E3 2018 Made It Harder Than Ever to Resist PlayStation VR

By Sam Quirke,
I will level with you, dear reader: I don't own a PlayStation VR. From the outside, it has always felt like a gimmick, a toy, an "experience" rather than a gaming device. Simply put, I didn't think there was enough going for it. To those not following the news around the device, it seemed that the only big release of note was Resident Evil 7 Biohazard. Despicable coward that I am, I couldn't think of a worse reason to buy a headset. But even if I was a horror fan I still feel that this one notable wouldn't be enough to justify a purchase.

But then I did a little digging. I heard about people' transcendental experiences playing Rez Infinite or Thumper, I watched videos of the curiously clever puzzle-box action in Statik, and I laughed at people's attempts to get anything done in Job Simulator or Star Trek: Bridge Crew. Most recently the positive vibes I have heard from players of cutesy platformer Moss, plus the inevitable port of Skyrim, have started to make me have serious thoughts about a purchase. But something still felt amiss. Was any of this worth the expense, and has the platform already hit its peak?

If E3 2018 and its numerous announcements were anything to go by, the answer to that last question is a resounding "no". Here are the top games from the show that are making me reach for my wallet.

Beat Saber

Some of the most highly acclaimed experiences on PlayStation VR to date have been in the realm of rhythm action, whether it's Rez Infinite's re-imagining of a Dreamcast classic or Thumper oppressive yet immersive intensity. From the outside, I couldn't quite grasp the benefit that VR was bringing to the table that a decent pair of headphones wouldn't cover. However wrong-headed that sentiment is, Beat Saber looks like it would resolve the issue by letting me wield lightsabers and use them as gosh-darned drumsticks. That adds just enough innovation for me to want to give it a try.

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While I wouldn't play Resident Evil, Transference looks to be more psychological — my kind of creepy. What's more, there a narrative logic to the fact that you're wearing the headset in the first place. After all, you appear to be some sort of virtual manifestation of a deranged man's family, trying to escape a corrupted digital mind. The blend of CGI and filmed footage seems to work well together from the trailers, and if Transference is successful this could easily be the beginning of a medium-fusing partnership between Ubisoft and Elijah Wood's SpectreVision production studio.

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Tetris Effect

PlayStation's first Countdown to E3 2018 announcement won me over immediately. The titular "Tetris Effect" is already a fascinating phenomenon whereby long-term Tetris players begin to see their own reality morph into the classic grid. The idea of the creator of Rez trying to bottle that lightning by forcing a similar effect, using music, lights and virtual reality immersion as a backdrop to the original game, is simply too intriguing to ignore.

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Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot

One of the announcements with the most "mainstream" appeal, Cyberpilot has the advantage of being integrated into the larger narrative of a continually popular franchise. The story of the VR title will be canon, set two decades after the events of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. Fighting back against the Nazi threat, you'll take on the role of a French Resistance member hacking into the enemy's mechs and turning them against your oppressors. Any game that gives a narratively logical reason for me to be using my head and hands while stationary makes the whole VR premise more appealing to me. Besides, a game that allows me to virtually sit in a giant flame-throwing mech while punching cars at Nazis gets a significant headstart on my quibbles about the technology.

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Trover Saves the Universe

Despite its own embarrassing fan base, I remain a devoted follower of Rick and Morty and anything the creators get up to. While the Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality PS VR game was certainly an entertaining temptation, it was this new project from the show's co-creator Justin Roiland that really piqued my interest. Justin's comments in an interview after the above teaser really opened up what this game entails, and I particularly like the idea of Trover being fully aware of your god-like VR presence while you guide him through his 3D platforming and combat challenges. Roiland promises lots of silly and improvisational dialogue throughout as well. If I'm going to empty my savings account to buy one of these headsets, I'd at least want a good laugh to ease the pain.

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With news that FromSoftware's Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice might be a bit of a departure from the Souls-like mechanics we might expect, it seems that the developer is ready to branch out in new directions — including, it seems, VR. What appeals to me about this title so far is its simplicity; part visual novel, part point-and-click adventure. It could be a relatively low-impact way into the medium for a VR newbie, while still retaining FromSoftware's impeccable environment and sound design work thanks to the inclusion of Bloodborne's development studio and creative director. We've only had a teaser so far, but this will certainly be a game to watch in the coming months.

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Ghost Giant

One of my favourite non-scary Halloween movies (again, massive coward here) is Laika's Paranorman, and watching this trailer for Ghost Giant gave me very similar vibes. The idea of playing a giant, lumbering ghost simply trying to make things a little better in a small town is very appealing by itself, but the integration of that idea into the concept of VR just seems so natural; an extension of the ideas laid out by games like Moss before it. There's an undeniable charm in this trailer that bodes well for the final game when it arrives.

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Jupiter & Mars

With its subtle, unassuming tale of environmental destruction and renewal, underwater puzzler ABZÛ stole my heart. So it's no surprise that the mere concept of Jupiter and Mars seems appealing, while its on-rails approach to VR is a considerably less nauseating proposition than trying to put ABZU's free-swimming underwater traversal into a headset. You'll play as two dolphins interacting with giant luminescent whales, and you'll discover the ancient ruins of humanity as you swim around in the risen oceans of a future Earth. It's certainly visually striking, and if it can nail a minimal yet emotive story like ABZU I will be a very happy man.

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Space Pirate Trainer

One complaint I do hear about VR in general is an over-abundance of shooting-gallery style games, often incredibly low-budget and with little to set them apart. Space Pirate Trainer is undoubtedly in that ballpark, but the level of polish seen in the trailers does make it stand out. What seems to be a simple yet elegant system of dodging and shielding indicates a game that could really get addictive in the right circumstances. The Steam version is already garnering praise from the critics (as featured in the above trailer), so this could end up being the benchmark shooting gallery VR game to beat.

Besides, like Beat Saber, it's all more than a little bit Star Wars-y. Who doesn't want to be a hot-shot space pirate like Han Solo?

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Mind Labyrinth VR Dreams

I've left a real outlier until last, but there's something about the pure, innocent concept of Mind Labyrinth that really makes me think it could make fantastic use of VR's immersive nature. To put it simply, the developers of this game just want you to exist in a pretty world, to relax and let emotions run through you as you explore with no determined goal. On paper the concept sounds a little wooly, but I've always enjoyed games that allow you to just enjoy the environment around you. If this game can achieve a similar mindful serenity that I reached while playing games like Flower, it might become a useful winding-down game after playing something more intense.

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This list barely scratches the surface of what's to come on the platform, with Prey getting some sort of VR experience, Vacation Simulator adding some polish to its job-based predecessor and Blood & Truth allowing you to personally take down the London criminal underworld. One thing is for sure: Development on PlayStation VR shows no signs of slowing down. The next couple of years could easily see innovation beyond what we can imagine.

I guess I know what to put on my Christmas list.
Sam Quirke
Written by Sam Quirke
Sam has been a Newshound since 2016 and is now the Editor for both TrueAchievements and TrueTrophies. He loves gaming on all devices and in all genres. He remains a stubborn Assassin's Creed and Pokémon fan.
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