Review: PlayStation VR Worlds

playstationvr-worlds

PlayStation VR Worlds is a collection of games–or game concepts–showing off the potential of the new PlayStation 4 virtual reality hardware from Sony. Depending on which version of PSVR purchased, VR Worlds is either a pack-in with the full camera/Move/PSVR bundle or a $40 addition to the Core VR (which is only the PSVR headset). I purchased the core PSVR, which does include a fairly robust demo disc. However, even some of the games in VR Worlds don’t come teased in the demo.

PlayStation VR Worlds includes five different experiences. Let’s take a look at them one by one.

VR Luge:

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Street Luge is an interesting idea and one that I think definitely shines in VR. An immediate sense of speed and fear fills the pit of my stomach at the beginning of each run. Zooming down a hill at high speed with nothing more than a helmet and some leather raises the stakes in what my brain is processing. Drifting left or right, barely grazing past a car or a large semi, adds to the sense of danger. Rocketing down a slope to launch into the air at the crest of a small hill is exhilarating.

The game has two modes, a Time Trial and a Luge Tour. The Luge Tour is the meat of this game, but the way in which progress is gated–by completing a series of timed runs where only a portion of the time from the previous run carries over to the next run, and if any cars are hit time is docked from the clock–can be frustrating. Perfecting runs without instinctively flinching to avoid obstacles is more of a challenge than unbridled fun. Moving too far one direction to avoid tricking your brain into thinking you are going to be run over by a semi, and inadvertently sending your luge into oncoming traffic means you get docked time. Overcorrect and hit another vehicle and again time is docked. Movement based games can be fun, but requiring hyper accurate precision takes a lot of the immediate enjoyment out of the moment.

VR Luge tries to shake things up a bit by setting each run at either day or night. While I appreciate the change, running down a hill at nigh confounds the movement problem by making everything harder to see. With the darker environment, objects in the road aren’t easily visible until the luge is right up on top of them, which makes for last minute snap adjustments and overcorrections. Additionally, the night sky makes everything appear less focused–although I think that may be more of an issue with the overall resolution limitations of the PSVR itself rather than the game. VR Luge has its moments, but it is not my favorite “experience” in VR Worlds.

London Heist:

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London Heist is a series of story beats with limited interaction mixed with stationary shootouts reminiscent of the works of film director Guy Ritchie. I’m a fan of Ritchie’s seedy gangster movies because of the comically dark characters and over the top situations in which those characters tend to get themselves into. London Heist fits right in with the stylings of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, and RocknRolla, opening in a character rich dive bar with the player sitting at a table while listening to a gangster lay out the plans for stealing a diamond. During the initial scene players can pick up a cigar and a lighter and smoke along with the big boss. This sort of interaction is incredible, and the only thing missing is the actual heavy smoke filling your mouth as the stogie burns.

The game then flashes forward to a scene of being strapped into a chair and interrogated by a hulking stooge demanding to know where the diamond went. The limitation of being immobile on the chair is a bit disappointing because there isn’t nearly as much to do other than watch the brute yell and get in your face. From an immersion perspective, though, there definitely is a heavy sense of dread and fear because you really have no idea just what the guy could do.

Flashing back, the game puts players at the scene of the crime, where the diamond must be found by opening doors and lifting various objects at a desk. Suddenly an alarm triggers and players must pick up a gun and shoot at thugs who appear from all points around the room. My only real issue with this encounter is the fact that the game still plants players directly at the desk and there is no form of movement aside from ducking or straining to see over the desk. The gunplay feels pretty good; using the Move controllers to aim the gun feels fairly natural (although there isn’t really an aiming reticle to accurately judge where the gun is aiming). Fortunately, the game is pretty liberal with ammo, and the thugs aren’t very bullet spongey.

