PlayStation VR launch game roundup: From Batman Arkham VR to Wayward Sky
When PlayStation VR launches in Canada on October 13th it will be the most affordable and accessible means for the gaming public to get a taste of modern virtual reality. (You can read our review here.)
There will be nearly 30 games available for PSVR at launch, and that number will rise past 40 before year’s end. None of the ten games we’ve tried so far are what might properly be called hardware-sellers, but some do an impressive job of demonstrating the amazing possibilities inherent in this fledgling medium. Others, not so much.
If you plan on picking up a PSVR bundle this fall (assuming you can find one – pre-orders have been sold out for a while now), the roundup below should help you figure out which games to try and which to avoid.
SIE LondonA screenshot from The London Heist game from PlayStation Worlds VR for PSVR.
PlayStation VR Worlds | SIE London Studio
This is a compilation of five brief games that comes with the $699.99 PSVR launch bundle (but not the $549.99 core package), and it does a pretty good job of showing off the sort of experiences VR is currently capable of delivering. Not all of the games are winners, though. VR Luge – in which you race down a street on a wheeled board – and Danger Ball – basically the VR version of Pong – make use of clunky head controls and aren’t fun for more than a few minutes. But the cinematic deep sea diving adventure Into the Deep is so real it made me feel claustrophobic, and the space mech game Scavenger’s Odyssey successfully demonstrates how a full-fledged action game might work in VR. The best of the bunch, though, is The London Heist, a quick little M-rated first-person adventure that puts players in the skin of a jewel thief in a robbery gone wrong. It shows VR’s capacity for deep immersion by letting you do things like light a cigar with a lighter, place a Bluetooth earpiece in your ear, load a clip into a gun, and look out the window of a moving car.
Rocksteady StudiosA screenshot from Batman Arkham VR for PSVR.
Batman Arkham VR | Rocksteady Studios
Virtual reality game designers haven’t yet figured out how to do movement in action games without making people feel sick or get twisted up in cables, which is probably why the creative minds at Rocksteady Studios decided to focus on what they know works really well in VR: First-person immersion. This game puts you inside the Dark Knight’s suit like no other – by which I mean you actually get to slip on his gloves and cowl and look at yourself in the mirror. You spend much of the game standing stationary in the Bat Cave and crime scenes, but you get to use your virtual Batman hands to manipulate gadgets and computers and investigate evidence while looking around Rocksteady’s beautifully rendered world. Eventually I’d like to do a lot more than stand still in a superhero VR game, but Batman Arkham VR is a fine first step for the genre.
Harmonix Music SystemsA screenshot from Harmonix Music VR for PSVR.
Harmonix Music VR | Harmonix Music Systems
Harmonix’s first VR game is a bit of a disappointment, mostly because half of it is just a fancy music visualizer. In two of the four modes you simply load into the world and look at stuff. Some of the images are admittedly pretty cool – if you stand on the beach and look at a glowing spot in the water you’ll set off a series of trippy, dynamic underwater visuals – but you can only look at vibrating shapes for so long. The other two modes play like tech demos. In one you can grab hold of dummies’ limbs, heads, and torsos and make them move to the beat, recording dance moves. In the other you can draw your own visualizations in the air using a marker. It feels kind of cool and empowering to start, but without any objectives it goes nowhere fast. None of these modes held my attention for more than a few minutes.
Uber EntertainmentA screenshot from Wayward Sky for PSVR.
Wayward Sky | Uber Entertainment
This early stab at a VR point-and-click adventure is weirdly captivating. I felt like a god towering over a giant playset, commanding the game’s little hero – a young pilot named Bess looking for her father in a fortress in the clouds – to go where I wanted. The raised perspective makes it seem as though you ought to be able to reach into the world to touch and tinker with it, but all you can do is point at objects with which you’d like Bess to interact. You’ll also occasionally see the world from her perspective while solving puzzles or operating machinery. It’s not very challenging, but point-and-click adventure fans will probably want to check it out.
DroolA screenshot from Thumper for PSVR.
Thumper | Drool
Billed as a “rhythm violence” game, Thumper puts players in control of a pod moving at high speed on a rail through an almost Tron-like dimension. Your goal is simply to tap a button in time with the music and visual cues while steering around corners. The drum-heavy score is intense and sounds fantastic through PSVR’s 3D audio, helping to draw you deeper into the game’s alternate reality. It’s undeniably simple, but that’s also part of its appeal, making it a good pick for players of all levels of gaming experience to wet their VR whistles. Listed at $29.99, it’s a bit pricey – this is the sort of experience for which you’d expect to pay no more than a few bucks on mobile – but it’s also one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played in VR.
