When Sony launched their new, Direct-like video concept, State of Play, a couple of weeks ago quite a few people were surprised (and disappointed) to see PlayStation VR take up a big portion of the stream. Although PlayStation VR has sold more units than its competitors, 4.2 million units reported most recently, it hasn't quite gotten the breakthrough Sony must have hoped for and expected, particularly with their core users. And when last year's E3 conference completely ignored VR, one would be excused for thinking that Sony was about to give up on its pricey accessory. In reality that doesn't seem to be the case as State of Play focused on the platform and just a few days after the presentation, Sony hosted a big event in New York presenting eight upcoming titles. And so we jumped on a plane to see what PlayStation VR has in store for us this spring.
Iron Man VR
The biggest surprise at last week's State of Play was arguably the announcement of Iron Man VR from Washington State-based Camouflaj (République). We got the opportunity to play approximately 20 minutes of it and were able to test out both cinematic and action-oriented sequences from the 5-10 hour game.
Marvel's Iron Man made a strong first impression and Camouflaj is obviously very passionate about the project. The controls are intuitive and well thought out and the fact that you have full control over Iron Man instead of being on-rails is great. In addition to this, we're getting a full, original Iron Man story. One thing that worried us a bit was the risk of motion sickness. During the game's tutorial, we got somewhat nauseous when having to turn around a lot, but Camouflaj is aware of the risk and is working on minimising any inconvenience. Also, it should be noted that we didn't experience any discomfort during the main mission. As mentioned previously, Marvel's Iron Man should come out this year and it may very well turn out to be one of 2019's essential VR games.
Blood & Truth
Blood & Truth embraces classic Hollywood action movies and lets you become the action hero in a shooter that lands somewhere between on-rails and traditional FPS. While it does feel a bit limited when traversing the game world, the production values are top notch and mechanically the demo is well made with a high level of action and some pretty decent set pieces.
Still, we wonder if the game can sustain momentum throughout its entirety since there is a risk of it becoming a bit too shallow. However, if London Studio can deliver a well-told story and varied gameplay with good set pieces, Blood & Truth has the potential to be a highly entertaining shooter when it launches on May 28.
For us, one of the biggest questions prior to the event was whether the VR portion of Concrete Genie was the full game or a separate mode. The game recently resurfaced after a long hiatus with news of VR functionality and at PlayStation's VR Showcase we learned that what we're getting is a separate mode. Or two, to be precise. Concrete Genie VR is about painting and that's basically it. The perspective is third-person instead of first-person and the move controllers are your sketchbook and brush, respectively. As mentioned, the VR mode is divided into two parts. The first is goal oriented and requires you to paint different things in order to advance the proceedings from a 2D wall to a beautiful 3D space. The second is a free paint mode where new painting techniques are unlocked through the main game.
No matter the mode, Concrete Genie's colourful aesthetic shines through and it's actually quite wonderful to relax and paint without a care in the world. The objective-based mode should take between 40 minutes and one hour to complete and Concrete Genie VR does feel a bit like a bonus which means its success will likely rest on the main game. If it succeeds the VR mode will seem like a nice, relaxing change of pace but it won't save the day if Concrete Genie doesn't live up to the expectations. We'll see when the game releases this autumn.
Although being an action hero or Iron Man works wonderfully in VR, the technology has also revealed itself to be a wonderful platform for more tranquil and intimate experiences. Freely messing about in detailed environments is very satisfying due to the scale of VR and the improved perception of depth it offers compared to traditional displays. It's as if exploring gets a whole new dimension, so to speak. Therefore, adventure games are actually a great fit for VR, something that Déraciné showed at least to some degree last year. This year, Ghost Giant from Swedish outfit Zoink (Fe, Flipping Death) might very well be an even better showcase for the beautiful match-up.
You play the titular giant, who enters the anthropomorphic boy Louis' life when he needs it the most. Louis' best friend has moved away and his mother is always out, but in a lonesome moment by the river, he spots you. At first, he gets scared and runs away but soon he realises the comfort and potential in having a giant friend that only he can see.
Ghost Giant has a striking, picture bookesque aesthetic, which, furthermore, appears crisper than most Playstation VR titles. It beautifully sets the tone for the calm adventure game Ghost Giant seems to be. Our tasks in the demo revolved around helping Louis enter his granary by taking back the key from a cheeky magpie and help him drive through the woods by clearing obstacles. Nothing in the demo was particularly challenging, but it felt good and if the game can deliver a sweet and touching story, we would love to spend 5-7 hours in Ghost Giant's adorable universe when it releases this month.