Greetings, denizen of the virtual reality realm. Make yourself comfortable, because I’ll be using this new weekly column to be taking you through some of the most coin-worthy new VR games on Steam. The not-so-good ones? We’ll cast a glance at some of those too.
You see, it’s all to save you from expending your time, energy and money on titles best confined the virtual abyss. I’ll even trip over my HTC Vive’s trailing headset cable and bludgeon my knee on a desk for you at least a few times a week – look, I’m practically providing a public service here.
Oh, and while I’m focusing on the Vive for now, be assured that I’ll be giving the Oculus Rift some love (not like that) in due course. But before I delve into the good, the bad and the ugly to have hit Valve’s store in the past seven days, let’s have a brief recap of some of the VR gold that’s already out there.
Because, remember, gamers: while the turds may be virtual, the smell is real.
Awesome VR sauce
An oldie but a goodie, HoloPoint remains one of the best ways to work up a sweat in a headset. The frenetic archery game uses the Vive’s room-scale tracking to great effect, forcing you to duck, weave and spin as you aim arrows at holographs while avoiding returning fire. You’re one part Legolas, two parts Neo, three parts a badass.
And you may have already heard about Raw Data, which looks better than a kebab at 3am. The wave-based shooter can be summed up in three words: lightsabers; guns; robots – that you can punch in the face. If you’re not sold on it after that, then sorry – there’s nothing more I can do to sway you.
Looking for a freebie? Of course you are. Rec Room, which grants you a lifetime membership to a swish online multiplayer sports den filled with Nintendo-styled avatars, is what the Wii U should have been. I’ve had to begrudgingly tear myself off it just to try other games this week.
Dodgeball, table tennis and disc golf provide solid entertainment, but it’s paintball, which uses a teleportation-style movement system, that will keep you returning. The only downside is that matches are sometimes plagued by more camping than a Scouts’ weekend. Rage-quitters: you’ve been warned.
Finally, there’s Onward. A brilliant tactical FPS sim that’s more Arma 3 than COD, it practically demands to be experienced in leather boots with warpaint smeared across your face.
I’ve only scratched the surface of what’s out there, and you could do worse than checking out out our list of best VR games if you want to uncover more gems.
Or, you know, read this column every week – that works too.
New ‘n’ tasty
So what’s new, pussycat? If you’ve been looking for a charming multiplayer game that tests your reflexes, dexterity and aim, then Bomb U! is well worth its diminutive price tag. It scores high marks for originality and gameplay, but you might be hanging around a while until a player comes online which is a bummer. But tha’s kind of expected for a game that’s barely out of Early Access.
This one positions you on a floating island in the sky that matches the size of your Vive’s room-scale play area and sees you go mano a mano (or girlo a girlo) with your foe.
The aim is to use the assortment of weapons at your disposal, including guns, maces and bombs, to blow chunks out of their safe haven until they have nothing left to stand out, causing them to tumble from the sky.
I had a heart-in-mouth experience the first time I lost, partly because I wasn’t expecting it but mostly due to the natural immersion of VR. From that moment on, a layer of tension was added to every match.
I found myself carefully stepping over missing tiles while stretching out arms to grab weapons and lob bombs like a man possessed. Timing a throw to trigger an explosion at your enemy’s feet and send them hurtling down is particularly satisfying, and it means you can still win even when the chips are down – just so long as you stay on your toes.
Speaking of which, VR Ninja requires the dexterity of an olympic gymnast. This sole aim of this avoid-em-up is to duck out of the way of shriunkens and other particles by diving onto the floor and contorting your body into various shapes that, judging by my sore limbs, evolution has not designed it to make.
Shots only come at you from the front and sides, however, which makes VR Ninja instantly less engrossing than fully-immersing 360-degree games like HoloPoint. Moreover, a lack of any combat to speak of makes it a bit, well, boring in comparison. Stay away, grasshopper, for there’s no honor in cricking your neck like I did on stage six.
Next up, VR Ping Pong is the table-tennis game I’ve been waiting for ever since I first played Sports Champions for the PS3 back in 2010.
Its cartoon-like graphics mark a refreshing change from other Vive paddle-peddlers such as Ping Pong Waves VR and Table Tennis VR. Blocky and colourful, it feels like being dropped into a NES game, or Counter Strike 1.6’s fy_pool_day map.
It also lures you into a false sense of security.
For the first 10 minutes or so, VR Ping Pong is hard. Like, really hard. I played on the medium difficulty setting against the practice bot and only mustered 78 points versus the computer’s 200.
The challenge stems from the game’s realistic and sensitive physics engine, which requires a light touch at all times – just like the real thing. Swinging wildly at the ball to execute power shots – as Sports Champions encouraged you to do six years ago – will more often than not result at it hurtling toward one of the 8-bit characters in the crowd.
All in all, a good addition to Steam’s library for sports fans. All it needs now is multiplayer.
Vive owners have been spoiled with some excellent archery games – namely HoloPoint, QuiVR and even Longbow Tower Defence from Valve’s The Lab – which all set the bar for future efforts. Unfortunately bow-based tower defence game Elven Assassin can’t match them for thrills.
You’re tasked with defending a castle from waves of muscular orcs that throw axes at your forehead. Ducking down behind the safety of your tower’s wooden panels is sometimes satisfying, but a lack of variety in Elven Assassin’s enemy models and occasionally glitchy controls mean that a lot of work needs doing on this release before it emerges from Early Access.
I’ve got balls of steel
Upon first inspection, the intriguing Don’t Let Go! sounds like a potential thrillride. More of an experience than a game, it requires you to keep two fingers held down on the keyboard while all manner of creepy crawlies climb up your virtual arm and hiss into your headset’s earcups.
The game’s newer Desert sequence is the more impressive of the two “maps” and ends in a close encounter that genuinely made me squirm in my seat. But it’s only worth the cost of entry if you’re looking for a simple seated tech demo to impress folk who haven’t yet experienced VR.
You know – like your 66-year-old dad.
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