Tag Archive: VR

Following the initial excitement that VR brought to the gaming world a couple of years ago, the peripheral gaming technology has hit a bit of a lull in recent months. While new and inventive software continues to be made for the headsets on the market, many still have that “tech demo” feel, leaving gamers waiting for fully fleshed out experiences that will bring the immersion potential of games to an entirely new level. So, admittedly, it had been some time since I had used my PS VR headset, and after dusting it off, I began playing one of the more anticipated titles for the hardware since its launch. Moss falls into some traps and gameplay difficulties we’ve seen from other early VR games, but it also pulls the player into the story in such an effective way that it’s easily become my favorite non-shooter game for any VR headset.

In a sense, you play as two characters in Moss. One is Quill, our mouse heroine who emerges from the titular magical holloway of Moss on a quest to save her uncle from an ancient evil; the other is known as “The Reader”. Represented by a masked being who is briefly seen as a direct representation of the player in watery reflections and whatnot, The Reader must guide Quill while turning the pages of a storybook not yet written. As those pages turn, Quill’s adventure continues, and The Reader literally creates her story in the magical tome.

It’s a little detail that goes a long way towards your immersion as an onlooker and overseer in Quill’s world. The fact that your bond is talked about as legendary, and that you and Quill have become “Twofold”—where a Reader and a Hero have bonded to move as one—resonated with me, helping suck me into Moss. Quill even turns to you and cheers you on when you influence her world in positive ways, sometimes even demanding a high-five from your ethereal presence in her world when you complete major story beats. Each section of Moss, otherwise just another room in any other puzzle-driven game, thus feels like you’re actually turning pages as each chapter progresses, the sound of flicking paper each time the screen fades to black further enhancing the fantasy.

This relationship extends to Moss’s gameplay as well. Not only can players peer around the world—looking for some of the game’s limited collectibles or for a hidden path past an obstacle, using your unique vantage point to guide Quill where she must go—but you can “reach in” with your energy and move boxes, pull levers, or even control any of the three kinds of enemies that will try to impede the path ahead. Sometimes, I’d just grab the last enemy so Quill could effortlessly hack away with her sword. You also heal Quill by picking her up and petting her. By using the bumpers to grab, and the control stick to move Quill, you can even have multiple parts of the world moving at once—which will be necessary for some late game puzzles—to help bypass or expedite your progress.

Of course, as novel a mechanic as this can be, there are also times where you’ll be focusing more on the controls themselves instead of the puzzle or the story, as balancing several moving pieces can be difficult. There are also some larger set pieces that are harder to manipulate with the DualShock controller, as you attempt to spin or pull them with larger movements that it seems are harder to detect. It’s also easy to get pulled out of virtual reality when, if you’re like me, you get up to start looking more closely at an occasionally complex scenario, or more likely trying to better line up a couple of the game’s more difficult jumps, only for your headset to remind you that you’re out of the play area. It’s in those instances where you remember the limitations of the hardware and slink back into the chair.

Those moments are few and far between, however, because for the most part, Moss is a very limited and linear puzzle-game. There are very few instances where your objectives differ from defeating every enemy in the room or making it from the left side of the screen to the right. Sure, there are those aforementioned moving pieces I talked about earlier, but many times all I wanted to do was have Quill enter one of the many locked doors along a corridor that are obviously only there for show instead of focusing solely on the task at hand.

Moss hints at a much, much larger world with other fantastical creatures that come out of the woodwork, including fairy-like creatures called Starlings, nymph-like warriors hiding in the Mire, or the villainous serpent Sarrfogg. The landscape is littered with human-sized armor and weapons, hinting at a society long since forgotten, relics whose origins are barely touched upon in the opening cinematic and never again. I fell in love with Moss, but I wanted to know so much more about it by the time the game came to a much too abrupt and quick finish.

And this is where VR might have hurt Moss the most. The entire game only took about three hours to complete, which is about average for a VR game, but is very short comparing to games as a whole. Even with its budget price tag, and the promise of “future adventures” (this was only “Book 1” of Moss), I was left feeling unsatisfied. The game tries to play it off at the end that you came a long way on your journey, but as a veteran gamer—especially in the puzzle and adventure genres—I felt like I was just getting warmed up when the credits started to populate the last pages of my book.

