Grip Digital and Teotl Studios’ first-person, single-player survival game released on PC and Xbox One to a middling critical reception last year. The addition of virtual reality support helps to elevate the PlayStation 4 release in many ways, though some issues still hamper the otherwise engaging and atmospheric adventure.
A thick air of mystery ebbs and flows as you explore environments and begin to peel it back, often only to uncover more secrets.
With that said, the absence of a formal tutorial means it’ll take a little while to get used to the button-heavy control scheme; once you wrap your head around it however, you’ll be walking, turning and teleporting comfortably without need for an analogue stick. Other VR issues include lengthy, awkward 2D loading screens that somewhat break immersion, and the galling oversight that you can clip your hand through many locked gates and use the teleporter (an item separate to the standard teleportation for travel) to bypass the game’s simple puzzles.
You can’t get up to similar tricks playing on a TV, which might be a good or a bad thing depending on how you’re inclined, but there are also definite boons to playing in our humble, real-world reality. There’s a closer connection to the protagonist as you hear more of their musings and see scenes cut for comfort from the VR experience, plus there’s a sharper presentation in terms of both resolution and a clearer UI, which can serve practical purpose in helping to find obscure collectibles that boost resistances and fill in the wider narrative.
Anything other than a temperature resistance buff is frankly a waste, as that’s the only one of the game’s survival elements that ever really comes into play. Food and water are plentiful, and getting enough sleep is easy done, but staying warm when outdoors at night is near impossible. While the straightforward crafting system can be used to start temporary fires that offer slight respite, the only real solution is to ride out the night somewhere safe. With no means to tell the exact time, you’re only ever acting on a best guess while judging an alien day/night and dynamic weather cycle, so, should you misjudge or spend too long exploring, you might be doomed to get hopelessly caught out from the moment you set off. Due to the game’s manual save points and infrequent auto-saves, it’s possible to lose a lot of progress to this - even totally bugger your save file - leaving you feeling decidedly cheated in the process.
Thankfully, the survival elements are fine tunable, so you can tone them down, turn them off completely, or, if you’re some sort of sadist, make them stricter. This goes a long way to remedying the issue, but being tempted to turn a survival game’s survival aspect off so that you can fully enjoy it is far from ideal.
While The Solus Project isn’t a great survival game, its focus on setting, atmosphere and storytelling make it more immediately engaging than its crafting-obsessed peers. Overall, the game succeeds in spite of failing within its genre - especially when played in VR, with the mode providing a fully-featured and lengthy campaign for headset owners to absorb in affecting fashion.
SUPERHOT, a first-person shooter built around the uniquely satisfying concept that time moves only when you do, was an instant classic in our eyes. The feats of sheer badassery this central mechanic allows a player to achieve injects them with such an intoxicating power trip that they’re almost forbidden from putting the controller down. By being so moreish, SUPERHOT marries its narrative - which, without saying too much, features themes of virtual addiction - to its gameplay and presents one concise, cohesive whole. If you’ve played the original you’ll know that bringing the SUPERHOT experience to VR was really a no-brainer, but is it worth double-dipping?
The feats of sheer badassery this central mechanic allows a player to achieve injects them with such an intoxicating power trip that they’re almost forbidden from putting the controller down.
Despite the fact you’re all but fixed to the spot in SUPERHOT VR - rather than being able to run around freely, as in the original - the wider spectrum of movement available to you actually makes the change feel liberating. You can still employ the same tactics you would in vanilla SUPERHOT, but also incorporate those exclusively afforded by the introduction of motion control, like extending your arm out from cover to blindfire, or using your hands to physically snatch bullets out of the air. To counterbalance the extra tools at your disposal and keep things engaging, you’ll now need to complete sets of levels before reaching a checkpoint, rather than being awarded one each and every level.
