I’ll admit I have never been a big fan of virtual reality. Even though I’ve had my share of demos for VR technologies over the years, I haven’t felt compelled to buy any of the sets currently available. That’s mostly been due to how cumbersome setting them up would be (having to mess with cables, figuring out if I have enough room to play, etc), their cost, how bulky they feel, and most importantly, because I’m worried about closing myself off from the “outside world” by diving into a game and not paying attention to my surroundings and the people around me. The idea of closing myself off is still a little bothersome, but my reluctance to at least give games on devices like the HTC Vive, Oculus, and the PS VR is slowly giving way, thanks to some titles, like the two that I tried at E3 last week.
I’ve been a pretty big fan of the Sniper Elite games by Rebellion, so when the offer came for a demo for their newest game, Sniper Elite VR, I jumped at it, and to my surprise, I was floored at how immersive it felt. Taking place in Italy during World War II and borrowing assets and locales from the last game in the franchise, the excellent Sniper Elite 4, Sniper Elite VR has you once again behind the sights of a precision rifle, but instead of moving in third-person like in the normal Sniper Elites, the VR version has you in first-person exclusively.
I had already messed with a PSVR before, but this was my first go at playing with their gun accessory the way that Sniper Elite VR uses it, as an actual rifle you “aim” down the sights of. Thanks to the close one-to-one of handling it and seeing your player weapon in the game, I felt that I was really aiming and firing a real-life weapon. It felt surprisingly good aiming into and dispatching Nazis, who were streaming into a village through a bridge and row of buildings you’re tasked with defending during the demo. Moving in VR is usually a no-no for me thanks to the chance of feeling sick, but Sniper handles that part of the game quite well, and even though I played the entire thing sitting down, I didn’t feel any sort of movement fatigue. It was actually a whole lot better playing through the ten-minute or so demo with smooth movement on instead of the jumpy option that has you zip step by step through the environment.
As with the normal Sniper Elite games, you’re not locked into simply using a sniper rifle in Sniper Elite VR: there’s also a submachine gun, as well as grenades that you can aim, fire, and in the grenade’s case, toss in first-person, both of which felt just as good to use as the sniper rifle. For as early as Sniper Elite VR is in development, the early alpha version shown at E3 proved to be a fantastic proof of concept, and one I’m very much excited to keep a track of as it approaches release.
Speaking of a release date, there was nothing announced yet, but Sniper Elite VR will also be coming out for other VR sets besides PSVR, like Oculus Rift, SteamVR, as well as the HTC Vive, which I assume will make use of their specific peripherals in order to emulate the feeling of holding a gun.
Set in Machigame’s ridiculous version of WWII, or, better put, the world that followed the Nazi’s victory in that conflict, Arkane Studio’s Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot was the other VR shooter that almost convinced me of getting a set during last week’s E3. My demo time with this game was significantly shorter than Sniper Elite VR’s, but it gave me a good idea of what to expect from the final version of the game which is scheduled to come out next month, on the 26th for every system besides the Oculus Rift — it seems both companies are still sore in the wake of John Carmack’s departure from one in order to work for the other.
The game has you playing as a hacker who gains control of an Axis robotic suit and tasks you with making your way down a Nazi-occupied block of a city, taking out anything in your way. After a short tutorial that taught me how to use the machine gun and cannon, as well as the repair unit and escape pod, I was given free reign to wreck some havoc of my own. Unfortunately, that part of gameplay didn’t last too long, about three minutes or so, before the demo restarted and I was allowed to try that section again.
I was able to trek through a couple of streets and mow down some foot soldiers as well as some of the super robotic types that come straight out of the newer Wolfensteins like Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus and should be pretty familiar to anyone’s who played those games. They’re darn tough in those, but in Cyberpilot, they get turned into Swiss cheese quite easily thanks to your machine gun and how easy it is to find and exploit their weak spot.
Even though my time with the demo was extremely short, I had a lot of fun stomping about, and as with Sniper Elite VR, moving around didn’t feel bad at all even though I played it sitting down. That aspect of VR seems to have been conquered, and to all accounts, even players with limited movement capabilities will probably be able to enjoy these. I played Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot on a HTC Vive, and like PSVR, I had a good feel in both visual and tactical feedback, moving my in-game hands as I controlled my mech’s weapons.
I’m well aware that there are plenty of other applications for VR than just shooters, and that there are excellent examples of non-aggressive titles already out for many of the systems that are already out, but outside of a hand full of games that I have played over the years, I haven’t felt any urge whatsoever to actually own one of those things in order to play them at home. They were fine on their own as games I could play at events, like Moss and even Elite: Dangerous, but playing both Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot and Sniper Elite VR made me actually consider making the investment sometime down the line, which goes to show that even a curmudgeon like myself can be converted if there’s plenty to show for a particular piece of technology. I’m excited to see what else VR has to offer, and hell, I’ll probably buy one of these things next time I’m abroad.