Moss is a beautiful effort in VR. It’s an immersive world that finds a way to fit the player in seamlessly while not dominating the world they inhabit. It may be a bit short and simple, but its sweet story more than makes up for that. Moss isn’t reason enough alone to go out and get a PS VR headset if you’ve been on the fence, but if you already took the plunge and you’ve been looking for a high-quality VR game that’s fun for gamers of all ages, look no further than Moss.

Publisher: Polyarc • Developer: Polyarc • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 02.27.18
The wonderful relationship between a brave little mouse and the player character will ring as a bright spot in early VR development. Although the adventure is short-lived, and those looking for a challenge will be left wanting, Moss still serves as a great excuse to dust off your PS VR headsets if you haven’t done so in a while.
The Good A touching story and beautiful world that’s easy to get wrapped up in.
The Bad Linear and short, there’s so much more of the world of Moss I wanted to see.
The Ugly I learned the hard way that Quill couldn’t swim.
Moss is a PS4 exclusive that requires PS VR to play. Review code was provided by Polyarc for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

I look down, and I can’t see my legs. There’s nothing but an empty seat with what feels like my consciousness floating above it. It’s an unnerving and uncomfortable feeling, because from the second I become cognizant of it, I know this isn’t real. I’m not talking about a nightmare, however—I’m talking about far too many VR games that don’t bother creating an avatar for you in their virtual reality. You fail to see anything, and you’re immediately disconnected from the experience, even while NPCs talk and interact with you. And, as irritating as this is, it’s the least of the many problems that plagued Archangel, the first VR offering from studio Skydance Interactive.

Archangel is set towards the end of the 21st century. The world we know is gone as many of the Earth’s countries—including the US and most of Europe, although the game makes a point of letting us know Canada did not fall for some reason—are united under the totalitarian rule of one faction bent on maintaining their own version of order. A resistance force hiding in the American Midwest, however, is trying to even the odds with a secret weapon, working toward finally overthrowing the dictatorship that has left most of the world in ruins. You play as the pilot of that secret weapon: a 60-foot tall mechsuit with an adaptable AI program that gives you every edge you could ever want in battle. It’s your job to get this prototype mechsuit from the research installation it was built in to resistance homebase to be mass-produced, but there’s just the little issue of an entire army standing in your way.

In my mind, it’s games like this that are holding virtual reality back. Archangel is built around a great idea which the team then took absolutely no chances whatsoever with, resulting in what comes off as nothing more than a glorified tech demo. I loved the idea of piloting a giant mech suit and blowing up everything around me, but by the time I was done, I couldn’t wait to delete Archangel from my harddrive. There are really only seven levels in the game (nine if you count the opening and end scenes where you just sit there and are talked at for five minutes each), and I beat the entire experience in less than four hours—yet I was never more relieved to take my VR headset off then after playing Archangel due to how it drags on.

All of the gameplay takes place on rails, and your mech lumbers along like a six-story tortoise instead of a feared killing machine. Despite being the “pilot,” the only aspects of your mech that you really control are the left and right arms, each outfitted with a pair of weapons and shields. With these tools at your disposal, you can shred the enemy army apart like paper blowing into a hurricane. Tanks, planes, turrets, and even giant robo-dogs are no match for you, even when the screen becomes filled with foes.

While using PS Move controllers, you can set one up for each arm, and get the feel of at least directly controlling that aspect of the mech with satisfying accuracy. If you’re like most people, however, you’ll probably end up using a PS4 controller instead. Under that control scheme, the firing mechanisms are predictably set for each appropriate trigger button, but you need to swing the controller around—far more wildly and more inaccurately than when using Move controllers—in order to switch from arm to arm and have each arm independently do what you need them to do, especially when on the defensive. It can quickly turn a competent rail-shooter experience into an extremely frustrating one.

