EDITORIAL | Virtual Reality: The Future Is Finally On!
The day has arrived. After being teased with it under its Project Morpheus name back on 2014, PlayStation VR has arrived for gamers everywhere. With its $400 price tag (minus the cost of two PS Move controllers and the PS Camera), it is now the most affordable virtual reality peripheral on the market. With this, the Oculus Rift, and the HTC Vive, we can now officially welcome in the era of virtual reality.
That is, of course, had it not been for many gamers calling for VR to die already. Yes, we have had many individuals in both the gaming consumer and journalism realms pre-announce the death of virtual reality even before the final participant left the gate. It's not a surprise, though, that they're already calling for another so-called gimmick to bite the bullet. After all, we've been teased with many different forms of "evolutionary" ways of playing video games in our own living quarters, ranging from Nintendo's Power Glove and SEGA'S Activator to the PlayStation Eye camera and both versions of the Xbox Kinect. (In fact, the only cool accessories outside of the usual controllers that actually worked wonders were Konami's Dance Dance Revolution pad and Namco Bandai's Taiko Drum Master peripheral.)
However, unlike these past ones, there's one thing that has kept virtual reality from being an all-out gimmick: longevity. Looking throughout the history of technology, virtual reality has been around a lot longer than one may think. In 1962, the first sort of VR was brought to life via cinematographer Morton Heilig's Sensorama, where participants could see, hear, smell, and even touch certain aspects of its immersive short films. Later, arcade games like Battlezone brought more interactive aspects to virtual reality, with SEGA following suit with its own VR headset to use in both arcades and their consoles.
So if virtual reality has been around for nearly a century, why just now are we getting them in our living rooms? The simple answer: because it's now cheaper. Back then, VR stations were incredibly expensive, with the SEGA VR running $72,000 a unit (hence why the console version was cancelled). Now that it's much cheaper to make virtual reality headsets, we're seeing more and more publishers and developers latching on to the devices. Granted, it's still kinda pricy to own virtual reality, with the HTC Vive running $800 and requiring an entire empty room to work, but it's not crazily high as it could've been many a decade ago.
Until Dawn: Rush of Blood
This then leads to an understandable conundrum: what happens if these systems decide to not fully support VR and go the other way? What's going to happen if Sony decides to not make a lot of games for the VR headset, and abandon it like it did the PlayStation Vita? Well...here's the thing: I'm actually not counting on the first-party developers to create new and exciting virtual reality games. In fact, I'm not even going to look deeply into the eyes of the AAA industry and expect them to pop up some unique virtual experiences.
Granted, Batman: Arkham VR and Resident Evil 7: Biohazard sound like awesome games to play in VR, and I'm sure they'll have some neat qualities about them. The same goes for Bandai Namco's virtual aspects for Tekken 7 and Crystal Dynamics' Rise of the Tomb Raider: Blood Ties, both of which have potential to bring a new level of gameplay experience to such familiar franchises. And yes, I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm eager to see what Tamsoft is planning for the VR modes in its upcoming Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash, which I'm sure won't be as perverted as what you can now do in Dead or Alive Xtreme 3.
Robot Roller-Derby Disco Dodgeball
However, what excites me the most about virtual reality is what the indie gaming industry has planned for it. Years ago, I got more excited about the Oculus Rift after experiencing 82 App's Robot Roller-Derby Disco Dodgeball and Dejobaan Games' base-jumping simulator AaAaAA!!! It was in these young minds where virtual reality had both its pulse and brains. Looking through the currently-announced list of PlayStation VR titles, a plethora of them are made by indie companies, some of which I've played before and was impressed with that they delivered.
Frima Studios' Fated: The Silent Oath takes a film-like narrative and places us in control of the main protagonist. Owlchemy Labs' Job Simulator tasks us to flip burgers or do an office report, but you can cause hilarious chaos in your surroundings instead. Enhance Games' Rez Infinite combines rail shooting with some beautiful music/rhythm-based visuals and mechanics. Lastly, Ape Law's Albino Lullaby delivers a Hitchcockian horror tale in full immersion, with the things that go bump in the night slowly chasing you down as you attempt to escape.
While I am hoping the AAA industry will deliver some good virtual experiences, I'm honestly keeping most of my watchful eye on the smaller developers with the bolder imaginations. Hell, the fact that Rick & Morty co-creator Justin Roiland has started his own Squanchtendo company solely to create VR games has made me more stoked for virtual gaming than almost anything else announced. However, as a whole, I have high hopes for what can be achieved in the virtual setting, especially now that PlayStation VR has finally hit store shelves (which, by now, are empty because they're all probably sold out).
With all that being said, let me do something that I've been waiting to happen since I was a kid: welcome in the era of virtual reality gaming. It's here, and hopefully, it'll have itself a long, productive life. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna hop into some VR madness while attempting to not break anything in my surroundings.