Some of the most immersive experiences in VR are due to the the simplest things. The ability to smoke a virtual cigar. Twirling a gun around your finger while riding an elevator. Pulling yourself up a ladder with your hands. And sometimes, it’s putting you smack in the middle of an action movie with a pistol in one hand and a pack of C4 in the other. It’s slowing down time and letting you feel like a bad ass special agent with operative training. And then, of course, there’s the ability to kneecap a guy just because you don’t much like the things he’s saying.
One of the best experiences early in PSVR’s life was The London Heist, a small game that was bundled in with PlayStation VR Worlds. London Studios has taken what they’ve learned in that smaller experience and applied it to their upcoming full game, Blood and Truth. I got the opportunity to step into the shoes of an action hero at PSX last weekend, and what I played could very well end up being one of the best VR games of 2018.
I was first set to break into a casino stealthily, giving me the chance to do things like pick the lock on a door, manage the security monitors, and crawl through an air duct. London Studio have done an amazing job at making everything feel as real and immersive as possible. You climb a ladder by moving your hands. You pick the lock by actually making the motions with the lock picking tools. You manage the cameras by pressing the buttons to swap between them. I’ve been playing VR since it launched last year, but it was fun to watch other players try to figure out what they had to do. We’ve been programmed by so many video games for the gamification of experiences–press X to do this, jam a joystick in the forward direction to move or climb–that actually needing make the realistic motions ourselves is counter-intuitive.
Yet it’s these very realistic motions that help with the immersion of feeling like an action movie hero. Don’t tap X to activate the elevator. Reach forward and press the button yourself. Don’t use the analog stick to move through the vent. Actually mimic moving your arms like you are pulling yourself through the narrow passage. While breaking into a casino is a lot of fun, I’m also excited to get more of those immersive moments in between the action, like smoking cigars and other mundane things. It’s those little things that add a ton of immersion and realism to the experience.
Once on the casino floor I was forced into a firefight while I attempted to plant multiple C4 charges. Movement isn’t exactly full locomotion, as there are specific points you can go to, but you move in between those points instead of teleporting, so it allows you to keep firing at the bad guys as you run along. As I strafed between gambling tables, I reloaded by pulling clips of ammo off of my belt and shoving them into the bottom of the gun. Players of London Heist may already be familiar with this mechanic, and its triumphant return really helps to sell the moment.
Next I was forced along a path chasing down someone who had information I needed, so I couldn’t shoot him. What I could do was shoot the swaths of enemies that came running out to defend him. Along this set of hallways I could shoot fire extinguishers that sent me into a slow motion bullet-time sequence. Each time it felt like my senses were heightened and I was the expert specialist that the game had placed me in the role of. Finally I was able to confront the cur who had the information that I needed.
A few dialog options popped up during this sequence, but I could choose to ignore them if I wanted. I could answer nicely, angrily, kill the guy, or even pop a bullet into his knee before the sequence ended. I chose all four, starting out nice, losing my patience, then capping him in the knee, and finally shooting him in the head as a cadre of enemies chased me out of a window. I looked down at the street below, shattered glass all around me as the screen faded out and the demo came to an end.
London Studio has been at the forefront of VR development since the launch of Sony’s virtual reality platform. Their follow up to one of the best received experiences from PlayStation VR Worlds is shaping up to be everything that The London Heist was and more. As fun as it was to be the action star for this demo, I’m really looking forward to the smaller details that London Studio will pepper throughout Blood and Truth.