Archangel is also an ugly game. Many VR games haven’t really wowed in the visuals department yet, especially as there are some limitations with the tech still, but Archangel is a pretty low bar in terms of animation and graphics. Most of the buildings in the ruined cities you walk through look like geometry from two generations ago, with no reflection and minimal complexity. Enemy tanks and planes also look far too simplistic compared to what we expect from this generation of consoles. As well, the character models look so cartoonish that I couldn’t figure out if this game was even trying to convey realism—not to mention that half the time when you talk to your three squadmates, their lips don’t match up with the words they’re saying. (Or worse, many times, I’d be hearing characters talk, but their lips weren’t even moving.)

Of course, these are the few times you actually see other characters at all. There are no cutscenes in Archangel, which could be construed as someone at Skydance wanting to make an effort at immersion. Instead, however, you can talk to your squadmates, or the mech AI, between levels to try to flesh out the world. Unfortunately, all you get is a computer screen that pops up in your cockpit, and some of the most long-winded and horribly overacted banter that I’ve heard in a video game in a long time. It’s the obviously poor fix for someone who wants desperately to flesh out this world they’ve created, but have no real idea how to do it in a video game. By the end of the game, I wanted every character to fall off a cliff (including my own). Archangel’s world could’ve been an interesting one, and there are hints of it if you look closely enough. Overall, though, it’s just full of sad, ham-fisted attempts at character development and world building, which utterly fail at trying to cover up the monotony of shooting the same enemies with the same weapons at the same slow pace for four hours.

Looking at Archangel, there is no doubt there was an intriguing idea here. But with every passing moment, every enemy shot down, and after every terrible delivery of a new line of dialogue, I lost hope that the game would ever reach its potential until I finally got to the credits and my suffering ended. There are great VR games and experiences out there, but Archangel does not come even close to sniffing them and should be avoided at all costs.

Publisher: Skydance Interactive • Developer: Skydance Interactive • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 07.18.17
While there’s really nothing broken in Archangel, the game suffers from a clear lack of follow-through on any of the interesting ideas it tries to bring to the table. Its slow, plodding pace stands out even more against the backdrop of mediocre gameplay and one-note characters that made me thankful when the game came to its abrupt end.
The Good The idea of piloting a six-story mech is an exciting one, even when not pulled off properly.
The Bad Ugly visuals, slow pace, an overall lack of control, and a story that fails to captivate until the very end.
The Ugly The feeling of being trapped inside my PS VR headset and being forced to continue playing this game.
Archangel is available on PS4 for PS VR, and PC for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Primary version reviewed was for PS4/PS VR. Review code was provided by Skydance Interactive for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

We’ve been waiting for that one killer game to really help virtual reality take off since the technology hit the market last year. Sure, there have been some good experiences, and some okay games, but nothing that really grabs you and makes it seem like you need to run out and buy any of the three major headsets immediately. Farpoint was hoping that maybe it would have what it takes to help launch one of them (PS VR) into the stratosphere, while also bolstering VR in general. Unfortunately, we’re going to have keep on waiting at least a little while longer.

Farpoint takes place in a far-off future during a routine mission to a space station orbiting Jupiter. Everything is normal as you are piloting your ship, the Wanderer, to one of the station’s docking bays. As you begin your approach, however, a massive wormhole randomly opens up just outside the station, sucking it, your ship, and a pair of space-walking scientists into its gaping maw. After coming out on the other side, you crash land onto an alien planet’s surface, unsure of where exactly you are. There is one thing that you do know for sure: you must try to explore and survive the strange world while trying to figure out what exactly happened.

The hook for Farpoint is evident from the second you’re able to take control as the Wanderer’s pilot, stepping foot into the desert sands of this barren world. The appeal of exploring the unknown fits perfectly with the space theme, and when combined with the natural drive to find out what exactly happened in the opening scene, you have more than enough narrative gravitas to carry you through the first half of the game. Furthermore, breadcrumbs are provided in the form of holographic messages left by those space-walking scientists who also survived the ride through the wormhole somehow, fleshing out all the characters in the story except the most important one: yours. Although it’s not the first time a FPS game forgot to make the player’s character interesting, matters only worsen when the mystery is solved at about the game’s halfway point—in a couple of quick cutscenes that spell everything out for you far too neatly no less. When the window dressing of the story fades away, Farpoint reveals itself as nothing more than a dressed-up shooting gallery.

