...

  • The GalMap is just glorious. I accidentally turned on the PowerPlay filter at one point, and in a hallelujah chorus I was suddenly surrounded by huge scoops of candy-coloured galaxy expanse in all directions. Looked amazing

Cons:
  • Distance view is just a muddle of pixels on my 970. You can get the general shape of things but no chance of spotting a ship type from its silhouette or whatever. It's pretty awful, mainly just mush. (I'm gonna have to toy with some down-sampling or 'supersampling', dialling other stuff down to get there).

  • The ASW trickery kicks in every time I'm in a station, and sometimes on surfaces, turning everything into a juddery, melting Matrix world at its worst. Not ideal :/

  • Much faff. Many crashes, much GalMap key remapping. Etc etc.

On Balance:

Amazing experience when it worked. Some big negatives to go with the big plusses though. Think the desire to constantly tinker with the graphics is going to always be there. (And the long-term itch to buy a 1080 once the price drops, to clean up those distance views :/)
The main things to bear in mind here are: The game isn't hugely accessible, and often requires a lot of keybind tinkering before you're comfortable. This can be a major pain with your head sealed in a helmet. Once you've got your head in the game it can also leave you flying a spaceship through deadspace for prolonged periods, with no access to the external tools many rely on to add content and diversion.

On the plus side, with a 'helmet' on your head, and a spaceship apparently all around you, a lot of these gameplay and convenience worries fade into the background. Because you're flying a fricking spaceship

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EDIT: Bonus... Elite Arena mode is just insane, close-flying, seat-of-your-pants, PvP-Star-Wars bliss




there's a frog in my snake oil
Real Virtuality...

As part of my ongoing mission to translate the VR experience (and to totally kill everyone's bandwidth ) have some more 'Mixed Reality' gifs...


(via TribalInstinct)


(via Barnacules Nerdgasm)


(via Weird Wizard Dave)


(via VoodooDE VRGaming)


(via SweViver)


(via Get Good Gaming)

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These are in-game captures auto-synched with green-screen footage. No real post editing used as a rule in streams like these. What you see is what the player does, just from a 3rd person perspective. (Explanation of the capture technique here (vid)).

They definitely communicate an aspect of the 'in-the-game-ness' at any rate. (If not the cardiovascular & psychological responses you get when your body buys that you're in that event )



there's a frog in my snake oil
Ok I've got a brainwashing drive, ahem, I mean Co-op evening coming up, so splashed on some of the asymmetric games out there:

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes (£3.29)


Pretty famous game, but liking the idea of having actual hands to cut the wrong wire. Sticking the manual up on the 'mirror' screen saves on giant paper tomes too. Should be cool for handing around the headset after each death/success hopefully

Mass Exodus VR (£5)


This looks cool. Essentially identical to the still in-dev Panoptic. Liking the 'Spy Party lite' potential etc.

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Plus, the just-added ridiculous VR-vs version of Gorn

Gorn PvP


Can see this working if I set up the mirror on my tv screen (like welllll away from the whirling VR loon), and get the full 4 opponents to even things up