If you’ve been following the progress of PlayStation VR since day one, then it’s likely you’ve already come across the five mini-games that come packaged together as part of the PlayStation VR Worlds experience. Regularly part of Sony’s marketing campaign, the five titles, which started off as tech demos to showcase what VR has to offer, include:
- The London Heist
- Power Ball
- Scavenger Odyssey
- Ocean Descent
- VR Luge
Let’s start off with the best of the bunch.
The London Heist review
I’m speeding down the motorway in a white van with a bald-headed gangster in the driving seat. The fact that I’m actually talking to him in a cockney accent and feel ‘dead hard’ as I pop an ammo clip into my Uzi and lay bullets into passing vehicles speaks volumes of The London Heist and its ability to immerse you in its game world.
A cinematic experience from the outset, it’s unnerving how realistic The London Heist feels. It’s a cliché that you’re going to hear again and again with VR gaming, but it’s true: you really do feel like the characters are talking to you, and that you are part of the story and the game world. The London Heist is undoubtedly going to be many players first VR ‘wow’ moment, when you suddenly realise the incredible powerful of virtual reality and how it shifts your outlook on traditional gaming.
The London Heist reminds me very much of the film Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels with gravelly cockney accents and memorable characters (although there are only two of them) perfectly capturing that gangster-movie vibe. The action starts in an East London lock-up with you being interrogated for a heist job that has gone wrong. The bulky frame of an unnamed gangster paces around as he aggressively accuses you of being a snitch in a botched heist for a precious diamond known as ‘Serena’.
Along with his foul-mouthed tirade, you get a gun pointed at your head and are threatened with a blowtorch in an opening sequence that hits you hard with its realism. The character model of this imposing figure looks life-like, and the voice-acting is top notch. Suddenly he receives a phone call and passes you his mobile. This is your first interaction as you reach out with your PlayStation Move controller or via the DS4, and physically see your hand grabbing the phone before taking the call from the boss, Tony.
The London Heist consists of six scenes (all of which have been showcased previously at VR events), and involves the theft of ‘Serena’. The scenes switch between past and present as you eventually discover why you’re being interrogated. It turns out you’ve been recruited by Tony to steal the diamond, but the job is botched when the alarms go off during the heist and the diamond goes missing. You’re on the list of potential snitches, and the action culminates in two alternative endings as you make a final decision on who to side with.
The initial meeting with Tony in an exquisite pub setting is quite something. As you sit behind a table listening to Tony lay out the plans for the heist, and move your head 360 degrees around the bar it’s a surreal and powerful experience as you soak up the surroundings and the fine level of detail. There’s a cigar in an ashtray on the table in front of you and a lighter. Intuitively I pick up the cigar with one hand, the lighter with the other and light the cigar. Without even thinking, I then automatically move it towards my lips and take an imaginary puff. It’s like I’m really part of the scene, and it feels good.
Indeed, the interaction with either the Move controllers or DualShock 4 thumbsticks are fantastically realised in The London Heist. In the next scene you’re at the location where you’re stealing the diamond. Sat behind a desk you can reach out and open drawers. You find a key, pick it up and insert it into a lock to discover a safe, while another drawer contains a password. Then the alarms go off, so you grab a pistol with one hand, a bullet clip with the other and insert it into your gun like you’ve been handling weapons all your life.
Enemies emerge around doors, behind cover, and on the balcony above you, and you instinctively find yourself ducking down and peering through the gaps in the desk to take pot shots at enemies. It feels epic to actually feel part of a fight where you’re in control, and where not ducking at the right time could see you get shot.
The only other all-action part of The London Heist involves you being a passenger as you flee the scene in a white van. In the van you can lean over and turn the radio on, pick up a drink, open the side door and reach over to grab an Uzi and ammo clips. The next few minutes involves you shooting at armed enemies on motorbikes and targeting the wheels of other vans to send them careering off road. Once again, you feel part of the scene. It’s not something you’re just playing, you’re feeling the emotions associated with the interactions of blasting bullets satisfyingly into passing enemies.
The London Heist made me feel like a gangster, no doubt about it, but it’s really all over before it’s even begun – about 15 minutes of action and narrative that leaves you a little flat when you come to its conclusion so swiftly. Nevertheless, there is some replay value. There are challenges to complete that help you earn Trophies, such as lighting your cigar at the same time as Tony or killing all enemies in a certain amount of shots, and a series of shooting ranges outside of the main story with online leaderboards.
The main issue with The London Heist is that it’s over before it’s really even begun, and leaves you wanting more. Also, I was disappointed with the sensitivity of the Move controllers. This could be my own personal set-up at home (maybe my lighting isn’t good enough) but I felt the controllers were too twitchy and I couldn’t get the accuracy in shots compared to just using the DualShock 4 method. On my next two playthroughs it was far more accurate using the DS4.
Score – 8/10
DangerBall is basically VR pong. Set in a Tron-like virtual walled arena, you control a square paddle with your head movements as you attempt to get your ball passed an A.I. opponent guarding the wall on the other side of the arena.