While the switch to motion control brings with it both foibles and boons, the transition from 2D to 3D is entirely a positive one. The clean, simple aesthetic works wonders in disguising VR’s fuzzy edges, while the added depth perception helps to more accurately gauge distances and accordingly lead your shots. You’ll instinctively wince when an enemy pulls the trigger as you stare down the barrel of their gun, but, most importantly, playing in virtual reality is exciting because of the technology’s relevance to the SUPERHOT universe. For existing fans, being sucked directly into the experience they had previously taken in second hand is a real treat.
The one area in which we criticised SUPERHOT was its endgame content; after completing the somewhat short story you unlock a range of challenges that are each interesting in themselves, but ultimately amount to replaying the same levels over and over with slightly modified rule sets. The exact complaint stands when it comes to SUPERHOT VR, but the challenges are a less enticing prospect this time around. That isn’t due to any design shortfall - they’re good fun - but the fact that encountering the aforementioned tracking issues at the wrong time can cost you dearly.
Playing in VR is all the more exciting because of the technology’s relevance to the SUPERHOT universe. For existing fans, being sucked directly into the experience they had previously taken in second hand is a real treat.
SUPERHOT is a power fantasy, and the implementation of virtual reality and motion control helps to realise that fantasy in more vivid fashion, making SUPERHOT VR the best way to play this inspired shooter. For a while, that is, as the original has it beat when it comes to post-campaign challenges - it’s just a good job they’re different enough from one another to both thoroughly warrant purchases.
A dark take on the Ancient Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, Theseus is one of the most engaging virtual reality games we’ve played, despite having its share of problems.
Every single element of Theseus’ presentation is incredibly well considered.
Encounters with Asterion offer up more legitimate scares, the beast being a liberal interpretation of the fabled Minotaur. Conventionally a man with the head of a bull, you’ll instead meet a towering, skull-faced monster with a vertical maw of sharp teeth dominating its torso. The design is definitely Dark Souls inspired, which only serves to make him all the more an imposing physical presence, especially within the 3D realms of VR.
Initially the Labyrinth’s guardian, Asterion was consumed by a literal darkness and coerced into doing evil. Luckily for you, this corruption blinded the creature, making stealth the proverbial sword of Damocles hanging over his head. There’s no fighting him, so you’ll need to take the time to creep when his back is turned and freeze when fixed in his gaze to avoid getting insta-killed.
You can battle his eight-legged offspring, though combat is the game’s weak link. Arachnophobes will be disheartened to learn spiders are the solitary enemy type, but can hopefully find solace in the fact they’ll get to stab and burn plenty of the blighters. Theseus fluidly switches between targets as you push the analogue stick in their direction and launch attacks with either his sword or, provided you have one to hand, flaming torch. There’s no real call for finesse here, just mash your way to victory.
Whilst the combat system won’t win any awards, it’s nonetheless exciting to see the choreographed fights play out right in front of you. The same applies to the final encounter, which isn’t anything special in terms of gameplay, but is spectacle enough that you likely won’t mind.
With an incredibly cinematic presentation - one that we find reminiscent of Guillermo del Toro’s work, specifically in its flair for presenting an engrossingly dark fantasy that incorporates elements of both Hollywood and art house - it’s perhaps no surprise that Theseus clocks in at about feature length. It’ll likely take two to three hours to complete, though returning for a second run to gather all of the collectibles and unlock the true ending is an enticing prospect.
If it wasn’t already clear, we adore Theseus’ understated narrative and grim aesthetic. The game draws positive comparisons to a lot of properties we love, but also maintains a strong identity of its own, really hitting a sweet spot in the process. As a result, in spite of the weak combat and linear progression, Theseus is an easy recommendation for PlayStation VR owners.
Lagging six months behind its Oculus Rift and HTC Vive counterparts, Arizona Sunshine has finally made its way to Sony’s PlayStation VR platform. Has the transition to weaker hardware sullied the acclaimed first-person shooter? Or has the extra development time made all the difference?
Vertigo Games have utilised everything at their disposal to comfortably accommodate the experience on console.
