It’s been a few months since the launch of the PlayStation VR, and the holidays were relatively quiet. We decided this slow period was a good opportunity to check-in on the state of PSVR. And since we’ve seen a few high-profile free releases pop-up here and there, that’s reason enough to dust off the headset for another round of virtual reality coverage.
When the PSVR shipped in October, we spent dozens of hours putting it through its paces. The launch line-up ranged from disappointing to euphoric, but as long as you’re not easily nauseated, Sony seemed to be laying the groundwork for something incredible. Today, we’re jacking back in to see if the value proposition has changes in any meaningful way.
Jackal Assault VR
What is Call of Duty at this point? A franchise that started out as yet another World War II shooter is now set in space, and Activision has seen fit to release a free PSVR title based around dogfighting. Weird, right?
This bite-sized experience asks you to shoot down as many enemy ships as possible while avoiding damage. It’s as straight-forward and simple as you can imagine a VR game being, but it looks good inside the helmet, and the controls are fine.
Playing through the game once won’t take long, but you can always jump back in to try to improve your skills. That might resonate with a small fraction of the PSVR user base, but most people probably won’t want to play more than once or twice.
On one hand, it’s completely free, so there’s not much to complain about. On the other, it might actually take longer to download than it does to play. It’s a decent demo, but it’s probably not worth taking the PSVR out of storage.
Rogue One: X-Wing VR Mission
Speaking of incredibly short cockpit demos, DICE has something new in VR. Timed for the release of Rogue One, this PSVR-exclusive mission is tied in with the new Star Wars side story.
Just like Jackal Assault, this mission takes around 15 or 20 minutes to play, and does little more than ask you to shoot bad guys while you listen to some pilot dialogue for flavor. It’s seemingly okay, but not worth writing home about.
This tiny mission doesn’t cost anything by itself, but unlike the Call of Duty VR mission, it’s not a standalone product. You’ll need to own a copy of Star Wars Battlefront since this is listed on PSN as a DLC pack. Battlefront sells for $ 20 digitally, and a physical copy goes for about $ 15 on Amazon. It’s a big ask for this small mission, but at least you’ll get to play the full game on your PS4.
The flying feels decent, and it does benefit from a few lines from Rogue One’s sassy robot sidekick, but it’s disappointing that this is all EA has for us. If you want a real VR space dogfighting game, just buy EVE: Valkyrie.
O! My Genesis VR
The idea of a VR-focused god game is alluring — a Populous or Black & White follow-up with motion controllers and head tracking is enough to make us shake with excitement. So when we heard that XPEC Entertainment was developing a god game called O! My Genesis VR, we immediately knew we had to investigate.
Priced at $ 3, it’s immediately clear that the game’s scope is smaller than we had hoped. And even with two additional planets being sold for three bucks a pop, the amount of time that’s worth spending on this game is nowhere close to what you’d expect from the genre.
You’ll need two move controllers to spin the globe and manipulate the environment, but the interaction with the world has been simplified to the point of frustration. It’s understandable that the devs didn’t want to deal with a complicated inventory system with motion controls, but you’ll end up wasting time just searching around the planet for that damned torch.
It’s also worth mentioning the little narrator/tutorial imp that’s bound to drive you mad. The entire performance is awkward, and not at all in a charming way. Much of the writing is non-idiomatic, and the voice actress might as well be pronouncing words phonetically.
The head and hand tracking seemed to work fine overall, but the game just isn’t very fun. The potential of a VR Populous is still waiting to be fulfilled, so now we’re waiting even less patiently than before.
Trackmania is well known for rip-roaring racing on crazy fan-made tracks with dozens of your closest friends. Unfortunately, the VR mode in Trackmania Turbo doesn’t really offer any of that.
Instead, you get a cordoned-off VR mode that has dozens of unique offline tracks. It’s disappointing that you can’t make your friends puke with completely insane custom VR tracks, but what’s there is still pretty fun.
Having exclusively played the VR mode on a PS4 Pro, we think the excellent frame rate and overall graphical fidelity make this one of the best looking titles on the platform. However, Trackmania Turbo simply looks better on a big screen. Until we get a new generation of headsets with higher resolution screens, that’s just a fact of life.
If you have a PSVR and already have a copy of Trackmania Turbo, the built-in VR mode is worth playing around with. But at 40 bucks, it’s hard to recommend for the VR mode alone.
At launch, a few different 360-degree apps popped up for PSVR. Sadly, one of them has already closed up shop. Vrideo shut down back in November, and that certainly raised some eyebrows. Are 360 degree video services actually doomed? Probably not. In spite of the relatively small user base, the overall selection of 360-degree video is still expanding at a decent clip.
Within and Littlstar VR Cinema showed up around the launch window, and they both offer a variety of short films and documentaries. More recently, Jaunt made its way to Sony’s platform, so PSVR owners have even more content to choose from.
While the novelty here is very impressive, the nature of streaming video definitely hurts the experience. Even when you’re using a beefy internet connection, the first thirty seconds are almost always too blurry to enjoy. And once the quality is maxed out, the compression is still distracting. It’d be nice if the apps allowed for high-quality local caching, but they’re neat nonetheless.
Of course, if you’re on the lookout for VR porn, you’re going to need to side-load the videos into the media player app. It’s not particularly user-friendly, but it gets the job done in Sony’s walled garden.
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