VR does not have a huge presence at E3. Facebook and Oculus have a spot on the floor, and there are a few PlayStation VR titles in the PlayStation booth, but otherwise E3 is focused on non-virtual reality experiences. That won’t stop us from writing about them, though!
Developer: From Software, Sony Japan Studio
Platforms: PlayStation VR
Dark Souls series director Hidetaka Miyazaki is taking a bit of a break from creating brutal, oppressive worlds that frustrate as much as they fascinate to bring us something a bit lighter. Taking on the role of a magical fairy, your goal in Déraciné is to convince the world around you you’re real. You do this by manipulating the world around in a few ways, including snatching vials and keys from children who swear they just had these objects in their pocket and mixing them into a stew to make them bitter.
You also have a couple of more mystical powers at your disposal: you can “steal” time from certain objects and give them to others. In my demo, I was able to restore a wilted flower by grabbing a batch of grapes and sucking the time out of them, which spoiled them in the process. Your goal is also to more forward in time by using a magical time ring, and your objective is to restore its power every level.
Exploring this old-timey house by warping between interactive locations was intriguing, and I had to look under tables and high up in trees to progress. This may not be the harsh, fast-paced action we’ve come to expect from From Software, but the striking art direction and time-bending storyline could prove to be something unique. – Suriel Vazquez
Developer: Ready At Dawn
Echo Combat is not a sequel, but it does take place in a universe that has already been established by developer Ready at Dawn. Lone Echo released around this time last year and tells the story of a robot (controlled by the player) on a space station with one human crew member as they try to investigate a mysterious phenomenon. That game was bundled with Echo Arena, which was a sports game that used some of the gameplay mechanics from Lone Echo, but in a competitive setting. Echo Combat is the next step for Ready at Dawn’s “Echo” universe with players shooting each other in zero-g while trying to complete objectives.
The mechanic shared by all of these games is how the player moves through the environment. There is no gravity, so to move you must pull yourself along the walls, or by using jet boosters on your wrists. Being in control of your movement this way helps tremendously with the issue that plagues other VR games where moving along the ground using a control stick is disorienting. Pushing yourself off a wall to float to your objective feels great, and using the jet boosters on your wrist helps to give that extra little nudge you need.
In our match, we were trying to prevent the other team from delivering a slow-moving payload. My favorite moments were when fights would break out and I would grab onto cover with my left hand, extend my left arm to peak out of cover, and fire off my gun with my right hand. It’s some of the most fun I’ve had with a multiplayer VR shooter. Also, Soulja Boy was in my game randomly and I killed him at least twice. – Kyle Hilliard
Developer: Twisted Pixel
Defector comes from the minds behind funny games like ‘Splosion Man and Lococycle, but Defector plays it straight. You are a secret agent in Defector, and my demo began with sorting out my gear. I placed a communicator in my ear, and put a special contact lense in my eye that activated U.I., and as I would learn later, a special vision that helps me look for objectives. You move through the environment by pushing forward on the control stick, which is not ideal for VR games, but it worked fine. Before getting a gun in my hand, I had to have a conversation with the bad guy and there were numerous cdialogue options that lead to different outcomes. Our conversation ended with a woman, who I assumed was his girlfriend, revealing her true identity as my partner, and the pilots of plane we were on (did I mention we were on an airplane?) getting knocked out with some kind of noxious gas.
After conversing with my partner about what to do, we strapped on some parachutes to jump from the plane with the dead pilots to another that was flying in tandem. Usually, in VR, this sequence would fade to black to avoid all potential motion sickness, but that’s not what happened here. I got to experience the full jump, and had to grab onto the other plane as I flew by. After climbing into the plane by grabbing a series of handholds, my partner and I shot a few dudes, and then it was time to take on the nearby jets. We opened the door, and I preceded to shoot jet-planes out the sky with a very, very powerful gun. It was an intense experience, and I was impressed that it let me see all the crazy parts without fading to black. – Kyle Hilliard
Developer: Monstars, Resonair
Platforms: PlayStation VR
Release: Fall 2018
Suriel Vazquez wrote a big preview of his experience with Tetris Effect right here. Here’s what he wrote about the VR specifically:
Strapping on a headset to play Tetris sounds like something out of a dystopian future, but doing so is worth it for a couple of reasons. For one, it sort of forces you to put on headphones, which should be a given for a Mizuguchi game. Second, the visual flair that occurs when you transition from one song to the next is heightened when the particle effects fly right at your face.
You can also zoom the view of the board in and out, and at its most zoomed in, you actually have to look up and down to see the entire board. It’s weird and again probably won’t make you a better Tetris player, but this is more about the experience of playing Tetris than getting high scores, and it’s a pretty fun novelty.