The first red flag with the gameplay is that your character is initially set to a locked forward position. You can move around with the left stick, and easily strafe like this, but you’re constantly looking forward and can’t do anything with the right stick. I imagine this is for people who easily get motion sickness, because there is an option in the menu to unlock the right stick to then aim and move like a more traditional first-person shooter. It’s disappointing, however, that the AI doesn’t respond to what options you choose.

Every enemy you fight against comes at you from your front facing direction, defeating the purpose of occupying a 3D-space like this. In fact, if an enemy should somehow end up behind you, it’ll go out of its way to not attack you until it gets back into your line of sight. A perfect example of this came with the first enemy type you encounter—knee-high spider-like creatures—that likes to leap at you. If I were reloading, I’d duck out of the way. As soon as they got behind me, though, they would skitter back in front of me before making their leaping attack again; the AI was programmed as if you never change the options to spin around. Farpoint isn’t on rails, but that locked forward feature, combined with the fact you can’t jump up ledges, or fall very far without dying, sure makes it feel like an on-rails experience, which really took the wind out of the sails of my deep space adventure.

In a lot of instances, it felt like the developers were trying to keep you in the PS VR headset for as long as possible. The entire campaign is only five to six hours long, and many of the design choices seem as if they were spent worrying about combating motion sickness so players could experience the story all at once (like a really long movie). It would also explain why there are so many infrequent saves. Sure, the game has a pretty solid checkpoint system if you die—but if you want to turn the game off? If you haven’t just beaten one of the game’s arbitrary markers for what it constitutes a level, you might lose a lot of progress—like I did when, after two hours, I needed to get out of the headset. Usually, these are marked by long, drawn out cutscenes, but there’s never any telling when they’re coming, especially with only one real boss in the game. Most sections end with just more and more regular enemies coming after you.

Farpoint also constantly goes back and forth between looking great and looking like a game from two console generations ago. Enemies quickly fade from view after dying, and some will explode into comically large polygonal chunks, or ragdoll ridiculously around in the environment after you kill them; others will spill blood that unnaturally puddles into a matte lump. Or, characters talking with you look like they’re looking just past you, and never right at you. But then, you look at some of the environments, the planet’s indigenous hostile arachnid/crustacean hybrid creatures (before they die), or turn upwards and look at the starry sky of unfamiliar space, and there are moments where you can’t help but be impressed.

At the very least, the gunplay in the game actually felt really good, even if it was little more than glorified target practice. Aiming down my sights to pick off enemies, or running around as waves of spider creatures moved towards me and I had to blast them back with my shotgun, felt as good as any other experience I’ve had from a FPS game in VR. I played the beginning of the game with a standard PS4 controller, and once I unlocked the options, it felt like just playing another FPS. But then I switched to the Aim Wireless controller, and that took the experience to another level.

The Aim Wireless VR controller is actually one of the best-designed peripherals I’ve ever used, and succeeds in adding a sense of realism to the experience. Bringing the gun to your face to actually look down the sights and snipe hostile targets is fantastic, and the peripheral is light enough to use for long periods of time but still feels natural in your hands. Excellent button and joystick placement only seal the deal, and makes it a far smoother experience than you might expect. You can buy Farpoint on its own for fifty dollars, but without the Aim Wireless controller, it feels like you’re missing one of the more important elements of the experience. But—since it’s not being sold separately yet—if you really want just the controller, you’ll be dropping eighty dollars on a mediocre game and a toy that we’re not even sure what other games might use it yet.

Should you be looking to Farpoint to be your excuse to put your PS VR headset back on, it does at least offer a few replayability options. Besides the campaign, there’s a challenge mode that pushes you to get through levels of the game as quickly as possible, with an arcade-style scoring system for every enemy you kill along the way. There’s even a high score leaderboard you can etch your PSN handle onto if you rack up enough points. You can also play the game in co-op with a friend online, which ups the intensity, but also lets you be a bit more reckless since your buddy can revive you if you focus on just running in guns blazing.

