Before the fourth day of E3 2016 (technically day two of the Expo), PlayStation’s VR headset was foreign to me. By the end of day four, it became an extension of me...For both good and for ill. Let’s talk about it, in my latest E3 journal!
The fourth day of the massive video game expo began in a Korean bakery/coffee shop, within Little Tokyo, roughly seven miles away. We arrived at the (what should be famous) Cafe Dulce at about 9:30am to drink Shanghai Style Milk Tea and Green Tea Donuts. The next time you’re in LA, go check this place out. It was delicious!
What does this have to do with video games?
Nothing, but you should really go there! I digress. Soon as we finished feasting on delectable delicacies, I instantaneously became glued to my phone, specifically the Experience Playstation App. During the previous day, Eric and I discovered the only way to try out the biggest games from Sony were to download the app and schedule fast and true. At 9:59am, I had my thumbs in the ready position, I was getting my appointments with Playstation VR. Let’s talk about the titles I played.
Final Fantasy XV VR
I had an hour to kill before the first VR appointment I’d scheduled, but didn’t want to aimlessly wander the show floor. Instead, I checked to see if there were any last minute openings for any PlayStation VR games. It’s a damn good thing I did too, as I was lucky enough to get into Final Fantasy XV VR!
Let me talk a little bit about the PlayStation VR headset first. The Sony device holds two buttons: one under the goggles and another in the back. These buttons are used to adjust the headset to fit your head just right and make the vision within the goggles ideal. Think of it as the best eye exam you’ll ever experience. These buttons actually make the headset extremely comfortable to the point that while I was in the game, I never noticed it even being on. At times, I felt like the Playstation motion controllers were a bit out of place and a little clunky, but within the game it’s unnoticeable.
As far as the Final Fantasy XV VR gameplay itself, it’s much like what we were shown during Sony’s press conference. You play as Prompto in an intense fight with one of the fiercest beasts from the Final Fantasy series, the Behemoth. Teamed up with Noctis and company, Prompto uses his trusty magic revolver to shoot down the beast, while warping out of the way to avoid the mighty Behemoth’s strikes.
Using the motion controller to shoot my enemy was actually very seamless. Wherever I pointed, the gun fired exactly where I wanted/expected it to. I personally, never dealt with any glitches or sync issues. The warp function was used by looking around with the headset and finding a blue diamond. Once you click the motion controller to accept that placement, a blue light glows and you suddenly appear in that new space.
I never once felt disoriented and the transition was actually quite smooth. In terms of graphics, the fight takes place inside a ruined building and the environment around me looked very much like Final Fantasy XV quality. On top of that the Behemoth actually looked ferocious up close, but the true beauty of the gameplay experience came after we took down the beast.
The next sequence finds us inside the black convertible from FFXV. The sun was setting and I was in the passenger seat riding down a long open road that was reminiscent of Route 66. Driving the car was the scantily-dressed shop girl Cindy Aurum. It was cool, purely on a gaming standpoint, to get to see her up close, with my own eyes. Get your mind out of the gutter.
The coolest part of it, though, was getting to experience the car and the surrounding details. The leather seats on the car were textured and I felt like I could open the glove compartment in front of me...but I resisted. I tried leaning over to see the rear view mirror and passenger side mirror. Sure enough, you actually see the open road moving behind you!
I didn’t like that if I looked down, I didn’t see my body. That was one point I had to mark against it. Also, the fact that it’s not really apart of the main game, but merely a gimmick at this point. Despite that, it was an awesome VR experience. I’m really excited for the future of FF VR! This was only the start of my PS VR experience. By the end of the day, the PlayStation VR and I would become quite close.
More VR beckoned to me and I answered the call. I had to wait in a pretty slow-moving line just to redeem my appointment with Farpoint, but despite that, the wait was worth it. When I put on the headset, I was also given the new motion gun. This new controller not only has a joystick on front but also one on the rear which helps toggle special projectiles like frag grenades and missiles.
The demo begins on the edge of a cliff and the area around me was dusty and red, as Mars should be. I had heard during a tutorial that players could actually jump off a cliff and feel that pit in their stomach as they died, so naturally it was the first thing I tried. As soon as I spawned, I ran toward the cliff. Sure enough, I felt that sensation of falling, as gravity took me into the orange-red dust cloud. The attendant, helping me, thought I did it on accident and took the time to help me maneuver.
Once I revived, I started playing the actual game. First, I wanted to inspect my virtual body. When I raised my arms in the real world, my virtual body did the same. My arms were covered by an armored space suit. The gun in my right hand was a cross between a Halo Assault Rifle and a Mass Effect one. I looked down at my body and I saw a suit of armor, the same style as on my arms. It would be the only body suit I would see, while playing VR.
I continued traversing the empty planet only to be greeted by the unlikeliest of visitors: tiny black spider-like creatures. They seemed friendly enough until they started pouncing on me. Using the assault rifle, I quickly disposed of them and continued my walk, but now it wasn’t as carefree as before. I was alert. Soon, more of these tiny spiders would pop up which I dispensed with extreme prejudice.
As I continued, the spiders got bigger, harder to kill, and with giant white sacks of what I assumed were more spiders. They also started spitting out acid balls I had to either avoid or shoot. When I ended them, those sacks would explode, causing the ground around them to dissolve. After fighting a few more, my path led me to a dark cave. Approaching the cave, I started hearing a cybernetic voice explain to me that updates were almost complete and the hologram recreation would be initiated.
