With a new console generation slowly moving into focus, virtual reality hasn’t been as much of a talking point in 2019. That said, there hasn’t been a shortage of new releases for the various VR platforms, this infant branch of highly immersive gaming continuing to evolve long after cynics brushed it off as an expensive fad that was doomed to fail.
It’s fair to say that 2018’s virtual reality lineup was always going to be hard to top. Our category for best VR game was easily one of the most hotly contested and with the masterful Beat Saber having only launched on PSVR days before our deliberations, it sadly missed the cut. Coming out on top was The Tetris Effect, followed up by wondrous 3D platformer, Astro Bot: Rescue Missions, and Firewall: Zero Hour. Seriously, if you dig online shooters and have just gotten yourself one of Sony’s fancy visors, go and pull the trigger.
There is still a wealth of virtual reality games launching at a steady rate though 2019 has seen fewer highlights. With Valve pushing deeper into the market with its own Index and a new Half-Life game next year, as well as whatever Sony has planned for the PS5, we’re hoping 2020 will see another wave of VR titles even bigger and better than what’s come before.
Sony’s only major VR hit this year was London Studio’s Blood & Truth. Those who picked up a PSVR when it first launched a few years back may remember picking up PlayStation VR Worlds and dipping into its cluster of smaller, demo-like adventures. One of these – dubbed “London Heist” – was far more polished and popular than the others, seeding what would become Blood & Truth.
Like a British action B movie from the late 00s, it walks the line between Guy Ritchie and Michael Bay, chock full of explosions and cockney accents. Not only does Blood & Truth look amazing, it’s one of the slickest VR shooters we’ve gotten our hands on with plenty of entertainment between gunfights to keep you hooked.
No Man’s Sky – Runner Up
Having snapped up our gong for “Best Ongoing Game” of 2019, what Hello Games has done with No Man’s Sky this year has been nothing short of remarkable. Having been allowed off the naughty step, the Guildford studio has continued to expand its glorious space sim in myriad creative and jaw-dropping ways. Like making the game entirely compatible with PlayStation VR and PC VR platforms Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Valve Index.
Usually when a game “goes VR” we get a watered down version or some kind of spin-off. While that would have still been cool for No Man’s Sky, Hello Games took the more difficult and ambitious path of making everything fully playable in virtual reality. While there are some slight technical drawbacks the transition to VR has been an impressive one, immediately dialling up that sense of immersion you get from exploring the game’s universe.
Deemo Reborn – Runner Up
Chances are, you haven’t heard of Deemo Reborn yet it is one of the highest ratest VR games we’ve ever reviewed, Nic scoring it a masterful 9/10 when it launched last month. Admittedly very niche, this update to the 2013 cult classic adds virtual reality support while galvanising what many loved about this quirky mashup of genres.
One part puzzle adventure, one part rhythm action, Deemo Reborn is a unique oddity that has you unspooling its bizarre yet emotional story while playing a virtual piano as a gangly Slenderman-like figure. If you can gel with the light repetition and lack of English audio then this is one VR game certainly worth investigating.
Honourable Mentions (in alphabetical order)
- Everybody’s Golf VR
- Ghost Giant
- Pistol Whip
To catch up on the Game of the Year awards we’ve handed out so far, here’s a handy list:
- Best Remaster/Remake
- Best Visual Design
- Best Soundtrack
- Best Ongoing Game
- Best Multiplayer Game
- Best Gameplay
- Best Narrative
- Best Single Player Game
- Best Indie Game
- Best PC Game
Which VR games from the past twelve months top your own personal lists? Let us know in the comments below.