Virtual Reality is on the way, and what once had seemed only possible in the realms of science fiction will soon be available for purchase at your local retailer. Forget television size and refresh rates; VR headsets are about to introduce a whole new level of immersion. When before we were merely viewing our experience from afar, Virtual reality lets you exist in the gaming environment in a way so engaging that distractions are a thing of the past.
We’ve already seen the potential of VR technology with some intriguing launch titles for both Oculus Rift and Sony’s PlayStation VR, but if there is one thing we know about launch games for any new peripheral technology, it is that they tend to feel too much like a technology demonstrations than actual games. Sure, Office Simulator and Adrift look like superb ways to show off VR’s capabilities, and both EVE: Valkyrie and Until Dawn: Rush of Blood seem set to theme park experiences into our front rooms, but the gamer inside of us all wants nothing more than to experience some of our favourite current video game franchises in virtual reality.
It’s time to start thinking bigger than the VR technology demonstrations. We’ve compiled a list of some games that were totally absorbing even on a standard television screen, but in VR we think they might take things to a whole new level:
Imagine sensing something was behind you but not wanting to turn around for fear of what you might see. What happens if you take away someone’s ability to look away from the screen, to hide behind a pillow, or even look down at their own body to remind themselves they aren’t actually inside a video game?
There are a few video games that have actually delivered a truly frightening gaming experience in recent times, but Alien Isolation’s use of ambient lighting, incredible audio design and a sporadic Alien antagonist certainly achieved that. Alien Isolation succeeded because it made players feel vulnerable and alone, and what better device for heightening that tension than virtual reality?
Arguably, video games already rival, if not surpass the film industry when it comes to building genuine fear and tension, but VR video games have the capability to ramp up immersion to a whole new level. Of all the genre’s, horror games are perhaps the most effective at invoking proper human emotion, and therefore seem like an obvious match for VR technology and might be exactly what the genre needs to bring it back to the forefront of the industry.
Alien Isolation has actually already received the VR treatment once before in the form of a tech demonstration on a very early iteration of Oculus, but we’d love to see an entirely new sequel built for VR from the ground up.
If there is one game in which perspective is at the forefront of its design, it’s Mirror’s Edge. First person parkour isn’t something we’d seen before when the franchise first debuted back in 2012, but the series fresh take on fast-paced traversal was a mechanic that peeked many gamers interest. Mirror’s Edge is a game that really embraces the first person perspective, detailing Faith’s legs and arms throughout her parkour movements, and removing any notable HUD so as not to break immersion; it’s a perfect match for any VR headset.
Quite apart from just enhancing the game in a visual sense, VR could certainly add a new dimension to gameplay as well. Mirrors Edge is all about fluidity of movement; the ability to quickly spot a ledge or window and spring towards that direction without upsetting Faith’s delicate movements is central to the games traversal mechanic, and that’s something that VR could surely be made to improve.
Although we’d love to see a Mirrors Edge VR game, don’t get too carried away giving your vote if you’re sensitive to motion sickness. Seriously, Mirrors Edge VR would definitely need plenty of warnings and disclaimers for those that suffer from disorientation or a fear of heights! That being said, we could think of nothing cooler than experiencing one of Hopes lightning fast parkour chase scenes with the immersion of VR to enhance our experience, and a new level of detail to explore the dystopian City of Glass.
Flower / Journey
That game company’s masterpieces Flower and Journey were released to critical acclaim when they launched on PS3. Poignant, emotional and alternative adventure games; Flower and Journey demonstrate the ability of the video gaming medium to tell a powerful story without the use of traditional narrative. These games are true experiences, tapping into our morality and emotion by leading us on an adventures that describe realities different from our own, while still transcending entirely relatable philosophical and social issues.
Flower and Journey are games that should certainly be played through in one sitting and without distraction. You simply do not want anything to detract from the sense of escape they convey, and this is the level of immersion that VR provides. The continuation of either of these titles narrative via a new game that utilised VR would be high on the list of desirable games we want to see utilise the technology. The prospect of a device with the ability to draw us even closer into the worlds that games such as Journey describe is what makes VR such a tantalising prospect for the future of video gaming, and we can’t wait to see how the adventure game landscape benefits from its introduction.
Grand Theft Auto
Putting a Grand Theft Auto VR game on this list seems a little strange given that many gamers probably have fond memories of passing a controller around a room of friends over the years. The series really was one of the first games in which its free run mode could provide as much entertainment as playing through the main story arc. Who can remember the hours of fun with their friends trying to hold a 5 star wanted level for as long as possible without being busted?
Yet, GTA5 demonstrated that the series could be experienced in an entirely different way when the updated version for the next console generation introduced a first person perspective mode. Gamers could now witness the series trademark brutality, violence and perversion of modern society through the eyes of the games protagonist. The reaction to the change was quite surprising; apart from adding a new depth to gunplay and driving mechanics, GTA5 suddenly became much more graphic and raw. When before it was just childish fun; beating an innocent to death with a baseball bat was instantly given more consequence and realism. How much would a VR version of GTA5 blur that line of reality even further? Whilst you’ll find many videos of the GTA5 Oculus Rift mod on Youtube, it’s not yet VR at its full potential. The thought of being able to explore one of Rockstar’s fictional cities in virtual reality might just represent the biggest leap in fidelity since the introduction of 3D graphics.
If you have tried VR then you will know that games in which the player remains static, such as in racing or flight simulators are given a whole new lease of life when implemented in the new technology. In many ways, they offer most realistic and immersive experiences of any genre; the lack of movement in combination with racing wheel or joystick creates an entirely believable attack on the senses. Arguably any racing game would be superb in VR but what better series to see developed for it than the grandfather of modern racing simulators, Gran Turismo.
The arcade might be an ancient relic of video gaming heritage, but arcade racing games still offered an experience that most people couldn’t replicate in their front rooms. Arcades that featured full-scale models of racing cars, or even just realistic seats and steering wheels turned racing games into theme park like experiences. VR is about to make all that totally redundant. When you strap a VR headset on there is no need for a mock-up version of a racing car, or even a detailed replica of a seat or steering wheel. As long as one has even the most basic hardware, VR transports you straight into the cockpit and offers an experience of unrivalled simulation.
The Gran Turismo series has perhaps fallen behind other leading racing games such as Forza Motorsport, so the recently announced VR supported, Gran Turismo Sport, is a promising sign for the future of virtual reality racing games.