PlayStation VR Worlds is, for want of a better description, something of a demo reel for the system. It includes a number of short experiences that were originally used as trade show demos and examples of what could potentially be achieved, so I still find it quite unusual that this has all been packaged up as a paid product.
The five worlds to visit contrast strongly with one another, taking you from a space-based shooter to a head tracking 3D VR pong, and even deep beneath the ocean’s surface. While they’ve all been polished from the tech demos that they’re based on, I can’t help but wish that they’d been taken further.
The London Heist
The London Heist stands out as the most eye catching and interesting of the lot. It boils down to being a VR light gun game, but it plays out like a heist movie, as you wake up in a dirty warehouse and are forced to retell what on earth happened during the heist via flashbacks.
Mickey and Frank are quite outstandingly captured characters, hackneyed cliches though they are, while my favourite touch is being able to light a cigar, hold it up to your face and then breathe out in real life, the microphone in the headset picking this up and letting out a stream of smoke in the game. It’s a brilliant little touch.
These little touches extend out into the rest of the game. You can reach out and interact with a lot of things in the game world, whether it’s opening a glovebox or twiddling the knobs on the radio, or when it comes time, picking up a pistol or uzi and blasting away at the waves of enemy goons. Aiming is nice and intuitive – and I’m sure there’s a degree of auto aim to help out – but reloading requires you to pick up a clip with your free hand and slam it into the grip.
But it’s all over before it’s really begun. There’s two big gun fights, and they’re sandwiched between these more cinematic moments, where you’re being interrogated. It does lead up to a fun conclusion, but I’m left wanting much, much more, after less than an hour of play time. It’s padded out with a handful of shooting galleries, which are a bit of fun, but again, just make you want more of the main game.
The most substantial of the games is Scavengers Odyssey, spread across six chapters and lasting a couple of hours. Working your way through wrecked spaceships in the shadow of a huge alien monolith, you’re linked to a quadruped vehicle whose AI talks to you and guides you towards an alien artefact.
Between the shattered asteroids and an infestation of alien bugs, the ship is in a bit of a state. It’s a good thing that your vehicle is so capable, with head tracked rapid fire cannons, an energy hook that lets you latch onto objects and thrown them around, as well as a powerful jump move, letting you leap from one patch of wreckage to another.
You’re not just a scavenger though, as a mysterious, ethereal voice starts talking to you, interrupting your system link and drawing you into a strange void full of floating triangular pyramids. It’s an incredibly cool effect. As this voice speaks to you, it turns out you have a higher purpose than to simply scavenge to survive.
But this particular game made me feel unwell. I’m not sure why, as I was fine with playing this game and other similar first person games previously, but in this instance, across two play sessions, I suffered as I played. There’s perhaps too much fluidity of motion, able to leap across large gaps, turn freely and, so on. Your field of view is constricted as you turn, with darkness shrouding your periphery, which is to be a common technique in such free motion games, but it didn’t work for me, at all. Your mileage may vary, and I know of others who’ve had no such problems.
Danger Ball is perhaps the most addictive and the biggest reason to come back to VR Worlds time and again. Slightly reminiscent of the bizarre 3D wargame that featured in one of those 70s or 80s Bond films, it’s a kind of 3D pong, as you bounce a ball back and forth down a corridor that’s just floating in space.
You control your paddle by looking with your head, but can add spin with a quick flick as the ball connects or power the ball back with a lot more speed with a short jerk forward. What makes it interesting is the various AI that you come up against. They always have some sort of advantage, whether it’s being able to make the ball travel in a spiral, hold the ball in place and send it at you fast, having two paddles, or one massive, but destructible one. It’s a simple game, but one that’s fun for it.
That can’t really be said of VR Luge, in my opinion, with just four courses to roll down at frightening speeds. You’ll want to lean back in your chair for this one, as you look past a stretched out VR body to the road ahead.
Controlling the luge is as simple as tilting your head left and right, and it is quite exhilarating to weave in and out of traffic, avoiding the over the top accidents that befall the construction work going on up and down the mountain. Your aim is to go as fast as possible, making use of slipstreams and sliding under trucks to gain even more speed, and thankfully, there’s little penalty to hitting the obstacles. You lose a bit of speed, but clipping through objects exposes an internal wire frame, as opposed to having a motion sickness inducing crash.
But that’s all there really is to it. Four courses, all of which are variations on a theme, whether at day or at night. I also don’t think it’s the best example of the PSVR, as it asks you to focus far into the distance and seems like it might be running at a lower resolution, so that rapidly approaching objects are little more than indistinct little blobs of pixels, with lower levels of detail at that distance, as well. It’s a simple idea, but one that hasn’t been able to mature within this package.
Finally, Ocean Descent is more of an experience than a game, as you’re put into a shark cage and left to slowly descend down into the depths of the ocean. It’s easily the most mainstream example of VR in the package, giving you a good way of demoing the system to friends and family who don’t really play games much.
It’s quite gorgeous at times, as your cage is lowered past a ground of stingrays, down into the darkness of an underwater cavern, only to be surrounded by a cloud of jellyfish happily glowing in the dark. That’s just one of three demos, and it must be said that another of them does get rather dramatic.
Think Jaws, and you’ll get the idea.
Overall, VR Worlds is an interesting but inconsistent bundle of smaller experiences, and it’s full of games that feel too beholden to the tech demos that they’re derived from. The London Heist cries out for a few more set pieces, Danger Ball could be bettered with multiplayer and more variety in gameplay, and it’s only really Scavengers Odyssey that feels like it’s getting close to the size and scale of a full release in its own right – even that ends on a cliffhanger of sorts.
That said, for £30, it’s a decent assortment of small games and a good exploration of where PSVR can go in the future.