Farpoint is like so many other early VR games that came before it. There are some solid ideas being kicked around here, and even a couple of gameplay aspects that might wow you, but not enough comes together into a cohesive package to make it a truly compelling experience. The gunplay is good, and the new Aim Wireless controller is great, but beyond that, Farpoint quickly comes undone. All we’re left with in the end is an excuse to try some target practice with Sony’s newest peripheral—and that’s only if you choose to spend the extra thirty dollars on that bundle. As it is, Farpoint is just another experience that can be chalked up to the growing pains of new technology, and should be looked at warily because of it.

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment • Developer: Impulse Gear • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 05.16.17
Farpoint is another perfect example of a VR game with solid ideas and spotty execution. There is a core of good gunplay and decent story, but the game quickly becomes one-dimensional in its approach, and finds a way to feel like a grind despite its short campaign.
The Good Strong narrative start, solid gunplay.
The Bad Gameplay quickly devolves into a cheap shooting gallery.
The Ugly That moment when I realized I could move around on the menu screen and smash everything around me, which led to me accidentally doing just that with a nearby glass of water in real life after I wildly swung the Aim Wireless controller around.
Farpoint is a PS4/PS VR exclusive. Review copy was provided by Sony for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

It’s never easy to try to find a foothold in an established field like racing simulators. Despite entering a market already dominated by Forza and Gran Turismo, however, the original Project CARS was able to not only compete from a technical perspective in terms of the racing experience it provides, but offered up a unique enough take on how you would approach races to carve out a slice for itself amongst gearheads. Building on that initial success, Slightly Mad Studios went to work on a sequel, and after my hands-on last week at CXC Simulations here in Los Angeles, Project CARS 2 is primed to move into the pole position of this genre.

It needs to be prefaced that my time with the game will likely not be quite indicative of the final experience most people will have, since I got to try the game out via Oculus VR on a $50,000 simulation rig that CXC offers to professional racers to prepare before big races. (That was the beauty of this demo, however.) Already loaded and ready to go for us was one of the brand new tracks featured in Project CARS 2, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, just days ahead of the actual race itself was to be held. While being jostled around as if I was taking hairpin turns at breakneck speeds was definitely new, the immersion I felt from the VR was even more intense, showing off the meticulous detail Slightly Mad has given to this new track.


I also got to run the course in two different cars—the Acura NSX GT3 and the Dallara Honda Indycar—and moving from one car to the other was a tremendous extreme. It was hard enough learning a brand new track in VR (although I was able to adapt after a few laps), but the Acura’s top speed paled in comparison to when I sat in the driver’s seat of the Indycar, as turns came up faster and I had to be far more cognizant of my shifting as I reached higher speeds more quickly. But while new tracks and cars are always expected with any racing sequel, it was the last machine I hopped in that was particularly exciting.

Projects CARS 2 unveiled Rallycross mode to us for the first time. Yes, the off-road sprint-oriented series of races will debut this go around in Project CARS 2, and that means not only even more new cars and tracks, but new paths for your career drivers to take and brand new surfaces to drive on. Gravel and dirt will combine with asphalt on these tracks just like in real life, and although Rallycross tracks are smaller that most other tracks, the shifting terrain combined with how differently the cars handle will provide entirely new challenges for players to overcome—and I can speak from some limited experience.


If going from the Acura to the Indycar was night and day, going into a rally-fitted Honda Civic Coupe was like going from April to August. Drifting at high speeds is a must here, and as unintuitive as it may be, taking corners almost sideways can actually be beneficial (and even preferred) in order to best position yourself for the next straightaway. But knowing how to take those turns is only the beginning, as your car will handle completely differently on dirt than gravel or asphalt—and it’s extremely easy to spin out if you’re not careful or underestimate the ground beneath your wheels.

When you combine this new mode with the realistic tire degradation and fine vehicle tuning of the first game, you’re starting to get into the grittiest of details that will have you almost smelling the engine grease on your hands. Adding Rallycross on top of new tracks and cars is a huge boon for Project CARS 2, and if Slightly Mad gives this mode as much attention as they gave everything from the first Project CARS, then this racing series will have more than earned its place at the table alongside Gran Turismo and Forza—and may even be in position to get ready to overtake them.