Supermassive GamesA screenshot from Tumble VR for PSVR.
Tumble VR | Supermassive Games
The concept of stacking stuff has been around for a while in games, but it turns out to be particularly well suited for virtual reality. Tumble VR has players stacking randomly shaped 3D objects as high as they can by simply reaching out, picking them up, and setting them down. Some levels involve destroying stacks with mines or solving builder puzzles. It spends a little too much time at the start teaching us the ropes – this is unnecessary since all interactions are extremely intuitive – but once you get going it can be a lot of fun for puzzle aficionados.
Supermassive GamesA screenshot from Until Dawn: Rush of Blood for PSVR.
Until Dawn: Rush of Blood | Supermassive Games
This on-rails horror-themed shooter would grow boring in minutes if played in 2D on your TV. But as an introduction to rail shooters in virtual reality it’s surprisingly fun. You’ll spend the whole game sitting in a cart moving through some superbly creepy environments, from a carnival to a hotel. All you need to do is wield a gun in each hand and shoot anything that looks like it could benefit from a bullet or two, from terrifyingly animated mannequins to ceramic urns come to life. It’s all about cheap jump scares, but virtual reality makes such scares extraordinarily effective. If what you want from VR is to flinch away from monsters that feel like they’re really in the room with you, Until Dawn: Rush of Blood is the PSVR game for you.
Owlchemy LabsA screenshot from Job Simulator for PSVR.
Job Simulator | Owlchemy Labs
If your day doesn’t involve enough food preparation, office work, car repair, or retail sales, then this game set in a 2050 museum run by robots simulating human jobs might be worth trying. Basically, you get to make sandwiches, ring stuff up in a cash register, and use a photocopier. That’s about it. It aims for humour via the robots’ misunderstanding of human behaviour, but only occasionally succeeds. To be fair, I should note that of all the games my daughter has tried in VR she likes this one best. But I’m convinced this is simply because she hasn’t actually had a job. Once she starts spending her days serving customers or working in a cubicle I’m pretty sure the appeal of a game like this will diminish. Also worth noting: This is the only VR game I’ve played so far that made me feel a bit woozy. The world felt a bit jittery and not as stable as others I’ve experienced.
Penrose StudiosA screenshot from Allumette for PSVR.
Allumette | Penrose Studios
This non-interactive VR story isn’t a game so much as a short animated film. It makes you the observer of an account loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Match Girl set in a fantastical village that floats in the clouds. You have no control over what happens. What you can do, though, is choose how to view each scene, squatting and shifting to get a better look around street corners and inside a floating ship. It’s a wonderfully novel way of approaching visual storytelling. It almost made me feel like the cinematographer. And Anderson’s tried and true tale of tragedy proves as touching as ever. The whole thing only lasts around 30 minutes, but I’m probably going to remember Allumette more clearly and fondly than any of my other initial PSVR experiences.
RebellionA screenshot from Battlezone for PSVR.
Battlezone | Rebellion
Meant for early VR adopters who want something less experimental and closer to a traditional game experience, Battlezone is a tank arena game based on the 1980 classic of the same name with the added bonus of four-player co-op play (I was only able to play alone during my pre-launch evaluation). It puts you in the cockpit of an armoured vehicle of your choosing and sends you out on procedurally generated maps in a variety of modes, from straight up hunter killer missions to base defence. It employs a surprisingly precise targeting method that combines the direction in which you’re looking with joystick control. I found the combat tactics a bit simplistic and the world aesthetic bland, but there aren’t a lot of other options out there for friends itching to go into combat together in a VR world.
KokoromiA screenshot from SUPERHYPERCUBE for PSVR.
SUPERHYPERCUBE | Kokoromi
If any game could make my deeply skeptical wife interested in VR, I thought this 3D shape manipulation game would be it. She loves puzzlers. Her reaction after playing for 15 minutes? “I’d play it in normal. It doesn’t need to be in VR.” She has a point. Your objective is simply to spin a geometric shape so that its profile matches a hole in a quickly approaching wall. Since you’re playing in VR you sort of need to lean and look around the shape you’re working with to see the hole. Other than that, I’m not really sure what virtual reality brings to the experience – other than the admittedly cool feeling that you’re inside a neon cyber world (which, sadly, is lost on my wife). It’s fun to play, but VR doesn’t add much.