It seems like every year at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the biggest annual video game convention, someone has to claim it was the “year of virtual reality.” So it’s no surprise that we’re saying the same about E3 2016, which took place a couple of weeks ago in Los Angeles.
The sheer number of VR games available for attendees to try out easily dwarfed every past year, so this time it might actually be true. There were so many VR games that E3 2017 would be here by the time we wrote about them all individually, so instead Playboy Gaming editor Mike Rougeau and writer Jason Fanelli here give a brief report on every virtual reality game they experienced at E3 2016.
’WAR THUNDER VR’
JASON: War Thunder VR transported me right into the skies of World War II, putting me inside the cockpit of a British Thunderbolt fighter jet. I was able to flip and roll with ease while chasing the dastardly Nazis and shooting them out of the sky. Admittedly my experience may have been enhanced by the flight stick Gaijin had setup for the demo. I wonder if switching to a PlayStation 4 controller will change how authentic the game felt, but during my demo I felt like I could have been the Red Baron himself.
’BATMAN: ARKHAM VR’
MIKE: For many at E3 Batman: Arkham VR was the talk of the show, but I just didn’t see it. From the makers of the popular Batman: Arkham games, this Arkham VR demo cast you as the dark knight and tasked you with donning the bat suit (a surprisingly lenghty process) and solving a mystery by examining a crime scene. I spent most of the demo casually hurling batarangs like I was dealing aces in a Falcone family casino, but other than that it was kind of a snore.
JASON: Raw Data’s demo saw me and a partner fight against an evil corporation and their humanoid robots. We were armed with a laser pistol and a laser sword (definitely not a lightsaber, do not call it that). I could either shoot enemies or deflect their shots with my totally-not-a-lightsaber, but they came from every direction thanks to the 360-degree point of view, which was really neat. This was the first full 360-degree VR demo I’ve ever played, and I really enjoyed it.
’HARMONIX MUSIC VR’
MIKE: From what I played Harmonix Music VR isn’t necessarily a game anyone will spend hours at a time playing, but it should prove a nice trick to pull out at parties and intrigue your friends with. The best bits aren’t the iTunes-visualizer like modes where you just listen to music, but the ones where you choreograph elaborate dance moves for tiny figures or create pulsing 3D sculptures a la Google Tilt Brush.
’SERIOUS SAM VR’
JASON: Serious Sam’s VR debut brought back fond memories of old arcade shooters. I was in a stationary position while enemies came at me through three rounds in different settings, each with its own obstacles. Between rounds I could buy more weapons and refill my ammo, and every weapon I purchased was eligible for dual-wielding. Mowing down baddies with two miniguns never gets old.
MIKE: The batteries on the HTC Vive controllers I wielded during my demo were dying, and the setting sun (this took place in a parking lot) seemed to be messing with the cameras. But most people won’t be playing VR games in a parking lot. Blasting wave after wave of enemies was fun, though surprisingly tiring.
’STAR TREK BRIDGE CREW’
Red Storm Entertainment/Ubisoft
MIKE: This is exactly the kind of experience I think shines in virtual reality. Four players each take one role on the bridge of a Star Trek ship—engineer, captain, etc.—and plot courses, aim guns, divert power, and more, yelling commands and reports to one another all the while. It’s collaborative and fun and unlikely to cause nausea in most players, since your character sits in a seat the whole time. The biggest obstacle will be finding three friends who also have VR headsets.
JASON: Battlezone’s demo was short, but not very sweet. I found some enemy tanks which I immediately destroyed, then was introduced to a swarm enemy made up of many smaller foes. After switching from the cannon to the machine gun and taking out the swarm, the cockpit closed and I was told the demo had completed after about seven minutes. It was fun for a fleeting moment, but it wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen before.
MIKE: Eagle Flight looked seriously goofy when Ubisoft showed it off onstage during its big E3 press conference, but playing it was a different story. I thought zipping around over Paris as a bird of prey would be nausea-inducing, but for some reason it wasn’t. I ignored the objectives and focused on shooting down other players for most of my demo, which proved a good tactic—though I apologized for being such a dick once the headsets were off.
’RESIDENT EVIL 7’
JASON: I don’t know what the hell I was thinking agreeing to this demo, but I strapped on the PlayStation VR and set off through Capcom’s haunted house. I made it through the first door before I couldn’t take any more, instead watching a friend who tagged along complete the demo for me. What I watched for the rest of the time looked great and I’m interested to see what else RE 7 has to offer, but I think I’ll play the full game on a TV instead of the much more intense VR version.
MIKE: I immediately liked the look of this moody, noir-inspired black and white thriller. It started off slowly, as I woke up in a sort-of-abandoned asylum and began exploring, but the scares ramped up when vicious teddy bears started attacking. There were still plenty of quiet moments for exploration and puzzle-solving, though, and I especially liked the clever inventory system that let you store items by holding them up above your head.
JASON: A ten-minute VR meditation demo in the middle of the E3 madness can really calm one’s nerves. This demo placed me in a Japanese zen garden, lush trees and other plant life surrounding me on all sides. After a couple of seconds an English woman softly spoke about how to be more relaxed and positive in my life while ambient music played in the background for a full ten minutes, and it was gloriously relaxing.
’DEAD AND BURIED’
MIKE: I was surprised to find that Dead and Buried was actually the most fun I’ve had in a virtual reality game—maybe ever. It’s a simple concept, where you and a partner face off against two others in a Western-style saloon shoot-out (with an undead zombie twist). But physically ducking behind cover and popping up to take pot shots was absurdly fun, and my partner and I were sweating and whooping by the end.
MIKE: Project Arena is a one-on-one duel in which two players throw and bash an electric frisbee thing back and forth. It has the aesthetic of Tron and the rules of Pong, but it’s honestly pretty weird having to physically lean your shoulders to move your in-game body left or right. I didn’t spend enough time with it to get used to it, and my opponent didn’t fare any better.
Jason Fanelli is a freelancer and podcast host hailing from Philadelphia, where he lives with his wife and brand new baby daughter. He’s been featured on ArcadeSushi, ZAM, UploadVR, and more, and he co-hosts the weekly Ray and Jay Podcast on iTunes and Soundcloud. Follow him on Twitter @BigManFanelli for games, pro wrestling, sports, and a *ton of baby pictures.*
Mike Rougeau is Playboy.com’s Gaming Editor, in charge of all things video games. He thinks Eve Valkyrie is still the best VR game. Follow him on Twitter @RogueCheddar.
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