There is an understandable amount of scepticism about virtual reality headsets among gamers. Despite VR being implemented in the same way that many imagined it to be, the technology behind it has so far been lacklustre. Various companies tried to make it work in the early 1990s, but to no success. Much like 3D, it seemed that VR was a good idea in theory, but very difficult to implement to the level that people expected. Fast forward twenty years and Sony have been hard at work on their own version, Project Morpheus, but how good is it?
I will admit to being sceptical, following an unpleasant experience during a session of Alien: Isolation on an Oculus Rift at a conference last year. The game gave me motion sickness and the headset itself was rather uncomfortable; it certainly didn’t get my hopes up for this new VR age.
Nevertheless, I was keen to try Morpheus, and immediately felt at ease. The headset sat snugly on my face but wasn’t uncomfortable; it was easily adjustable at the back and at the front, and this flexibility gives those with glasses to be able to experience the headset without limitations too.
Shortly after the headset was secured on my face, I started off on a demo of upcoming title The London Heist, and was stunned at how immersive the experience is. You start sat down in a dimly lit room, with a big burly man standing opposite, smoking a cigarette. As I scanned the environment, the tall figure moved, and flicked his cigarette at me. I moved back on my chair to try and dodge it, not because being hit by a lit cigarette would probably affect my in-game health, but because I felt like I was actually sat in the chair in that room. That was my first ‘woah’ moment of VR, and it only got better from there.
The London Heist is, as the name suggests, about a robbery. After an interrogation scene, you take control during a flashback in first-person view. With two PlayStation Move controllers (yes, really – Sony hasn’t quite got another plan for this yet), you have to search through drawers to find a diamond. Shortly after this, armed guards arrive and much like classic light-gun game Time Crisis, you have to pick off the guards while ducking for cover; the crucial difference being that you actually have to duck for cover yourself. While I’m sure I looked quite silly crouching on my knees and slowly bobbing up to pick off the remaining enemies, I didn’t care – it was great fun, and I felt like an actual bank robber.
To its credit, the Move controller works well here, allowing you to move your hands in-game freely and easily, and there are even some nice touches, such as having to reload your gun by pushing the left controller into the right one. However, it still doesn’t feel right when you’re wearing a brand new VR headset, but using a controller that was released seven years ago.
To track your movements, the PlayStation Camera is utilised to its maximum potential, rather than just the usual voice commands it is often used for. It operates well, and head movements are both accurate and smooth.
The fun didn’t stop there: Rebellion have remade Battlezone, the old school tank shooter from the Atari days, and a playable demo was available. The demo used a standard DS4 for the controls, and it worked very well, with a very detailed cockpit that made me try to reach out and grab some of the dashboard; again, I felt quite stupid when I remembered that it wasn’t real.
Morpheus isn’t just shooters, as Capcom showed off their terrifying new horror title, codenamed Kitchen, and while I didn’t get to experience it (the queue was HUGE), the vast majority of players let out screams of pure terror.
There was also a thoroughly entertaining showcase of Playroom VR, which sees the Morpheus user become a giant monster who has to dodge attacks from robot players and then chase them over a bridge. While it certainly isn’t as immersive as The London Heist, it provides good family fun, which is something we haven’t seen much of in the various VR demos.
With my experience with Morpheus over, I was pleasantly surprised at my lack of motion sickness. The enhanced refresh rate of the headset is said to eliminate sickness, and it certainly works.
As I mentioned, I was sceptical of the Morpheus before I started, but this experience has reignited my excitement for the future of VR. It’s still early days in its development, but the potential is huge, what with big titles such as Driveclub, Project CARS, Surgeon Simulator and War Thunder all confirming VR support, and with new titles being announced regularly, the Morpheus will definitely be serious competition for the Oculus and Hololens.