PlayStation VR continues to mature as developers explore space - Tech News | The Star Online


PlayStation VR continues to mature as developers explore space

Players pilot a six-story mech in "Archangel," a narrative-driven virtual reality game. — Skydance Interactive/TNS

Players pilot a six-story mech in "Archangel," a narrative-driven virtual reality game. — Skydance Interactive/TNS

PlayStation VR has made headway since it launched nearly nine months ago. The games coming out are more complete experiences and less like tech demos. Sony announced in June that it sold more than 1 million PSVR units. 

Meanwhile on the cultural front, Steven Spielberg debuted the trailer for Ready Player One at Comic-Con, and it was well received. The upcoming sci-fi flick, centred on VR, could bring the technology to the forefront when it's released in March 2018. 

As for PSVR's growing library, a handful of titles came out this summer. Here's a roundup of what's out there for gamers: 

Arizona Sunshine – This is one of the few games that supports the PlayStation Aim controller, which is one of the better peripherals for virtual reality. This project puts players in the shoes of a zombie apocalypse survivor. 

Players must fend off a relentless army of the undead while scavenging for bullets and weapons. Although the zombies are easy to dispatch, they become troublesome when a horde comes after players. That's when it's smart to find a choke point or take shelter in a battered building. 

Arizona Sunshine lets players explore the environment, rifling through drawers and poking through the trunks of cars. To move, the game employs a teleportation-type system where players point to an area and appear there. They can turn around, but as in the teleportation system, the developers stagger the movement to keep players from becoming disoriented in VR. 

The project is a solid effort, though scavenging and exploration are cumbersome. The story itself is mediocre at best, but it's the combat mechanics that shine in this zombie survival game. 

Archangel – Skydance is better known for films in the Mission: Impossible series, but the company has expanded its offerings to include virtual reality. The developer shows its expertise with narrative in its first project, Archangel

It takes place in a dark future, in which the world has succumbed to climate change. A conglomerate called HUMNX offers to help set the world right, but the process lets this megacorporation take over America. 

Players can choose to take on the role of Gabby or Gabriel Walker. Walker is the pilot of Archangel, the United States Free Forces' secret weapon to fight the tyranny of HUMNX. It's a six-story mech, similar to the robot in Pacific Rim. Using Archangel and teaming up with M1KL, the robot's AI interface, players turn into a one-soldier army that can turn the tide of the war. 

Archangel is a game that's on rails. That means the developers at Skydance move players along a predetermined path. Players have control of the robot's arms and weapons, which they use to shoot down HUMNX's battalions, tanks, troopers and aircraft. 

Because Archangel can't dodge attacks, players protect themselves with an energy shield. It's a strong device, but it lasts only a few seconds before it needs to be recharged. That creates an interesting combat dynamic, in which players have to manage shields, read enemy movements and attack. 

The learning curve of this robot jiu jitsu is steep, and that's piled on top of the challenging campaign. But with enough practice and smart decisions in levelling up the robot, players can overcome HUMNX and delve deeper into the story behind Walker, his family and his ragtag military team. 

Superhot – This indie darling has been out for more than a year but finally debuted on PSVR in July. The premise of Superhot is simple. Players are tossed into a minimalistic environment, where they must defeat gunman and thugs hell-bent on killing them. 

Thankfully, players have a super power of sorts. The action moves only when the player does. Think of it is as bullet time from the Matrix, except this is turned on permanently. That lets player perform moves that would leave Neo saying, "Woah." 

They can toss a bottle at an attacker, and that sets up a reaction where his handgun flies in the air. Players can grab the pistol and use it to eliminate adversaries that are attacking from the sides. More advanced levels push players to perform impressive moves like slicing incoming bullets in half with a knife or dodging shotgun blasts in an interrogation room. 

Superhot makes players feel like John Wick on steroids. The slow-motion movement gives players preternatural reflexes that work remarkably well in VR. Combat situations become puzzles, where players have to creatively use resources at hand to overcome seemingly impossible situations. 

It's a must-buy experience for PSVR. — East Bay Times/Tribune News Service