Outside of the DualShock 4's issues, aiming is pretty spot on with both the Move and Aim controllers; you’ll utilise point-and-shoot motions in an entirely natural way, satisfyingly lining up shots as if you were in a real 3D environment. Closing one eye and looking down the ironsights allows you to execute strings of carefully-crafted headshots against the intentionally docile and dozy enemy AI, but, in the event a horde springs to life and swarms, you’ll be forced into a spray-and-pray panic, which gets the job done, but at the cost of a chunk of your ammunition.
Ammo should be a limited resource, but if you explore environments thoroughly enough you can scavenge quite the stockpile. Opening up cars, drawers, cupboards and more via occasionally finicky, telekinetic interactions uncovers all sorts of strange hiding places, with certain ammo types being rarer finds than others. You’ll keep track of what you’ve accrued through the innovative, HUD-busting inventory system that sees you look down to inspect the bullets, grenades and firearms holstered on your belt before physically grabbing them to use them. While immersive, the main drawback of this is that, when playing seated, it’s all too easy to accidentally grab items when your arms are held close to your core, so you’ll need to keep them awkwardly outstretched.
You can carry up to four weapons at once, though you’ll find an abundance of them, so it makes sense to choose as diverse a range as possible - namely a shotgun, submachine gun, pistol/magnum and grenade launcher - to tactically meet differing situations head-on. You’ll also sporadically encounter stationary sniper rifle and machine gun emplacements, which offer up an empowering and gleeful temporary twist on combat, helped along by the protagonist’s excited exclamations that will no doubt mirror your own (if you're anything like the psychopaths we are…).
Though they are comparatively empowering, standard zombie encounters aren’t exactly emasculating. This is largely due to the aforementioned healthy levels of ammo, however the (mostly) bright and breezy setting and lead character sap any real sense of horror from the experience. That’s fine, especially with so many VR horror games already on the market, but in doing so it readily passes up on leveraging the genre that is perhaps virtual reality’s greatest asset.
Despite that, it’s still very frightening on the odd occasion you turn around and find a member of the undead ranks invading your personal space, with the resulting unnerved excitement only making us wish it happened more often. Upping the difficulty can draw you closer towards true horror by nixing ammo pickups and buffing zombies, should you desire that, while harsh checkpointing means you’ll actually be invested in staying alive and fear death that little bit more (or possibly just curse the devs).
Aiming is pretty spot on with both the Move and Aim controllers; you’ll utilise point-and-shoot motions in an entirely natural way.
Regardless of your skills, death is something that always comes in Arizona Sunshine’s Horde mode. This is exactly what it says on the tin, or the cassette, in this case, challenging you with surviving increasingly difficult waves of enemies that attack from all sides as you’re confined to a small central area. Playable alone or with up to three partners online, co-op is definitely the way to go, and not just to have someone watching your back. Thanks to the game’s motion control, interacting with players is often cause for hilarity - you might wave to greet one another, dance and fist-pump to celebrate a wave well defended, or even get weird and spend some time stroking each other's faces, locked in prolonged eye contact… Whichever way you play, there’s a relevant leaderboard to track your performance and give you something to strive towards.
While the level of interactivity in Vertigo Games' post-apocalyptic take on the sunny state of Arizona can leave a little to be desired (you can pick up axes, shovels and pans, but can't use them as melee weapons, for example), its nonetheless rich and immersive environments are a pleasure to explore. When combined with seriously satisfying shooting mechanics and entertaining co-op, both thanks to great motion control implementation when using the Aim and Move controllers, Arizona Sunshine takes mantle as one of the first full fat FPS experiences to reach PlayStation VR.
GNOG is an incredibly simple game, but, at the same time, it’s quite difficult to quantify. It’s perhaps best described as a colourful, outlandish puzzler in which you interact with a range of living dioramas to solve the problems they pose. Unwavering in its focus on this central concept, the game continuously develops it in engaging ways.
GNOG oozes style from every pore, and to have that presented in an all-encompassing environment made the experience genuinely transformative.