It’s really good fun. You find yourself leaping left and right and swooping down as if you’re actually heading the ball, and the more force you put into it the harder it flies towards your opponent. There’s some strategy too as you spin the ball by hitting it at the right angle, or use the side walls to catch your opponent off guard in a race to be the first to score five points.
As you progress, the difficulty level ramps up with your opponent having different paddle abilities, such as being able to fire two balls your way at once. The PlayStation VR headset isn’t exactly light, so the action does get tiresome with all the head movement, but it is good fun to play and there’s some replay value to be had with the endurance mode where you have hit tiles and create combos to get high scores.
Still, DangerBall certainly feels like a demo experience rather than a fully-fledged game. If Dangerball had an online multiplayer option I’d be more inclined to keep playing.
More PlayStation VR Worlds reviews overleaf.
Ocean Descent review
There’s no doubting the incredible underwater effects and the feeling that you’re submerged as you soak up the sights of marine life serenely swimming past, but Ocean Descent is just a brief experience of the potential of VR, and not a particularly great one at that.
You take the role of a scuba diver and you’re submerged into the depths of the ocean in a cage. Look 360 degrees around you and the calming water effects, passing marine life, including turtles and manta-ray and colorful fauna breathe life into the scene and are impressive to look at, but that’s really all there is to it.
There are three options to choose from each offering something a little different in terms of what you see while underwater. The ‘Coral Reef’ for instance offers a much more tranquil experience compared to the shark scene, giving you the opportunity to look around at your leisure.
The shark scene is undoubtedly the highlight as it menacingly swims back and forth passed the cage before ripping your doors clean off. In VR, the scene certainly looks impressive but the tension is lacking because you’re just literally just standing there. There’s no real sense of panic at all. Including some sort of escape scenario or way to fend off the shark would have been far more immersive. As it stands Ocean Descent is the lamest experience of the PlayStation VR Worlds bunch.
VR Luge review
VR Luge is the the first VR game where I felt a little motion sick, so I played it in bouts of five minutes a time before having a break. You play as an illegal street racer who lies flat on a luge and speeds down the California streets and mountainous landscapes weaving in and out of traffic, competing in time trials or as part of the four-stage VR Luge Tour.
Contrary to what I presumed, you don’t have to lie down flat on the floor though you can if you wish, but you’ll probably get neck ache as you strain and tilt your head left and right with the weight of the PlayStation VR headset. I did try VR Luge this way and although it was the more realistic experience (it does actually feel like those legs on screen are yours) I didn’t feel comfortable in that position as I strained to see the action.
So, sitting in a chair leaning left and right to zoom in and out of traffic turns out to be quite difficult as you attempt to balance the fierce speed of the luge with small leans so you don’t go careering off track or into a passing truck. The feeling of movement is captured well enough and you feel that acceleration in the pit of your stomach, and there’s some pitfalls to look out for with the likes of landslides which adds to the excitement and causes you to intuitively dodge your body out of the way. It’s also very easy to get distracted by the environment around you. When you see a balloon floating passed in the sky you can’t help but gawp at in VR!
The developer has done a great job at making the player feel a sense of speed, and the environments look glorious in VR, but it all gets a little repetitive, while the constant moving of your head gets a little dull. How about a handbrake so we can skid around corners?
Scavengers Odyssey review
Stomping around in a mechanized suit in shooter I feel like a boss. I can see my hands below me grasping the controls as I move the target reticule with my head and grab objects and hurl them through orbit, or blast space creatures with the twin-lasers. Scavengers Odyssey is the only game in the PlayStation VR Worlds pack that gives you the freedom to explore, and it feels great being in control.
Grappling objects and hurling them back at creatures is fun, while blasting creatures and seeing them explode in VR looks great. The controls feel intuitive to use and you’re able to leap around across the asteroid belt, speed boost, strafe and climb ceilings in your suit.
There’s a real sense of scale and adventure as you move from the indoor facility into space where huge asteroids float around and aliens menacingly scuttle towards you. The narrative is put together well too with background details fed to you through your headset as you explore space in the search for a lost artefact.
The fact that you move around a lot in your mech suit is going to make some players feel a little queasy. My initial play time was no more than 15 minutes before I started to feel dizzy, but I have found that the more I play VR in short spells, the more my brain adjusts to it and allows me to play for longer. I’ve spent around an hour in one session exploring Scavengers Odyssey, which balances combat and exploration extremely well and proves to be one of the highlights of PlayStation VR Worlds.
Rather than provide anything meaningful or memorable in terms of gameplay, the titles of PlayStation VR World are little more than brief experiences that give you an indication of what VR is capable of. Replay value is small, yet they’ll undoubtedly be the first games that you’ll use to show-off your new headset to friends and family, and provide a decent, albeit unspectacular, set of tech demos. The London Heist and Scavengers Odyssey are certainly the highlights in what proves to be an entertaining intro to the world of virtual-reality on PS4.