TT@EGX 2016: Hands-On With Playstation VR

By Rebecca Smith,
There were many, many games and a fair amount of hardware at EGX this year but there was just one thing that I personally just had to try out: Playstation VR. While the concept of virtual reality has been around for years, only now is it heading into the homes of the general public. There's the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Samsung Gear and many others that are bringing VR to PC and mobile players, but Playstation VR will be the first to bring tailored virtual reality experience games to console players. The entry cost is expensive at US$399.99 or regional equivalent, but for many it will be worth it. Will I be one of them? Maybe not at entry point, but it is definitely a future purchase.

Playstation VR Headset

The headset is placed on top of your head like a headband with the VR viewer coming down in front of your face. The VR viewer can be adjusted forwards and backwards to suit the shape of your head and easily allows players who wear glasses to use the device without any discomfort. The device does not feel heavy (it clocks in at 1.3lb without the cables), and this is coming from somebody who is extremely sensitive to a lot of weight being placed on their head and neck. However, as you may just have noticed, I mentioned cables. Unlike all of the promotional shots for the device, Playstation VR is not wireless. There are cables that lead from the headset to a processing unit, whose sole purpose is to split the display output between the device and your TV. If you don't want these cables to affect your gameplay experience, it is recommended that you push them over your shoulder so that they run down your back.

To get the full immersive gaming experience, you'll need to use wired headphones, too. The peripheral comes with a basic pair of stereo earbuds, but any wired gaming headset that can be plugged into Playstation VR's 3.5mm headphone jack will suffice. The audio output for any VR game is also handled by the processing unit. As wireless headsets connect directly to the console and will not be connected to the processing unit, you cannot use wireless headsets with the device. If you want to take a look at exactly what comes in the box with Playstation VR, take a look at the unboxing video below. Sony has also provided an extremely detailed FAQ that you can see here for all of your most pertinent VR questions.

Once I was wearing the headset and headphones, I was then handed the Playstation VR Aim controller because the game that I got to try out was Farpoint. In case you missed the game's announcement, the controller is a more streamlined version of the sharpshooter attachment that came out for Playstation Move on the PS3. Playstation VR was used to look around and, more specifically, to look in the direction that I wished to travel. My movement was controlled by the controller's joystick while I fired using the controller's trigger. To aim down the gun's sights, I had to raise the controller to shoulder height, just like you would do if looking down the sights of a real weapon. Different weapons could be acquired by walking up to them in-game and placing my weapon down on top of them. To switch between weapons, I had to "holster" the controller over my shoulder before "equipping" my controller again. Finally, grenade ammo for the grenade launcher could be picked up by walking over it; these projectiles were fired using buttons that were placed underneath the joystick.

Described to me by the demonstrators as a wasteland shooter, they weren't far wrong. The reddy-orange planet surface was filled with craters, rocks, looming cliffs and a lot of sand, but very little life... except for the spider-like aliens of varying sizes who have an addiction to jumping at your face, or in the case of the larger variations, just simply annihilating you. You have an infinite supply of basic ammo and never have to worry about reloading, just the weapon overheating if you engage in solid fire for too long. While most games of this ilk take on the form of a rail shooter, Farpoint does not. It is very much a first person shooter with complete freedom of movement offered by the combination of VR and the controller.

Farpoint Announcement 4

My lack of ability to see or hear anything other than the game meant that I was completely isolated from the outside world. Farpoint is a game that must be played while standing to allow for a full 360o movement. As somebody whose balance is not brilliant and who can suffer from motion sickness, this did not initially feel like a good idea and it could have ended very badly. Movement within Farpoint takes a couple of minutes for a person to adjust to the experience. While your eyes can adjust to you looking around and compensate for any movement that is made within the game, your ears do not correctly register any changes in your balance.

Moving forward was fine... moving sideways was another matter. Any sideways movement instantly led to my body trying to compensate for what it perceived to be jumping to the side, quickly followed by my instincts trying to prevent me from falling over. This led to a bit of stumbling, a fair amount of over-balancing and over-compensating, and several changes of position to prevent a loud crash, an expensive repair bill and the need for an ambulance. I did not fall over but it took my head a good ten minutes to forgive me for the experience once my demo had ended. Movement aside, the game is a fairly solid space shooter that not only pits you against the aliens, but also against the hostile environments. Yes, you have to traverse narrow paths and ledges with large drops on either side.

Farpoint Announcement 1

As well as the handful of games that were available to try at the Playstation VR stand, three smaller indie titles were also available to try out in the Rezzed section. The first of these was Battlezone, whose developers also took to the stage for a developer session. Rebellion's Tom Rigby and Rob Dale showcased live gameplay from the game's procedurally generated campaign, as well as a quick trailer. Take a look:

The second title is one that we've not covered before. Secret Sorcery Towers' fantasy title Tethered is a mix of sandbox, simulation and strategy. During the day, players must guide their island inhabitants to build up their village, gather Spirit Energy, discover ancient artifacts and learn new skills. Players do this by "tethering" their inhabitants to the job that they are supposed to be performing. During the night, they must use these improvements, resources and new abilities to fight off the enemies that lurk in the darkness.

With the break of dawn, you awaken to find your Heavenly Archipelago ransacked by a plague of nocturnal creatures. As a Spirit Guardian, you must return balance to your islands by seeking out precious Spirit Energy – an ancient life-force that will eradicate this blight for good. Using daylight as your shield and wielding awesome elemental influence, nurture your flock – The Peeps – and build up their settlement for the night ahead. And when darkness envelopes your kingdom, ensure their survival against waves of ravenous scavengers hell-bent on consuming all that lies in their path. Only the first rays of daylight will banish these dark-loving denizens back to the Island’s underbelly – offering new hope and a chance to lick your wounds, rebuild and resume your quest for restoration. Without your guidance your peeps will surely perish and without them you cannot hope to rid your lands of evil.

Your fates are Tethered.

Tethered will be released in October, although whether it will be available at the launch of Playstation VR remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the release window for the third title is a little more uncertain. Only revealed for Playstation VR at EGX, Windlands is a "first person grappling hook exploration game". Players must "soar through the ruins of a fallen world and discover the secrets of the ancients". The game appeals to players of all abilities, both those who wish to slowly explore the world at their own pace, and those who wish to speed through the world and test their grappling abilities in challenging vistas. Take a look:

If you're still not certain which of the many titles you want to purchase with Playstation VR, the device includes a demo disc in the box. This disc provides demos for the following games:

If you don't buy either the core unit or the launch bundle, the demo disc will be available for free download on the Playstation Store after the launch of Playstation VR on October 13th. Admittedly, I'm not sure how you're going to be able to play the demos without purchasing either the core unit or the launch bundle, but never mind.
Rebecca Smith
Written by Rebecca Smith
Rebecca is the Newshound Manager at TrueGaming Network. She has been contributing articles since 2010, especially those that involve intimidatingly long lists. When not writing news, she works in an independent game shop so that she can spend all day talking about games too. She'll occasionally go outside.
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