Playing in VR isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, though. The distracting image drifting issue that plagued many of PS VR’s early titles rears its head once again, requiring you to gradually turn in order to follow the action as it goes walkabout at a crawl. This can become uncomfortable over time, in addition to affecting the PlayStation Camera’s ability to track the headset, but, to make matters worse, holding the options button on your controller to recentre doesn’t remedy the issue in this case. Our usual fix in this unfortunate situation - turning the headset off and back on via the inline remote - also didn’t help, leaving the only solution to close and reopen the game, which is far from ideal.
You’ll never lose much progress when doing so, mind, as the game’s nine levels are all relatively short and sweet. There’s no weak link amongst their bizarre and varied ranks, and discovering them for ourselves was all too enjoyable, so we won’t spoil any of them for you. A couple stumped us for a time, but we never became frustrated in the knowledge that answers are always in plain sight; you only ever need to relax and change your perspective for them to present themselves.
UPDATE: An additional patch has been released to fix the trophy issues discussed in the next paragraph. GG on the speedy delivery, KO_OP!
The launch day patch has caused some frustration, however, as it seems to have broken the game’s trophies. Having made sure trophies were unlocking in other games to rule out potential PSN funny business, plus testing GNOG on different accounts to no avail, they’re seemingly unattainable for now.
GNOG is a window into a weird and wonderful world that’s a constant joy to be a part of. With one simple, central mechanic, the three-or-so-hour runtime prevents the game outstaying its welcome and provides more than enough enjoyment to justify its reasonable cost. If you’re going to play GNOG with PS VR, much like Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin before it, Double Fine (this time in partnership with KO_OP) have a must-buy on their hands.
A Norse-themed narrative experience, FATED: The Silent Oath sees players assume the role of a mute, Viking protagonist, having traded their voice for their life to a mythical Valkyrie. When your clan find their homes ransacked and razed, you begin a journey through Ragnarök - the cataclysmic end times - in a story packed with familiar lore and eager to draw emotional response from the player.
Once you’ve surmounted the mostly laborious opening chapters, FATED blossoms into an honest to goodness adventure.
Not only does FATED improve from a gameplay perspective at the tail end, but by tightening its cast it allows them the space and time to develop, and, as a direct result, the character-driven story begins to take shape. It’s at this point the journey concludes, however, with an ending that succeeds in tugging at your heartstrings, if only because it’s inherently tragic. While many will find it unsatisfactory, we’d rather be left wanting more than wishing a flagging game was over, and we definitely wanted more.
In the end, FATED: The Silent Oath is a little too ambitious for its own good; developer Frima had good intentions, though ultimately crippled themselves by sticking to a feature length presentation. If roles were reversed - adventure had been the forethought with narrative occupying a background role - the game would have made a better impression, but as it is, it’s a story-driven game that falls just short of spinning an inspiring yarn. Considering its reasonable price (£7.99), occasional moments of excellence and will to experiment in a new medium, it gets a cautious recommendation in spite of its flaws.
Bridging the gap between 2005’s cult classic Psychonauts and its upcoming sequel Psychonauts 2, Rhombus of Ruin trades platforming for puzzles without forfeiting any of the series’ uniquely psychedelic identity in the process. In fact, thanks to the introduction of PlayStation VR, Psychonauts is more fittingly outlandish than ever.
Environments are some of the most lovingly detailed we’ve seen in VR, while characters are both brilliantly written and performed.
Perspective hopping is a mechanic that’ll likely be familiar to anyone with a few virtual reality games under their belt, but, while it can be immersion-breaking elsewhere, here it’s a perfect fit. What can feel like a design compromise for the sake of comfort is instead used to physically anchor the player in the role of Razputin, who also sits removed from the world around him throughout the duration of the game.
Having become a rescue mission that extends to the entire Psychonauts crew, the retrieval of each member adds them, along with a specific power, back to your collective consciousness. Subsequent puzzles require proper use of these powers, which sounds obvious, but this ensures you have a focused train of thought and helps prevent floundering for any significant length of time on any one puzzle. Unlike previous adventure games from the mind of Tim Schafer, solutions are never bizarre enough that you should need to look them up.