Every year, Titmouse Animation (Venture Bros., Metalocalypse, Son of Zorn) throws a bacchanal in Hollywood called the Smash Party, where they invite family and friends to drink, be merry, and smash obsolete appliances with sledgehammers. Television sets, microwaves, potted plants, computers, and anything else that will explode with a satisfying bang when hit with a heavy, blunt object are brought into a batting cage, and revelers take turns letting out any pent up aggressions.

This year marked the tenth anniversary of the event. I was able to attend for the first time, though, because in order to help mark the celebration, Titmouse announced a partnership with Viacom NEXT to bring the idea of the Smash Party to virtual reality.

Smash Party is an HTC Vive free exclusive launching by the end of the year, and just like the real-world festivities, you step into a cage surrounded by pottery and appliances ready to succumb to your barbed-wire baseball bat like Glenn did to Negan (too soon?).

Using one of the Vive’s controllers, you swing at breakable objects, needing to completely decimate everything in the cage in order to advance to the next stage. The game utilizes the bright, beautiful animation style that Titmouse is known for—anyone who is familiar with the shows they’ve brought to Adult Swim will recognize the style immediately—and it gives everything a fitting, surreal feel. With multiplyers and a timer constantly working against you, after playing Smash Party myself I can attest that the game has a satisfying arcade feel. There are even bonus rounds where an enraged squid will break down a wall of the cage and start soft tossing items at you like in an actual batting cage—but instead of balls it’s usually pieces of a tea set—again adding to the insanity of it all. Each experience is also short enough that it could be a fun party game as you pass the headset and controller around, everyone trying to reach that new high score.

While it’s not something that would make me want to run out and buy an HTC Vive, my short time with Smash Party has me feeling it would be another enjoyable group experience that the headset is becoming known for. We’ll have to wait for a release to see what kind of legs the game actually has, but as a free download to let off some steam, Smash Party is shaping up to be my kind of distraction. And I can’t wait to see what Titmouse rolls out for next year’s actual party now.


If you’ve seen Epic Games’ Couch Knights or Showdown demos, or were one of the lucky few that attended GDC last year and saw the Unreal 4 powered Thief in the Shadows demo they did with WETA Digital, it is easy to tell that Epic is excited about the potential of Virtual Reality. The studio’s years of bringing us some of the most over-the-top gaming experiences could easily transition into VR, and each subsequent demo they’ve released has pushed the potential the tech holds a little farther. So, it was no surprise that I was blown away by their latest VR experience, Bullet Train, when I recently got to try it out for the first time.

Bullet Train starts off on a futuristic subway train, teaching you the basic mechanics of how to survive in the demo. Picking up, firing, and reloading your guns comes intuitively with the Oculus’ dual-hand controllers, with appropriate buttons for pulling triggers and actually holding onto the weapons. Besides using guns, your character can also slow time down Matrix-style, catching bullets out of mid-air and throwing them back at enemies with super speed. As well, your character is equipped with a teleport power, which is how you also move through the world.

Once I had familiarized myself with the controls and completed the tutorial, the subway train came to a stop at a station with large glass windows and pristine floors, giving off the vibe of a possible near-future setting. I quickly scanned around the area and noticed guns, grenades, and teleport points littered around the station. With nary a moment to collect myself in this new virtual world, though, red armored hooligans carrying their own weapons started pouring in from escalators and elevators—and I was their target.


I grabbed the nearest two pistols and immediately began firing, hoping to get a jump on my foes before their superior numbers overwhelmed me, as new threats replaced the ones I took out as quickly as I was killing them. When my clips ran out, I used the slow time feature and tried my hand at grabbing bullets out of the air one at a time. As I hurled them back at my enemies, some would go flying off in a direction I did not intend, which left me wondering if it was pure human error or calibration issues. It didn’t matter, though—enough of my throws hit their mark, providing me an opening to teleport across the area to an assault rifle.

With a higher-powered firearm, I began whittling the enemy forces down more consistently, painting the station in a hail of bullets until again my clip ran dry. This time, I grabbed a nearby grenade and lobbed it at soldiers who had taken cover in the train track trenches below the platform. Again I teleported, this time snagging a pump-action shotgun. Instead of firing madly, however, I warped closer to my targets, where I’d be in position to perform headshots from close range. This continued for nearly ten minutes, jumping from teleport point to teleport point, slowing time as necessary, and changing weapons when I ran out of ammo. Finally, the unending horde of enemy soldiers came to a halt—and this was when an airborne drone joined the fray.

