Horror games are supposed to be creepy and claustrophobic, maybe make your palms sweat. They're not supposed to make you feel like you want to keel over and vomit.
On Monday, Sony announced that three big-name game developers would bring their hottest franchises to the PlayStation VR headset. You'd be able to play Batman, Final Fantasy and Resident Evil in virtual reality, Sony promised.
But two of those three big games are surprisingly disappointing -- and the third one is actually making E3 attendees feel sick to their stomachs.
By the time I tried Resident Evil 7 today at Sony's E3 booth, word had already spread. I'd heard from half a dozen journalists and influencers that something wasn't quite right about Capcom's VR horror experience. I knew that if I tried it, I'd probably regret it for the rest of the day.
But I had to do it, because Capcom had done something no other major video game developer has been ballsy enough to do -- bring their entire flagship game to virtual reality instead of just a demo. (In case you missed the news, you'll be able to play Resident Evil 7, beginning to end, in a PlayStation VR headset.)
At first, it was fine. In fact, it was pretty damn cool. Resident Evil looks great in VR, and it's incredibly immersive. You can actually peek around corners before you walk into a room, or quickly look behind you to see if you're being stalked. And the developers, knowing this, take full advantage.
But then, I started to sweat. I got a little dizzy. Suddenly, a huge headache came out of nowhere.
What I'm describing is known as "simulator sickness," and it's not new or unique to Resident Evil. Lots of VR games can make people feel sick if they feel they've been turned in a direction that doesn't match up to the real world. Some are more sensitive then others, and I've had people tell me they never get sick at all in VR. (Yet some of those people tell me Resident Evil made them sick, too.)
It's not hard to pinpoint the problem. Resident Evil's control scheme, which allows you to rotate the camera without actually turning your head (or press a button to instantly "crouch") is the kind of thing that tends to cause a flare-up in people who get sick in VR.
To its credit, Capcom has some time to figure it out: Resident Evil 7 doesn't ship till the end of January, over seven months from now, and a Capcom rep says the company's still figuring out the VR controls.
So that's Resident Evil. What's wrong with Final Fantasy and Batman in VR? They're what we like to call VR experiences -- not actual games you'll play more than once.
The Final Fantasy XV VR Experience is literally just a disembodied gun that you shoot at a Final Fantasy monster while several other Final Fantasy characters bash on it with swords, often passing right through the creature with no effect. That's followed by a brief sequence where you're seated in a car next to one of the ladies of Final Fantasy, with nothing to do but stare at the leather seats and the dusty road.
Batman: Arkham VR is a bit better -- you get to don the Batsuit, throw Batarangs, fire grapple guns and descend into the Batcave for target practice, then analyze a crime scene with other cool tools -- but developer Rocksteady describes it as an hour-long experience with another hour of replay value. If you were expecting a whole new Batman: Arkham game where you traverse Gotham City in VR, you're out of luck.
None of this means there aren't great VR games in Sony's PlayStation VR line-up. I'm a big fan of Battlezone, EVE: Valkyrie, Rez Infinite, Job Simulator and more. My colleague Ashley Esqueda tried five fantastic indie games for PlayStation VR that you'll absolutely want to watch out for.
But if you were hoping traditional big-name game developers would just stroll onto PlayStation with the killer apps for VR, you should probably know they're still in the experimentation phase right now.
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