It’s been just over half a year since the first commercially viable virtual reality headset became available to the purchase. PlayStation VR has had a decent start thus far, and while the promotional material was scaled back since its launch, in part due to the lack of availability of the platform, the virtual reality hardware has still sold over a million units. PlayStation is looking to rejuvenate its advertising of the product now that units are more widely available (and with another wave of games being released before the year’s end, starting with recent first-person shooter Farpoint, and also including an impressive VR port of Skyrim and stylish shooter SUPERHOT).
That’s not to say, however, there’s any sort of poverty of choice for good, available games on Sony’s virtual reality platform. Here’s a few great examples so far:
Until Dawn: Rush of Blood
Perhaps the best title to supplement the initial purchase of a PSVR system, Rush of Blood is an arcade-shooter spin-off to 2015’s quick-time-event/choice-based horror title, Until Dawn. While Rush of Blood does not have the character-driven narrative depth of its parent title, it still packs in the scares expected of the new franchise, combined with the satisfying light gun-style gameplay of a literal on-rails shooter. Short, sweet, and cheap, much like this recommendation: an essential purchase.
Sometimes, simple is best. EVE: Valkyrie offers gamers a fantasy long dreamed about; an immersive spaceship dog-fighter. A competitive multiplayer title with a lot of depth and choice, this game makes you feel truly immersed into the role of a star warrior fighting a mercenary war. Though this game can be nauseating, it is fantastic for those who are resistant to VR’s motion sickness issues, as you hurtle through dark space, and between asteroid belts and derelict mining stations.
The only thing that lets Valkyrie down is the lack of substantial single-player modes; there’s a couple of ‘story’ missions (if you can really call them that), training missions to learn how to use each different core type of ship, and a wave-based survival mode. Anyone looking for a fully-fleshed out single-player campaign will be disappointed.
Ultimately, though, Valkyrie is a blast, and will tide VR adopters over until a true Star Wars starfighter game appears on a VR system.
I know what some of you are thinking; another re-release of Rez? Really? A game that came out in 2001, on Dreamcast and PlayStation 2?
Rez Infinite is the definitive way to experience the cyberpunk rhythm shooter, where a thumping electronic backdrop fuses effortlessly with the action-packed gameplay. It is, perhaps, the most stylish experience on PSVR to date (and its lo-fi vector visuals work well within PSVR’s capabilities). I look forward to the game capable of trumping Rez in terms of pure psychedelic bliss.
Beyond telling you about the stellar soundtrack and fantastic visual aesthetic of the game, there’s not much I can say to persuade you. If you’re a fan of Rez and own a PSVR, you owe it to yourself to check it out on this platform. If you own a PSVR and have never played Rez, buy this game, thank me later. If you don’t own a PSVR, maybe buy one to try out Rez, thank me later.
Tethered is a god-style strategy game (similar to Lionhead’s Black & White series), and a surprisingly fun and challenging entry into the genre despite being console-based. I was unsure of how you’d adapt a traditional strategy-style game into a virtual reality environment; it turns out that, using the two Move controllers as godly hands is surprisingly immersive. You ‘tether’ your tiny blue village folk (called Peeps) to various resources (trees, stone, metal ore) and to various buildings which gives them societal roles, such as armored warriors, to build up the village’s defenses against night-time monsters.
The gameplay loop is simple and the cartoon aesthetic may be off-putting to some, but the game works well enough to immerse you in the role of the Peeps’ guardian spirit.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
This shouldn’t really be a surprise, considering Resident Evil 7 is one of the best entries in the series since Resident Evil 4 (and definitely the most terrifying), but Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a fantastic game to experience in VR. The oppressive atmosphere and tense sound design are amplified tenfold when immersed in virtual reality.
As you crawl around a bleak, photo-realistic Louisiana estate (which comes across like a fusion of The Evil Dead and The Blair Witch Project), you feel the nerves ratchet up in your belly with every corner you turn, terror building in your stomach at the prospect of facing a member of the Baker estate. Aside from the harrowing atmosphere, VII features satisfying gunplay (in VR, the aim is controlled by where you’re looking, meaning you must directly face monsters to defeat them) and simple-yet-classic progression in the form of puzzles and keys to access new areas.
The only issues with the game’s VR mode are that some of the pre-rendered cut scenes play out on a jarring 2D display (like movies in cinematic mode) that can pull you out of the otherwise full-bodied immersion, as well as your character’s hands and wrists floating unattached to where your body should be. Overall, though, Resident Evil VII is one of the best experiences on offer to date on the VR hardware, even without accentuating the experience with scented candles.
Whenever a new genre of entertainment is born, often the simplest entries in that genre are the most iconic. We still celebrate, from the early days of cinema, A Trip To The Moon, Battleship Potemkin and La Chien Andalou, and from video-games classics like Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros. and Space Invaders. Thumper, I think, is going to be one of these entries for the VR era. Thumper is a rhythm game with a vengeance; the game’s developers describe it as a “rhythm violence” game, and that couldn’t be more apt. You play as a mechanical beetle hurtling along a highway to oblivion in a trippy neon purgatory. You must do certain button presses at specific times, or your little shuttle will explode at a sharp corner or smash into a pit of spikes.
The game is thrilling and entrancing despite its simplicity with the difficulty of the rhythm increasing every level. The soundtrack and visual design are both fantastic and synergize perfectly. Thumper is certainly one of the strongest experiences you can get in VR today.
Due to the quality of software and level of interest in VR as a medium, I hope that Sony’s headset continues to be supported by game developers (and doesn’t go the way of the PlayStation Vita, rest in peace, you sweet angel). With more VR titles on the horizon, from large publishers and indie developers alike, the future looks promising.
I hope to create another list of recommended software in the future, so comment below or send me a message on Twitter (linked in my biography, below) with any PSVR recommendations! I’m heading back into Star Trek: Bridge Crew, so you might not hear from me for a few days…