Vir­tual re­al­ity


So, it’s fi­nally here. This time five years ago, Palmer Luckey was knock­ing to­gether a VR pro­to­type in his par­ents’ garage. Now the VR re­vival is com­plete, with Ocu­lus Rift and HTC Vive in homes and of­fices the world over (widely doc­u­mented de­liv­ery is­sues not­with­stand­ing), and both HMDs promis­ing to bring about the big­gest shift in videogames in 20 years.

The pages that fol­low ap­pear to tell a dif­fer­ent story. It’s true that nei­ther the Ocu­lus/Face­book part­ner­ship, nor the Valve/HTC one, has yielded an instant clas­sic to jus­tify the pur­chase of this tremen­dously costly new hard­ware. But it doesn’t re­ally need one: VR’s USP is VR it­self. Games’ short­com­ings can be off­set by the ex­pe­ri­ence of play­ing them from this as­ton­ish­ing new per­spec­tive.

In the al­most four years since Luckey’s newly founded Ocu­lus took the Rift to Kick­starter, the de­vel­op­ment com­mu­nity has fo­cused on how to over­come a set of chal­lenges in­her­ent to VR. Over time, con­sen­suses have been reached on re­duc­ing la­tency, on mit­i­gat­ing mo­tion sick­ness, on cam­era man­age­ment and player move­ment. Few of the games that fea­ture in Play this month fail to ad­dress th­ese tech­ni­cal chal­lenges. But VR is a consumer prod­uct now and, as ever, that means qual­ity is a ques­tion not only of pre­sen­ta­tion, but also of de­sign.

And so EVE: Valkyrie (p110), for so long a stan­dard bearer for VR’s tremen­dous po­ten­tial, falls short for a good old-fash­ioned lack of depth. The sim­i­larly Rift-bun­dled

Lucky’s Tale (p119) is held back by be­ing a by-the-num­bers 3D plat­former. But per­haps the most im­por­tant les­son to be learned from this month’s crop comes from Fi­nal Ap­proach (p120). As a proof-of-con­cept tech demo, it was as­ton­ish­ing, but as a fi­nal game it’s mis­er­able. Cru­cially, there’s much more to a good VR game than sim­ply be­ing good in VR.

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