I had no weapons that could penetrate the steel hide of the drone, and so instead, I had to rely solely on my ability to catch enemy fire. The drone used missiles instead of bullets, but by turning its own firepower against itself, I downed the flying menace.

Bullet Train provided the most exhilarating demo I had played yet in VR from any company. It’s fast, frantic action and mostly responsive controls left me feeling as if I had truly just left the middle of a domestic warzone when I sorrowfully had to pry the Oculus off my head. It was the first time I had seen a demo in VR come close to not just replicating the experiences I have with modern action games, but surpassing them. If Epic could provide a full gaming experience centered on this gameplay, with a story and actual characters, Bullet Train could be the basis for the first major hit in VR gaming and it has me crazily anticipating what Epic does next with this new technology.



When you think of virtual reality, you probably think of immersing yourself so deeply in a game you could almost leave the world you exist in behind. But when Oculus VR releases at the end of March, one of its least-involving launch titles may also be one of its most fun. While at the annual DICE Summit last week in Las Vegas, I had a chance to sit down and go hands-on with the Oculus port of Defense Grid 2.

Now, a port of a 2014 tower defense game may not sound like the most thrilling use of VR, but what Defense Grid 2 lacks in bombastic action, it makes up for in allowing players to focus on the task at hand and bringing them closer to the game like never before. After placing the retail Oculus headset over my eyes and grabbing the Xbox One controller, instead of feeling like I was in an alternate reality, I felt like I was lording over an elaborate playset, able to see the entirety of the level at once in what has become known as “God view.” If I wanted to look at the level from a different angle, I could simply get up and walk around, or slide my chair into a different position. Sure, when turning my head and craning my body, the hotel room around me had changed into what looked like a sci-fi boiler room, effectively placing me in the game like all other VR experiences. The core gameplay of Defense Grid 2, however, had remained entirely the same.

By using my sightline as a surprisingly intuitive cursor, and the controller to then interact with what I was seeing and to select options, I could perform the same actions I would in the console and PC versions of the game. I placed and upgraded towers of varying purpose as I saw fit all along the set, trying to protect a collection of power cores that invading waves of aliens wanted for their own nefarious purposes. With the Oculus headset closing me off from the outside world, I was able to sit down, concentrate, and plan out winning strategies with the greatest of ease.


The Oculus version of Defense Grid 2 isn’t just a straight port, though, and does feature some upgrades over the console and PC original. A handful of new challenge levels have been incorporated to further lengthen the experience. Each level also has five collectibles on them, which often require you to get in close to the playset and peer around every corner before using the controller to snatch them up. As well, many levels now feature special interactive elements—some are for cosmetic purposes, while others can actually change the layout of the map.

The biggest addition, however, may be the ability to jump into any individual tower and change the game’s perspective in an instant. Although not as intuitive for implementing strategies as one might hope due to the limited range of sight, this view provides a front row seat for all the fighting once your towers have been placed to your satisfaction. Seeing the detail of the aliens and the world up close is actually kind of breathtaking, giving you a sense for that over-the-top action you may still be craving in VR.

With Defense Grid 2 acting as one of the Oculus’ launch titles, it also serves the important purpose of offering us another way to enjoy virtual reality. It shows that various game genres that might not leap off the page as obvious choices can work just as well, if not better, in VR, and that creating immersion doesn’t necessarily mean putting you squarely in the shoes of a hero character and building a new world around you. Now, it’s just a matter of seeing if the install base for Oculus will be there to take advantage of this fun, re-imagined experience.


The Launch Day crew talk through some of their favorite games at E3 2015, including Sony’s line-up led by Uncharted 4’s incredible demo and more VR insight (now with more zombies!).

Starbreeze Studios may have had one of the more shocking announcements of E3 2015, and it happened before the show even officially started!

As part of a pre-E3 preview event, the developer behind the Payday series, the Syndicate reboot, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and many other games unveiled their brand new virtual reality headset called StarVR yesterday evening.