This structure and a lack of padding give Rhombus of Ruin a strong throughline that carried us to the finish in a single sitting. While it only clocked in around the three hour mark, it was all killer and no filler. There’s no immediate replay value outside of some missable Trophies, but it’s definitely one to show VR-curious friends and family.
Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin reminds us why the original found a place in the heart of so many gamers. Its settings and characters are gorgeously vivacious, with PlayStation VR bringing them to life in ever-more gleeful fashion. Double Fine kept things simple with their playful exploration of scale and perspective, and in the process they captured the essence of fun. Bring on Psychonauts 2!
The Resident Evil series has had almost innumerable ups and downs during its more than two decades on the market, but despite faltering on occasion, Capcom’s willingness to innovate has been nothing short of admirable. The seventh mainline entry continues that trend, taking bold strides in new directions, yet simultaneously bringing the core mantra full circle by serving up horror on an intimate scale.
The decaying mansion is inhabited by the crazed Baker family, who are only too glad to extend their twisted brand of hospitality.
Enhanced by its Beginning Hour and KITCHEN demos, which we now know served as establishing prequels, the Baker compound may well be remembered for years to come in much the same way the Spencer mansion is now. You’ll be intimately familiar with its layout by the end, to the extent that you could probably draw a map from memory.
As you investigate the lavishly detailed residence, the mysterious Zoe Baker reveals herself through a series of guiding phone calls. It’s an uneasy relationship, mostly due to her surname, but she’s never totally explicit and it’s easy to assume she’s holding something back as a result. This air of ambiguity means her tips are never coddling, which is good, because you won’t need more than the occasional hint she offers.
Puzzles, while placed under a brighter spotlight than they have been in recent instalments, are incredibly simple. There aren’t any head-scratchers, just intellect-strokers, which regardless provide necessary moments of respite between unnerving enemy encounters.
The ageing complex doesn’t host shambling hordes of the undead in addition to its leading family, but rather tar-like relatives of Resident Evil 4’s Regenerators - the Moulded. They lose limbs under maintained fire, yet continue to imposingly lumber towards you, sporadically breaking pace to lunge with intimidating intent. Though there are slight variations on the base model, they all quickly become predictable as you learn their behaviours through repeat encounters. This makes them considerably less scary in time (unless they’re introduced with a jump scare), while Normal difficulty sees them fall too easily when you consider it’s the highest challenge available on an initial playthrough.
As you accrue an arsenal ever-increasing in firepower any difficulty is gradually chipped away. While ammunition for these firearms is technically limited, in typical survival horror fashion, the return of the item box makes it incredibly easy to hoard every resource without ever passing anything up. You’ll not go without provided you take the time to journey to and fro to make frequent deposits.
While the interdimensionally-linked item boxes harken back to the innovative 1996 original, it’s in supporting an emerging technology that Resident Evil 7 really innovates. Arguably the first true, committed implementation of virtual reality into a high profile release, it’s also one of the best experiences available on the fledgling platform.
Every element of the game is significantly more impactful when experienced inside the PlayStation VR headset. It places you directly into the world, adopting a dimension intangible on a television screen to seamlessly become totally encompassing. Environments gain an immersive sense of scale and enhanced detail, head-tracked aiming is supremely accurate, and new gameplay opportunities are afforded as you peek around corners and through windows.
Every element of the game is significantly more impactful when experienced inside the PlayStation VR headset.
While it never quite matches the sheer, creeping dread of the VR-exclusive KITCHEN demo (which was to be expected, as Capcom need to cater to all players here), the headset can elevate a spooky situation into one that genuinely paralyses you in a fight-or-flight limbo. You really won’t want to set foot in dark, foreboding corridors; uncomfortably close, even invasive, encounters will require a moment’s pause thereafter to recompose yourself; leaning in with a morbid curiosity to inspect gory details might even turn your stomach.
The addition of 3D audio when connecting a pair of stereo headphones to the PS VR’s integrated processor unit also improves upon the already stellar audio design. The increased spatial acuity helps prevent enemies from sneaking up on you, but hearing tormenting knocks, rattles and bangs from multiple directions around a room is horribly, horribly disconcerting.
