PlayStation VR Worlds Review – Virtual Heist (PSVR)
As is the case with any new gaming platform, your primary concern after hooking it up to your TV is going to be which software will most successfully show off the hardware you’ve just purchased. Sony has been prominently advertising PlayStation VR Worlds as the game that will do just that, with it essentially assuming the role of the PlayStation VR headset’s answer to Wii Sports, only with less bowling and more London gangsters telling you to f*** off. However, whereas Wii Sports was a game that remained firmly on rotation until the Wii spluttered its dying breaths, PSVR Worlds is destined for an infinitely shorter life span.
PSVR Worlds is a collection of five mini-games, with each intended to highlight the capabilities of the headset. The London Heist is an on-rails shooter that whirls you through a couple of action set-pieces, each punctuated by snippets of a plot that happily apes cockney gangster film Snatch. Ocean Descent is an underwater experience that places you in a shark cage and sends you towards the ocean’s depths, where you’ll get to take a close look at a myriad of marine life including a particularly irritated Great White. VR Luge is a fast-paced ride down a busy street with your back facing the asphalt. Scavenger’s Odyssey places you in an alien all-terrain craft on a journey in space to find a hidden artifact. Finally, Danger Ball has you essentially playing 3D Pong against AI, only you control the direction of your paddle by moving your head.
With so few mini-games on offer, Sony’s London Studio therefore had very little margin for error if it wanted to create a launch package early PSVR adopters should invest in, but the developer unfortunately stutters in this regard. Only two of the games included in the compilation captured my imagination, with Ocean Descent and London Heist both proving to be the most compelling VR experiences of the collection by a considerable margin.
The former has you diving deep below the ground, wherein you’ll come face-to-fin with manta rays, glide through a smack of jellyfish (yes, a group of jellyfish is called a smack – you can’t say we don’t teach you anything) before finally encountering the Great White lurking at the end of the stage. Watching as your cage is ravaged by Jaws’ cousin is a uniquely terrifying experience, and though the Ocean Descent doesn’t feature any interactivity whatsoever, the beauty of your initial journey through shoals of tropical fish and Galapagos turtles juxtaposed by the horror of almost being eaten alive makes this as good as PSVR tech demo as any. Although there isn’t a good reason for you to personally revisit Ocean Descent after experiencing it the first time, it’s something you can whack on whenever you have friends or family who want to try out the PSVR headset for the first time. Although its qualities as an actual game are non-existent, it’s a good way to acquaint new PSVR users with the headset, so it definitely does its job.
But it’s The London Heist that is undoubtedly the cream of the crop here. Although you can play it using a standard PS4 controller, opting for two PS Move controllers allows you to manually reload your guns, picking up the magazine with one hand and then slotting it into the gun that you’re holding with the other. Though this doesn’t sound like a particularly exciting mechanic, you can only really appreciate how impressive performing such an action feels when experiencing it first-hand, and swapping the gun between my hands, shooting down enemies before swiftly slotting another magazine into my weapon made me feel like one-man army, albeit one that was wearing a ridiculous-looking plastic headset rather than a cool bandanna or something.
But despite The London Heist’s accomplishments in regards to selling the PSVR’s strong points, the experience is practically over as soon as it’s begun. You’ll engage in two shoot-outs, watch as its plot is violently spat at you by two London gangsters, then it comes to an end. All-in-all it clocks in at around the 30 minute mark, and while there is an extra shooting gallery attached to it to bump up the replay value a little bit, it’s not enough to warrant the asking price of PSVR Worlds as a full game. The London Heist’s swift conclusion wouldn’t be so much of an issue if PSVR Worlds was bolstered by a selection of similarly short-but-sweet mini-games, but that is most certainly not the case.
Stuck in a World
Scavenger’s Odyssey is a narrative-driven exercise in seeing just how fast you can lose interest in virtual reality altogether, with it strapping you into an admittedly impressive alien craft before sending you on a distinctly unimpressive journey across a bunch of space rocks. You’ll jump between these rocks, shoot down alien critters, then rinse and repeat. A thoroughly uninteresting plot is revealed to you while you continue on your bland adventure, but it has the audacity to end on a cliffhanger as though there is actually going to be a Scavenger’s Odyssey 2. There won’t be.
Danger Ball is Pong brought into the 21st century, with you headbutting the ball in order to send it hurtling to your opponent’s goal. Mechanically it works well enough, but a similar VR headbutting simulator already exists, with fellow PSVR launch title Headmaster being a much more enjoyable combination of the headset and the PlayStation Camera’s motion tracking capabilities. You can climb up online leaderboards, which adds a little bit of replayability, but it’s unfortunate that a multiplayer mode wasn’t implemented; it would have been preferable if it included a couch multiplayer game type in which your opponent could control the other paddle using the PS4 controller, but instead you’re stuck battling the boring AI over and over again. It’s a wasted opportunity, with it feeling like an under-cooked afterthought as a result.
But it’s VR Luge that is undoubtedly the biggest offender in this cavalcade of banality, with it strapping you to a board and sending you hurtling down a busy street, without replicating any of the excitement of such an activity. Failing to register any collisions you may have with the vehicles you race past, this essentially means you’re essentially on auto-pilot for the duration of the mini-game. You can control the direction of the luge by moving your head, but that doesn’t really matter; regardless of what you do, there is no danger of you dismounting your luge, with you blissfully gliding through cars like some kind of ghostly extreme sports enthusiast. Not only that, but the game doesn’t even sufficiently replicate the sense of speed you’d feel when rolling down a road at a presumably breakneck pace, with it instead doing so with all the proficiency of your average 3D Sonic game.
All-in-all, The London Heist and Ocean Descent are good VR experiences book-ended by mini-games that range from the woefully mediocre to the staggeringly dull. If PlayStation VR Worlds was bundled with the PSVR headset then these two mini-games would be a pleasant introduction to the new hardware, but as part of a retail release it’s difficult to justify throwing cash at a game that literally isn’t even half enjoyable. There are plenty of other PSVR games that show off the PSVR tech much better than this, and even if you’re inveigled by the prospect of a VR mini-game collection, you can download Playroom VR for free and save your money instead.
Review code for PlayStation VR Worlds provided by publisher. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.