Being the resident EGM VR junkie, I was fortunate enough after the announcement to be the first person in the world outside of the studio to actually go hands-on (head-on?) with this new piece of hardware.

The demo we were given was based on Overkill’s The Walking Dead, which was also announced to be the first game for StarVR. It was explicitly stated, however, that the demo we played would not be part of the final game, but instead would convey a feel for the title, while more importantly, showing off what the headset could do.

In the demo, I was a recently infected person who was on his last legs. The pair of people I had been traveling with did not want to leave me behind, or at least not until they could get my car and some supplies from me. So, they strapped me into a wheelchair and gave me a shotgun. As they pushed me through the halls of a hospital, I would have to cover them. It was an absolutely beautiful looking rail-shooter experience, but I felt it was a tad too heavily scripted for my tastes. At the very least, though, it gave me a solid sense of what StarVR was all about as it really let me put the headset through its paces.

Starbreeze global brand director Almir Listo stated beforehand that the StarVR headset provides a 210-degree horizontal field-of-view, which is easily the largest of any VR headset revealed to date when you look at the 120-degrees of Microsoft’s Hololens, the 110-degrees offered with Oculus’s Crescent Bay and Valve’s ReVive, or Morpheus’ 100-degrees. I can confirm that in my experience, StarVR provides more peripheral vision than any headset I’ve tried (just Hololens eludes me at this point), and only when I looked to the extreme right or left could I see the very edges of the displays.

Speaking of display, StarVR touts a 5K resolution due to dual 5.5-inch screens. The picture for The Walking Dead was crisp, clear, and had no framerate drops, but I can’t definitively say it was better or worse than the others without putting them side-by-side. StarVR also features orientation and positional tracking, so every time I moved my head around during the demo, my character in game would do the same.

This was critical because at this moment, StarVR lacks more traditional input devices so at least moving my head around gave me a sense of being in the world until I finally received my shotgun. In regards to controllers, Starbreeze CTO Emmanuel Marquez admitted they were still working on them, and were keeping an eye on what other companies in the VR marketplace, like Valve, do in that regard. It was also mentioned that they would love to be compatible with a wide array of devices, including those of their own design like the prop shotgun I was able to play around with and that was featured in the above video.

The idea that Starbreeze could come out with a special line of prop weapons for shooters like The Walking Dead is intriguing, and it’d be far from the first time we had large plastic guns in our hands to play games with. The prop shotgun, even with some sensors attached to it, felt like a real gun (minus the lack of kickback). Every time I did the pump-action, it responded in game. I could fire blindly behind me as we ran down an alley, or I could look down the sights to make sure I put each and every zombie down with a single shot. I’m just concerned how much it would cost to package extra sensors and a large toy shotgun with every copy of Overkill’s The Walking Dead. And what about other weapons? It was an interesting idea, and having a prop in my hands helped with immersion, but I honestly don’t know if it’s completely sound to think every gamer would collect prop weapons to play VR games with.

In terms of plug-ins, StarVR features a USB 3.0 port and a 3.5mm headphone jack so players can use their own headphones for comfort and ease. Of course, unlike Oculus with their built in headphones, this means that, for the moment, positional audio is not a part of StarVR and was noticeably absent from the demo I played.

A nice surprise from Starbreeze’s headset, though, came in how comfortable it felt on my head. While it’s a bit bulkier and larger than an Oculus Rift in terms of shape and size, it felt about the same in terms of weight and the cushions on the inside really kept it from feeling like it was pressing into my head at all. I actually think it may be my favorite headset so far when it comes to just how it feels on top of my head. It should be mentioned, however, that the headset was tethered to a nearby PC, but I was told wireless functionality is on the docket for future versions of the StarVR.

No potential release date or price point was set for StarVR during the event. Lionel Anton, Starbreeze’s lead VR hardware designer, said that what I got to go hands-on with was “a first prototype”, leading me to believe that, along with everything I saw yesterday, that Starbreeze is still some ways off from being ready to stand toe-to-toe with Oculus or Sony. They certainly seem to be on the right track, though. Expect more info and insights about StarVR this week at E3, where it’ll be fully on display.