Get ready for a VR-centric future
In the gaming equivalent of ‘call that a knife?’, Playstation chose the week that Microsoft were unveiling the Xbox One X to try to take the sting out of Project Scorpion by previewing a bunch of upcoming games in a Shoreditch warehouse complex, from triple-A DLC to the most soil-your-kecks survival horror VR experience. Here are the most eye-catching titles to look out for.
Detroit: Become Human
Release date: Spring 2018
Quantic Dream have a history of smoke and mirrors gaming. Their interactive drama titles – Fahrenheit, Heavy Rain, the Ellen Page-starring Beyond: Two Souls – have often been engrossing play-a-movie sort of experiences, but have suffered from sluggish, minimalist gameplay and the disappointment that their promises of games that are entirely different depending on your decisions have proved pie in the sky. Repeat playing a Quantic Dream title hoping that cleaning your teeth differently might unlock an alternate storyline that doesn’t exist has become the dictionary definition of madness. They should rightly call every release Same Game Every Time: Slightly Different Ending.
With Detroit: Become Human, though, our hopes of fully-realised butterfly effect gaming are raised once more. The demo level wherein your police android designed to hunt down deviant ‘droids is tasked with talking down a rooftop hostage situation is not just thrillingly fast-paced but satisfyingly complex. Each dialogue choice you make raises or lowers your percentage chance of succeeding, making virtually every action in the game a branch in the plot, however minor. The Witcher-like recreation of ‘ghost’ events from the past feel hand-holdingly linear (in the demo at least), but signs are good that Detroit: Become Human might be the first QD game you’ll repeat play for months and never unhook the same bra twice.
Release date: TBA
Did we mention The Witcher? Chuck in machine guns, motorbikes and a shit-ton of zombies and you have Days Gone, a kind of hi-octane post-apocalyptic Witcher 3-meets-The Last Of Us on heavy duty amphetamines. Our hands-off demo followed bounty hunter Deacon St John as he tore through the wilderness on a roaring crotch rocket, using special tracker powers to hunt down ‘freakers’ and take them out by stealth, trap or steaming muzzle. Further details remain under wraps, but on this showing, the Days… will fly by.
Release date: November 22
Hidden Agenda is a multi-player detective adventure played by PlayLink – an app that allows your phone to be used as a controller, because who ever has enough damn controllers, right? Between all the players you vote on decisions on how to progress the investigation into a serial killer called The Trapper. But are you really all on the same team? Clue: no. Don’t expect a lot of fast-paced thrills from what is essentially a group puzzle game seemingly designed to destroy friendships, but as communal phone-swiping goes, it’s a lot more fun than hacking your mate’s Tinder.
Release date: TBA.
Over in the VR room, meanwhile, the future was busy happening. If ever you needed good reason to invest in a massive clunky face-hugger and run around smashing up your living room, it was Superhot, the only proof you’ll ever need that your PS4 wants to kill you. You’re dropped into a blinding white world in which faceless red figures race towards you swinging fists, hurling weapons and shooting guns – your task is simply to kill them before they kill you. Luckily they only move when you do, so you can assess each deadly situation before dodging a stray bullet, hurling a bottle or throwing star or just punching their stupid glass heads off if they get too close. A living nightmare, but heart-pumping fun – just be thankful it doesn’t seem too real.
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Release date: November 21
Too real you say? Strap yourself into the sanitarium wheelchair of The Inpatient and you’ll quickly realise the truly terrifying potential of VR survival horror games. A sinister psychoanalyst leans close into your face, forcing you to relive a traumatic memory over and over again, then you’re wheeled through the creepy corridors of the Blackwood Pines institution by a suspiciously friendly warden, imagining every slasher, freak and beastie from every horror game you’ve ever played preparing a jump-scare from every doorway.
Set 60 years before Until Dawn, this psychological horror is touted as an origin game for the wendigo monsters of the first game so we expect the toothy gits to show up eventually but, from the first ten minutes that we played, the marvel of The Inpatient is to make you feel as though you’re literally, personally trapped inside the sort of game you’ve always played, with no little relief, from a distance. From the second you strap on the headset you’re at the mercy of The Inpatient and whatever frights and torments it decides to throw at you. It’s like being in the audience for Britain’s Got Talent, except you honestly think you might die.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR
Release date: November 17
At the other end of the ‘crikey-is-this-a-game-or-real-life?’ spectrum is the VR rework of The Elder Scrolls – all 300-hours of original features and DLC from the game converted for you to explore again, from within. Close up, the unrefined NPC faces, grainy pathways and bowls that fly around the room if you take fruit out of them seem even less realistic – you definitely know you’re in a fantasy RPG here, no-one’s going to run up to a mountain cave and hide for months in case the wolves actually get them. But even with its computerised sheen, living inside a game you’ve spent so much time with is phenomenal fun. Physically waggling your sword around to kill enemies or walking into a river and ducking to look underwater, this is Skyrim as endless fantasy playground and worth the price of a headset alone.
Stranger Things VR
Release date: TBA
While The Inpatient demo built an ominous, malignant threat, the 3-minute Strangers Things intro went straight for the jugular. Eschewing the movement method of pressing a button to walk forward – much work needs to be done on propulsion in VR, with some games opting for the fixed-position approach and other allowing for free roaming – the player takes pre-ordained steps around Hawkins in search of lost Will, but the aesthetic is magnificently faithful to the series. The demo begins in Joyce Byer’s front room, with the first-person player staring at the wall of letters, before lights begin to flicker and the phone rings. A couple of minutes later you’ve got a face full of demogorgon and an irrepressible urge to delve into the Upside Down for yourself.
Blood & Truth
Release date: TBA
While, across the room, the secure-the-bridge demo of Supermassive Games’ Bravo Team made a fine fist of the action movie VR shooter using some quite awkward rifle-shaped controllers you have to hold right up to your face to aim (but are a demon for headshots), the talk of the event was Blood & Truth from London Studio. Expanding on the London Heist, the cockney underworld VR game which put you inside the head of Guy Ritchie (brrr), Blood & Truth promises to give players the full-movement action hero experience, from ducking around corners to pick off bad guys to reloading by throwing a clip in the air and catching it in your gun. The Hardcore Henry you can play, basically.