Suddenly, I was jumped further into the cave. I chalked it up to it being the demo and trying to get me through the level quickly (this would happen, periodically, throughout my time in Farpoint). The cave would then take me to the edge of cliff. A path scaling the edge of the cliff would be the only security I would have from involuntarily falling. As I hugged the wall, more baby spiders would appear. I’d have to balance not dying with shooting them down.
When I finally got through the narrow passage, I made it to an area where more weaponry was available. Plus, an actual hologram appeared, for me to witness. Two scientists walked around scanning and gawking at their discovery. I got up close to their faces to check out the definition. They did a remarkable job with the facial construction for this game. You could see actual emotion on their faces. Meanwhile glowing greenish orbs were scattered all along the ground and walls.
I’ve seen enough Alien movies to know where this was going. Something ominous happens to them and the hologram ends. I picked up my new weapon, a shotgun, and went to work on even bigger spiders. While I enjoyed the assault rifle’s rapid fire action, nothing beats a shotgun. This one was surprisingly accurate too. I found that I still kept my rifle and could switch out by raising the shotgun over my shoulder. After fighting off more enemies, I discovered another pile of munitions.
This time, there were rockets and grenades. The attendant would inform me that the assault rifle shot the rockets, while the shotgun delivered the grenades. Not only that, but the rockets could be controlled by moving the reticle on the rifle. An even bigger spider with two giant legs that acted as shields would appear, primed to attack. Now was my chance to test out the maneuverability of these rockets of mine. After three rockets to each side of the alien spider, it fell in an awkward position. Unsure of its demise, I lobbed a grenade at it for good measure. My wife would’ve been proud.
The end of my demo would take me to a massive opening in a mountain, the home of the biggest spider of them all. It measured at about twenty stories tall and about three train cars wide. In fact, it couldn’t even fit its entire body out of the cave, making it look like the most terrifying hermit crab, ever. Just before the demo ended, I launched a few rockets at it. Darkness then overtook me and my time in Farpoint was over. This is the game that sold me on Playstation VR. Experiencing an actual FPS and being the character is an experience everyone should have a chance to play through.
Next up, I had a date with another VR suitor, Wayward Sky. It’s a small puzzle game that makes you the overseer of this robotic scrap world. You must help the heroin get through puzzles, increasing in complexity, to save her family and help robots, along the way. I had a lot of fun with it but the demo was entirely too short. I ended up finishing it in about five minutes.
Batman Arkham VR
After Wayward Sky I met up with Eric to shiver our timbers and play some Sea of Thieves (which I’ll detail my hands on time in a later post). Once that was complete I figured the line for Playstation VR might be pretty short. It turns out, I was right, but it was short because it was closed. I approached one of the attendants who explained to me it was closed for a private event, though she wouldn’t say what it was. They were running late and she explain if I wanted to wait she’d see if there would be an extra opening. So I waited with two other guys who had the same brilliant idea. I passed the time by chatting with one of the attendants until the woman came back yelling, “I can get one more!”. Then she grabbed me, threw me inside, and guided me to play Arkham VR!
A delightfully energetic attendant placed the VR gear on me and threw me into the game. I started off as Bruce Wayne, standing in front of a piano with a picture frame of the Wayne family on top. To the left, a table stood holding a red phone and to my right, Alfred was approaching me talking about…something. I honestly don’t know what he said. Between using my virtual hands to open up drawers and the energetic attendant OOOing and Awwing at my gameplay, I didn’t quite catch it.
Then, Alfred handed me a key to the piano. I grabbed it, unlocked the piano and virtually played a tune. By tune, I mean I slammed my hands down like an infant who just found out that a keyboard made sound. Fortunately, that just so happens to be the code to get into the Bat Cave! A tunnel appeared underneath my feet and the slowest elevator in the world began descending down the dark hole. When it stopped, I was set in front of an armory with robots (not unlike the ones from the Iron Man movie) began helping me to put the Batman suit, starting with my gloves, then my suit, ending with my cowl. It was all about grabbing and placing everything. The same happened for the grappling hook, forensic scanner, and Bat-a-rang. I’d pick them up and place them on my utility belt.
Once again though, I didn’t have a body, just a utility belt. When I picked up the Bat-a-rang, the demo required that I hit three targets with it. I would throw the weapon and it would then correct itself, mid-flight, to hit the target. Once that was done, I descended further down the ridiculously slow elevator. I even commented a few times that Bruce Wayne has the money to buy a faster elevator. Then the attendant replied, “But then you’d throw up!”. Touche, attendant, touche. The further down, I went, the cooler things became. I saw the iconic giant penny and T-Rex, but as soon, as I got to the bottom, though, that was the end.
I know it’s just a demo but with all the pomp and circumstance this game was getting, I thought it would’ve been longer. It was pretty disappointing. The grabbing motions of it were pretty cool but that’s about it. Hopefully the more complete experience offers gamers something quite a bit more.
After all that VR and gameplay, I had to go home and sleep. Otherwise, I would’ve been swinging through the streets of LA, fighting crime and yelling about all the alien spiders popping up throughout the city. Seriously, though, Day 4 was probably the most I’ve ever played during an E3. It was awesome getting to experience what I did, but even better to be able to share it with all of you.