It’s seriously intense, and in these moments it’d be easy to call it a night if it weren’t for the incredibly consistent pacing. There’s an engrossing sense of progression that’ll see the desire to power on and discover what comes next prevail - unless you really can’t hack horror.
Motion sickness is a very real concern when it comes to VR, but we didn’t experience a moment of discomfort during twelve hours of play across four marathon sessions. This is due to a couple of things: a wealth of options mean you can customise the experience to fit your personal needs, whilst quality implementation of the technology sees distracting issues like image drifting (which frequently requires you to reposition and/or recalibrate) eradicated. If you’re somebody that opts to turn in set increments, it’s also a somewhat fitting return to the series’ tank-controlled roots, rather than an annoyance.
All that being said, the implementation of VR still isn’t perfect. There are some distracting clipping issues, missing animations, and the odd cutscene jarringly appears on a 2D screen suspended in a black abyss. Those drawbacks are minuscule in comparison to what you gain, however, and to put that into perspective, a second playthrough on a TV (even in 4K with HDR) felt decidedly flat and uneventful by comparison.
To be clear, RE7 is more than serviceable if you don’t own PS VR, but it’s definitely the best way to play. That much is clear not just from our own experience, but the way some scenes are otherwise reminiscent of watching a 3D film in 2D, whereby it’s clear to see the director’s intent while not getting the actual effect.
Whichever way you play, you’ll need to piece the full story together by compiling information from multiple sources. Documents, characters and items all gradually unfurl secrets, whilst compelling VHS tapes expand upon the Baker’s past exploits as you experience them first-hand. If you aren’t into detective work, the central narrative of Ethan’s struggle to save Mia stands alone, but either way there are intriguing implications for what’s to come. The immediate conclusion leaves as many questions as answers, admittedly, but free DLC “Not a Hero” looks set to try and remedy that later in 2017.
You’ll need to piece the full story together by compiling information from multiple sources. Documents, characters and items all gradually unfurl secrets.
If it wasn’t commendable enough that Capcom essentially made two different versions of RE7 - one for VR and one for the telly - the unlockable Madhouse difficulty significantly changes the game's dynamic, rather than just plain ramping the difficulty up. Throw collectibles, some of which can be used to purchase upgrades, as well as unlockable weapons and buffs into the mix, and there are a lot of factors that encourage repeat playthroughs.
Play it again you very likely will, because Resident Evil 7 is precisely what fans have been clamouring for over the course of a number of years. Capcom delivered a classic survival horror experience, with just a tinge of action flare, that brings the series inline with modern expectations. They bravely took risks and it has proven most lucrative, just as it did with the pivotal release of Resident Evil 4. Through its outstanding setting and cast that go hand-in-hand, in addition to providing perhaps the defining virtual reality experience, Resident Evil has reclaimed its place atop the horror genre pile.
VR is often at its best when coupled with horror, which The Brookhaven Experiment seems to understand, despite retaining issues from its original HTC Vive release and introducing new ones in the porting process.
Campaign is the meat of the experience, spanning ten locales as you journey to close the otherworldly rift that was opened when the titular experiment went awry.
As you collect new weapons and upgrades hidden around maps they become less of an issue, thankfully. Loadouts can significantly impact play, comfortably accommodating a range of gamers. All avenues of approach are satisfyingly empowering, whether you might choose to carefully pick enemies off at distance with a laser-sighted magnum, blast them Mad Max-style with a capacity-boosted sawn-off, or spray, without needing to pray, courtesy of a recoil-reduced submachine gun.
In these latter stages, scares somewhat give way to the power trip, though the age-old trope of limiting flashlight batteries and forcing you to face the dark unknown remains unnerving throughout. The same goes for taking your eyes off approaching enemies in favour of hunting bigger, badder alternatives first, inevitably leading to a slow turn back, filled with dread, to find them lurking within touching distance before filling your pants.
