Virtual Reality comes to PlayStation 4

This past weekend at Fan Expo Canada 2016, PlayStation Canada gave me a special preview of two of their upcoming PlayStation VR games—RIGS: Mechanized Combat League and Until Dawn: Rush of Blood. Following that, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment let me “become the Batman” in their all-new virtual reality game, Batman Arkham VR. All three VR games offered a thrilling sneak peak of the future of PlayStation gaming where immersive, 360-degree experiences will take centre stage.

project-VR-headsetThe PS VR headset

Every time I get an opportunity to try out Sony’s PS VR headset, I walk away even more impressed than the last. One big reason for this is that my demo times have been getting longer and longer, yet after nearly 30 minutes of continuous virtual gaming at Fan Expo, I still barely noticed the unit’s light weight. Weighing a mere 610g (excluding the cable), the headset feels extremely comfortable when placed on your head, and I love that it fits gently over my glasses without any pressure or irritation at all. Combine that with the ergonomically-designed padded centre band, secure rear tightening dial, and soft rubber eyepieces that fit snug, and you have a VR device built specifically for gamers to maximize comfort.

PS VR’s tech specs are also a big factor as to why the visuals remain so stable and smooth over longer sessions. Its beautiful 5.7 inch OLED display with 1080p RGB graphics (or 960 x 1080 x RGB per eye) runs at up to 120 frames per second, which provides an extremely consistent VR gameplay experience that minimizes dizziness and nausea. While I still need more time with PS VR to see how it feels over prolonged VR game sessions (say 1-2 hours), thus far I’m very impressed with what Sony’s design team has created.

Another huge reason why I’m getting more and more impressed with PS VR is how diverse the library of games will be. All three games I played at Fan Expo—RIGS, Rush of Blood, and Batman Arkham—have distinct controller/physical set-ups, are in vastly different genres, and place you at the centre of unique, immersive, and hyper realistic game worlds. There will be a sizable number of game experiences available for PS VR right out of the gate, making the October 13, 2016, launch date that much more exciting.

PlayStation_VR_7RIGS Mechanized Combat League

The first game I played at Fan Expo was RIGS: Mechanized Combat League, the latest game from Guerilla Cambridge, best known for their MediEvil series, and the PS Vita first-person shooter Killzone: Mercenary. Coming exclusively to PS VR on October 13th, this futuristic, first-person arena-based shooter puts you in control of highly powerful, highly fast mechs for some seriously explosive action. You play the role of a superstar RIGS pilot, and together with your team, you must fight your way through the combat league to win the prestigious championship.

In the demo there were six different RIGS you could control (I played four matches, each time with a different mech), and every one has a distinct look, loadout, and abilities. RIGS come in three classification types for different play styles:

Hunter Class – small, fast mechs that can fit through small underpass

Mirage Class – taller, agile mechs that can double jump

Tempest Class – mechs that are able to hover for aerial control

The mode I played was called “Power Slam” and in its simplest form, it’s a 3-on-3 weaponized version of basketball where your mech can become the ball. Playing in the dusty, desert-themed map “Nevada”, my goal was to kill other RIGS or collect glowing yellow energy balls, known as Power Spheres. As I killed/collected, my Overdrive meter would fill, and once full, my mech went into Overdrive and gave me the chance to score a goal by jumping through a large, central hoop. Of course my opponents would stop at nothing to prevent me from scoring, including shooting me with guided missiles, pulse cannons, lasers, assault guns, and other devastating weapons.

PlayStation_VR_1Your versatile, athletic war machine can switch between three modes (Speed, Repair, and Damage) on-the-fly as the situation warrants it. Speed mode reduces your firepower in exchange for extra mobility, Repair mode lets you heal yourself and your teammates, and Damage sacrifices speed for stronger weapons. Once in Overdrive, all three modes activate at the same time, which is extremely helpful considering your opponents will all be gunning for you.

I really had a blast with RIGS: Mechanized Combat League, and I think this game has extremely high potential for multiplayer and eSports should enough players get behind it. As a VR experience, I was awestruck every time I was given a virtual tour of my RIGS in the huge mech warehouse (the feeling of immersion is intense), and once you get into the battle arena you can’t help but be mesmerized by how real the experience is. I definitely cannot wait to play more of this game when it releases next month.

