PlayStation VR’s life started strongly. With games like Rez Infinite, Thumper, and Job Simulator launching alongside the system, and Resident Evil 7 arriving a few months later, there were plenty of reasons drag the cables out and put the headset on for a new experience every couple of weeks. But as the system approaches its second birthday, we’re having to wait longer and longer between quality releases. The time has come for Sony to prove that PSVR has a future beyond tech demos, and that starts at this year’s E3 press conference.
This past six months, in particular, have been barren of notable VR releases. Certainly, none in the same vein as Superhot or I Expect You to Die last year. What’s replaced them have been dull and disappointing experiences that have been no more than tech demos in fancy dress. Supermassive’s Bravo Team was supposed to be the big, exciting shooter of early 2018, but it had clunky gameplay, was riddled with technical issues, and didn’t make good use of the Aim Controller that was introduced by Farpoint. Gran Turismo Sport’s PSVR functionality was more limited than many expected and was completely separate to the game’s main campaign. We’ve also seen awful cash-ins for movies like Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Martian, and Justice League, none of which would persuade you to even go through the palaver of setting the system up.
We’ve been treated to one top quality PlayStation VR exclusive so far this year: Moss. Polyarc’s game does an excellent job of making VR work with a traditional gaming experience. It’s a mascot platformer that controls like any other, but it’s a more immersive virtual reality experience than almost anything else available. Through cute interactions and a great use of depth, you’re captivated by Moss’ world, and it’s more of these kinds of experiences that PlayStation VR needs.
We need to see some huge announcements during E3 to really assure us that PSVR has a future as a proper gaming platform. Games may not be revealed during the showcase itself; a new Tetris game from Tetsuya Mizuguchi, the creator of Rez, was the first pre-E3 Sony announcement, and that’s a great start. However, while Tetris is a well-known name, Tetris Effect will likely be quite a niche experience. The system needs titles that are both unique enough to be compelling beyond just one or two play sessions, as has been the case for much of the peripherals recent lineup. Things aren’t looking great for 2018, so far, though. The standout names are Transference, Golem, and Ace Combat 7. Not much is known about the first two of those games, but they stand out due to who’s involved with them (Elijah Wood and ex-Bungie devs respectively) and Ace Combat is a flight-sim, which is something we’ve seen plenty of already in the likes of EVE: Valkyrie. Sony is unlikely to lend huge IPs such as Uncharted or God of War to VR developers when their time would be better spent on a new core entry in exclusive franchises, so they need to reveal unique titles that offer something new, fun, and substantial.
Although lacking in notable software, there are also issues with PSVR’s hardware that Sony might look to improve sooner rather than later. Arguably the biggest drawback of PlayStation VR is the accessibility. Plugging everything in, moving all the obstacles out the way, getting the camera set up properly can be a pain – it often isn’t worth it to play an underwhelming game for 20 minutes. Aside from a higher quality screen that offer visuals that are at least on par with the competition, simplifying the experience is what a PSVR 2.0 needs to bring.
However, whether that’s actually possible restricted by the budget constraints that have seen PSVR emerge as a viable mainstream VR unit remains to be seen. Regardless, even if Sony was to generate a buzz with a new model, it desperately needs to spearhead a more concerted effort to bring quality games to the platform.
As someone who picked up a PlayStation VR at launch, it’s disappointing that I rarely have a reason to get the headset out more than once a month. Between launch and mid-2017, there were reasons to play VR games every few days. Now, though, while there’s still some quality games available, they’re few and far between and often more like tech demos than fully fledged games. Sony’s E3 showcase needs to prove that there’s reasons to be excited about PlayStation VR throughout 2018 and beyond. With or without a new headset to showcase, the focus needs to be on substantial new games that are more than tech demos or gimmicks.