With PlayStation VR launching very soon, we’ve been doing our best to play as many experiences as possible, in the hopes of helping players sort the good games from the bad. As a result, we are still in the process of determining what games we should review and what games we shouldn’t.
For now, we’re compiling our impressions of the PSVR launch library as games become available. These are quick, snap judgements made after playing anywhere from 15 minutes of a game, to many hours. Eventually, some of these ideas may eventually evolve into full, scored reviews. Others we may discuss in opinion pieces and other, less formal forms.
For now, we hope this list will help you plan what games you plan to pick up when PlayStation VR launches September 13.
PlayStation VR simplest launch title also happens to be its best. This 3D puzzler from Fez developer Polytron asks players to rotate an ever-expanding group of cubes to fit through a specifically shaped hole in a steadily incoming wall. The cube-structure sits right in front of your face, so as it expands you’ll have to crane your neck further and further to identify the shape of the hole.
While it may not transport you to a new world, the game’s mechanical use of virtual reality masterfully adapts a simple concept for VR, and created something entirely new in the process. This may not be the best game to show friends who are new to VR, but it’s the one you will keep playing even after the novelty of VR has worn off.
2. RIGS: Mechanized Combat League
Making a play for VR’s first eSport, RIGS is a fast-paced arena sport of 3-on-3 players piloting giant mechs to accrue the most points in five-minute matches. There are three different types of play, awarding points for kills, carrying a ball through the opposing team’s goal, or charging up your mech with takedowns and then leaping through a central ring, respectively. With multiple online and offline gameplay modes, in addition to solo skill trials and unlockable customization options for your rig and pilot, RIGS is one of the most fully-realized games available in VR currently, where most releases still feel like tech demos. Most importantly, it’s a lot of fun, and if it attracts a critical mass of regular players into a sustainable community, it has the potential to be an early pillar of the medium.
3. Wayward Sky
This third-person point-and-click adventure follows Bess, a young aviatrix whose father is kidnapped by giant robots after the pair crash their plane on a floating island. While the game’s puzzles are clearly meant for children — which could be an issue, considering Sony warns against letting kids under 12 use the headset — its art, story, and design can enchant all ages.
Described as “rhythm violence,” Thumper reframes Amplitude-style rhythmic tapping as futuristic combat against gigantic virtual monsters. Players control a metallic “space beetle running along a track to an electronic beat, tapping, sliding and bracing to hit everything your enemy throws at you.
While its VR elements are mostly cosmetic, the ominous atmosphere of wavy tentacles and giant glowing eyes emerging from the void are incredibly impressive. We mean that literally: Get distracted for even a second and you’ll lose your flow (and probably your run.)
5. Until Dawn: Rush of Blood
This on-rails horror shooter, replete with jump scares, is a solid execution of what we currently know to work well in VR. As a spin-off to the excellent Until Dawn, its connection is only tangential, rewarding fans of that game with familiar imagery without leaving newcomers feeling lost or confused. Shooting with dual motion controls feels fundamentally good, and is categorically different than shooting on non-VR platforms. Although it’s not especially ambitious either mechanically or thematically, Rush of Blood is just the sort of solid launch title that PSVR needs to show the medium’s potential to new players.
Sony’s VR show piece comprises five demos used to show off PSVR in its early phases, including a story driven narrative about a London jewel heist, a deep sea dive with a giant shark, and street luge racing.
When expanded to full games, the quality of the demos varies greatly. One of them— a VR adaptation of Pong called “Danger Ball” — is one of the most enjoyable things we’ve played so far. At the same, its sci-fi shooter “Scavenger’s Odyssey” included some zero-gravity space flight sequences that didn’t “sit right” with us. (That means it made us nauseous.)
7. Tumble VR
Another puzzle game collection, Tumble VR mostly revolves around stacking or unstacking piles of oddly shaped blocks using motion controls. Just like the piles of block you’re building, the puzzles themselves become more complex. Where you may start out simply stacking blocks to a certain height, you will later have to build with a specific set of blocks, or build quickly.
While it really feels like a testing ground for motion controller-based fine motor skills at its core, even the act of playing with blocks — an act normally associated with children — can be interesting and engaging in VR.
8. Harmonix Music VR
Rock Band developer Harmonix’s VR music interface doesn’t feel like a game most of the time. Harmonix Music VR features a variety of ways to take songs, either using the preloaded or songs uploaded to the game via flash drive, and enjoy them in one of a few virtual interfaces, including a psychadelic VR visualizer.
There’s just one issue. In the age of streaming music, forcing players to collect and compile music files has become a high barrier that few will be willing to climb regularly. While it’s absolutely worth experiencing, Harmonix Music VR is hard to justify to anyone not still hoarding mp3s.
The prospect of VR adaptations of AAA game franchises has been a serious selling point among PSVR’s pre-release boosters: Unfortunately, it seems that the first one of these is a bust. Batman: Arkham VR, a first-person point-and-click adventure game where players walk in Batman’s shoes, feels more like an amusement park ride than an interactive experience.
More importantly, the game feels poorly optimized for PlayStation VR. It requires players to stand further from the camera than any other game, and it’s highly pixelated graphics can make small details hard to see or read. Though it creates a couple of “wow” moments, it is the exact opposite of what we want to get out of VR in many ways.
This remake of the 1980 Atari game seems like it could be a lot of fun… If it didn’t make us feel sick quickly and consistently. Players pilot a hovertank through a series of wave-based contests for digital territory. The game seems to have a cheeky sense of humor, smooth visuals, and a lot of interesting ideas. Unfortunately, the moment-to-moment gameplay relies heavily on strafing, an unnatural lateral movement that seems to make player stomachs crawl.
We’re going to have more people try Battlezone and get a better sense of the game itself. For now, though, we can’t recommend a game that is so hard to play.