Continuing the flashing back and forth, the game drops players back to the interrogation scene and then to the show-stopping moment of shooting an Uzi through the kicked-out windshield of a van while trying to escape gunmen on motorcycles and SUVs. Chaos and hundreds of rounds later, the brief exhilarating moment of the heist ends. A final scene plays out back at the interrogation garage, where player choice actually comes into play. London Heist has so much character and depth of interaction (in certain spots) that I hope London Studio takes a crack at turning this idea into a full game in the same vein.

Deep Sea Dive:

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A few months back I had a chance to demo PSVR at a Best Buy store, and of the myriad options to choose from I picked this demonstration. Basically nothing more than a sitting experience, Deep Sea Dive puts players in an underwater cage with the intention of sending them ever deeper to find some mysterious cargo that has been lost at the bottom of the ocean. A few elements have changed from the demo to this final retail build, but it is still one of the best examples of just how completely overwhelming and immersive VR really can be. What starts out as a simple, brightly lit coral reef teeming with bright aquatic life submerges into a darker area filled with sea rays casually floating past and then down further into pitch dark illuminated by glowing jelly fish.

Beat for beat, each new area is breathtaking and incredible. Finishing the journey is the discovery of an unmarked sunken nuclear submarine crushed and ripped in half. Lurking just beyond the submarine is what can only be described as the scariest fucking great white shark ever to be portrayed in a video game. The vicious beast chomps and tears the cage apart, and anyone experiencing this moment can only sit and cringe with fear for their lives. Deep Sea Dive is another shining example of just how good PSVR is.

Scavengers Odyssey:

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Strapping into a giant spider-like mech, Scavengers Odyssey demonstrates just how well full range of view and movement can be implemented in VR. Moving through the debris of a massive space wreck, players encounter small insect-like bugs that can be shot with a satisfying splat or larger acid-spitting bugs hit by grabbing shards of the debris and hurling them as projectiles with an electric tether.

Since the space wreck is a jumble of rock collided with ship, movement through the game consists of straight forward momentum mixed with an aiming and leaping mechanic. Shooting and aiming are handled by the direction of wherever the VR headset is being tracked, which feels natural and intuitive. A decent story unfolds during the experience, making for yet another game concept that I would love to see fleshed out as a standalone experience.

Danger Ball:

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Danger Ball is basically a glorified 3D Pong, where the paddle is controlled by moving your head to bounce a ball back at the AI opponent, the winner being the first player to score five points. Tilting your head while moving to the necessary location of the ball can add a bit of spin to the ball’s trajectory once it is deflected. A series of six stages, Danger Ball is fun but also frustrating. Movement and aiming is super precise, but if players aren’t careful they could injure themselves just as easily as lose the match. The sixth AI opponent is a nasty sonofabitch that I couldn’t even manage to score once off of.

Danger Ball also has a score chase mode where point modifiers appear and disappear on the far wall of the game alley. Bouncing and keeping the ball in play against an increasing speed as more and more modifiers are hit gives the game a fun challenge that includes leaderboard support. While Danger Ball isn’t my favorite of VR Worlds, it does provide a unique VR experience that has plenty of replay opportunity.

I don’t fault Sony for not including VR Worlds in the core package, I just wish that the price wasn’t so high to buy it separately. As long as you know up front what you’re getting–a collection of virtual reality experiences that in some respects are nothing more than glorified tech demos–I do recommend PlayStation VR Worlds for those who only bought the Core PSVR headset. The price is a bit steep for content that isn’t fully realized, but each of the provided games shows the potential of the hardware, including several standout examples of just how immersive VR can be.

TryIt

Pros:
+ Nice variety of experiences and gameplay
+ Shorter duration games fit with the recommended play sessions
+ London Heist, Deep See Dive, and Scavangers Odyssey are awesome

Cons:
– Not included with the Core PSVR
– Price is a bit steep for what are essentially tech demos

Game Info:
Platform: PlayStation VR for PlayStation 4
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment America
Developer: London Studio
Release Date: 10/10/2016
Genre: Action
ESRB Rating: Mature
Players: 1

Source: Game purchased by reviewer

Buy From: Amazon.com or PlayStation Store for $39.99.

About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.