Rush-of-Blood-3Until Dawn: Rush of Blood

Until Dawn: Rush of Blood is an on-rails shooter spin-off from last year’s critically acclaimed PS4 thriller, Until Dawn. While RIGS used a standard DualShock 4 Controller, Rush of Blood mixes things up by letting you control a pistol in one hand, and a shotgun in the other, using two PlayStation Move wands. The level I played took place entirely on a creepy, terrifying rollercoaster that is supposed to represent the “descent into madness” of one of Until Dawn‘s main characters (if you played the game, you can probably guess who.)

Like in Sega’s House of the Dead series, reloading is done by firing off-screen or flicking your controller, and ammunition is unlimited. You can also discover and shoot ammo crates to upgrade your firepower. Your guns also double-up as flashlights to help you see in this evil carnival ride riddled with undead creatures looking to tear you limb from limb.

Rush-of-Blood-1From my limited time with Rush of Blood, the game seems to be much more about presenting you with upsetting imagery and unnerving jump-scare moments than it is about pinpoint firing precision a la shooters like Virtua Cop or Time Crisis. In the seven minute demo I was given, vicious, hungry pigs attempted to bite my face off, saw blades nearly sliced me in two, horrifying apparitions would suddenly appear mere inches from my face and scream bloody murder, and then there were the undead clowns. Lots of undead, stalker-ish clowns. They were the worst because they always hunted in packs and would take turns leap attacking, giving you a succession of panicked near-death situations.

No firm release date has been given for Rush of Blood yet, but you can bet once it comes out I’ll be strapping myself in for more plunges down this disturbing rollercoaster ride.

Batman_Arkham_VRBatman Arkham VR

For the first time in my life, I became Batman. It was even more awesome than I imagined it would be.

Ever since I saw the surprise reveal of Batman Arkham VR at Sony’s E3 keynote, I’ve been waiting to give this game a try. Developed by Rocksteady Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Batman Arkham VR is an all-new game in the Arkham series that lets you virtually don the cowl and become Gotham City’s legendary Caped Crusader.

For this demo, I was asked to stand while holding PlayStation Move controllers in both hands. You begin the game as Batman’s alter ego Bruce Wayne in the foyer of Wayne Manor, and are approached by Alfred Pennyworth who gives you a key to the piano in front of you. After grabbing the key and unlocking the piano using hand gestures, you begin to descend into Batman’s secret lair, the Bat Cave. On your way down you’ll need to put on Batman’s gloves, Batsuit, cowl, and strap tools to your utility belt. Experiencing this metamorphosis first-hand in immersive 360-degree virtual reality is a powerful and emotional moment—especially when a mirror drops down and reveals that indeed you have fully become the Batman. Graphically, everything looks stunningly real, from the impressive waterfall that besets you, to the clutters of bats that flutter in the distance.

After donning the suit, I was whisked away to my first crime scene mission that plays out much like the augmented reality Detective Mode from last year’s Batman: Arkman Knight game. I wasn’t able to freely walk around, instead, there were three vantage points in the back alley crime scene I could warp between. At the centre of the scene was a deceased Nightwing, and using holographic reconstruction I was able to rewind and view the crime as it happened. It was very impressive how realistic and up-close the deadly fight between Nightwing and his assailant was, even requiring me to look side-to-side and behind me as the fight moved around my stationary spot. Once I discovered who was behind this heinous attack, the mission ended with me firing my grapple gun at an overhead blimp. Then it was back to the main menu screen.

Of all the VR experiences I’ve had to date, this was the most vivid and memorable. Surely every Batman fan has thought about how awesome it would be to step into Bruce Wayne’s cowl, and now you can with Batman Arkham VR. The level of immersion is unreal. I was told the overall game length is roughly four hours, so while it’s not a full-length Batman Arkham adventure, judging by the impressive twenty minutes I played so far, this game will be totally epic. October 13th can’t come soon enough!

Stay tuned in the weeks ahead for even more exciting PlayStation VR coverage right here on the Best Buy Plug-In Blog!

Paul Hunter
Editor Video Gaming
I work out of Toronto, Ontario as the Editor of Gaming here on the Plug-in Blog and as Editor-in-Chief of NextGen Player. I am thankful for having a loving and patient wife who doesn’t mind my 40 hour a week obsession with gaming. See my latest gaming adventures on my Twitter channel.