The Brookhaven Experiment won’t so readily fill your pockets, however, as it’s pretty light on content. Campaign is the meat of the experience, spanning ten locales as you journey to close the otherworldly rift that was opened when the titular experiment went awry. You’re guided by an involved scientist’s monotone narration, but you’ll probably phase it out - if not through disinterest, then pragmatism, as you focus instead on your surroundings - it’s total fluff, so there’s no real loss.
A Cloverfield-inspired behemoth makes recurring, obscured appearances throughout, menacing with its gaunt appearance and imposing size. The campaign culminates in an unsatisfying encounter with the creature, dragging on just long enough for you to begin wondering whether it’s actually taking damage.
Completing a game’s primary attraction is generally a graduation of sorts, leading into any secondary modes, but that’s somewhat backwards here. Survival poses very little challenge on normal difficulty when compared to the campaign - we exhausted the associated Trophies and continued to progress with no apparent end in sight on our first run. Definitely crank the difficulty up and opt for one of the later maps to get the most out of it.
You’ll take more from the game if you own a PlayStation 4 Pro console as well, thanks to a recent enhancement-enabling update. Having played both pre and post patch, resolution, lighting and colour depth seem improved, if not so much as to be immediately pronounced.
If you’ve played Until Dawn: Rush of Blood to death, then The Brookhaven Experiment is the next best thing. That’s not a knock; it’s an accurate and immersive horror shooter that transitioned to PlayStation VR surprisingly well, but, unfortunately, some irritating issues and a lack of content mean it just doesn’t have the legs that would otherwise make it essential.
Crytek’s Robinson Crusoe-inspired science fiction adventure turned heads with its E3 2015 reveal, promising a prehistoric world in which players could walk with dinosaurs through the immersive medium of virtual reality. The enticing pitch from a proven developer lead many to hope, even expect, that Robinson: The Journey would be PlayStation VR’s so called ‘killer app’, but it doesn’t quite meet those expectations.
A Disney-like tale of a lost boy that longs for human companionship, but finds the same comforting dysfunction in an AI and a dinosaur.
Robinson’s climbing mechanics can cause similar negative effects, pulling your vision in uncomfortably close to geometry and, on occasion, requiring you to crane your neck in unnatural ways to reach for handholds. It’s a shame, as when the segments work they’re exhilarating, especially when taking a sweaty-palmed plunge and nailing the timing to grab a ledge and save yourself below.
PlayStation Move support will undoubtedly make climbing more natural and intuitive, allowing players to reach for handholds with their arms instead of hands strapped to their head. It’ll equally benefit wielding the multi-tool, which is clearly modelled after one of the controllers for immersion sake, but, inexplicably, the functionality isn’t available at launch. It’s coming via a free update, which is good, but so much of the game design seems centred around the control method that it frankly shouldn’t have released in its absence.
Power on, regardless of the issues, and you’ll be rewarded with some stunning encounters that’ll prompt pause, leaving you marvelling at the majesty of a range of placid dinosaur species. Conversely, you’ll also face unnerving encounters at the sharp claws of some unsavoury carnivorous types. Tense stealth sections see you creeping around packs of raptors, physically peeking through gaps in scenery to best seize the opportunity to make a move, or throwing objects to distract them in an exciting realisation of the classic Jurassic Park kitchen scene.
If you’re spotted, another unfortunate issue comes to light in the poor placement of checkpoints. You’re sure to be sent back a decent trek whenever Robin meets his end, but whilst slow movement makes VR nice and comfortable for the most part, it does mean there’s no expedient way to get back to where you were. Considering this sluggish retreading of ground comprised a proportionally decent amount of the four to six hours it takes to complete the game, many will struggle to justify the price.
When all's said and done, even with its myriad of flaws, Robinson: The Journey is a charming jaunt. A Disney-like tale of a lost boy that longs for human companionship, but finds the same comforting dysfunction in an AI and a dinosaur. Crytek focused on creating a rich and interactive virtual world, to which end they succeeded, but it came at the cost of compelling gameplay.
Do you have PlayStation VR and fancy giving Robinson: The Journey a try? Then keep an eye out for our upcoming giveaway to be in with the chance of bagging yourself a copy.