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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews PlayStation VR.

TranscriptEdit

So it's officially Shooter Season 2016 - the wonderful time of year when the spectre of consequence-free violence stalks the land draining the nation's supply of ADHD medication. I've got the usual variety twin pack of Battlefield and Call of Duty on the list, but after Gears of War 4 I didn't want to be that guy who played too many shooters in a row and then drank a shooter while watching Shooter, the 2007 Mark Wahlberg vehicle and then became cursed every full moon to transform into the chairman of the National Rifle Association.

So instead I thought I'd have a go on PlayStation VR. It would have been remiss of me not to, since I've been talking VR up for years. It's a genuine advance in immersive gaming. How can it not be? No matter where you look you cannot be anything but in the game because you nailed two TVs to your fucking face. Admittedly VR is still struggling through two major teething troubles: firstly ensuring that the player doesn't look like a massive knobend to passersby a.k.a. the Google Glasses conundrum, and secondly, that it makes most people want to puke until their sex organs are dangling from their nostrils like Christmas mistletoe. But hey, Disneyland broke down on the first day too and VR wasn't started by a closet Nazi!

The other thing that makes VR interesting is that it's one of the few areas of gaming that's still evolving and exploring possibilities. Standard gaming has basically been perfected for years but the hardware lads still try to convince us we're missing out if we're not playing Halo in 10000p, counting every piece of gravel in Master Chief's driveway. Resolution in VR, meanwhile, is still crap. It's like sticking your head in a bucket of Lego, and improving that would actually mean something.

Let me reiterate now that the motion controls continue to be a used tea bag full of hot sewing needles and it upsets me that publishers keep trying to pair VR with it in the same way one pairs a punchbowl with a stream of piss. It makes no sense to me because it's combining a more immersive gameplay style with a less immersive one, effectively canceling them both out so you end up with nothing but incessant calibration tests and a living room full of trailing wires. Thankfully most PSVR games let you use standard controller but motion controls are always part of a broader initiative to market video games as a party starter: that wholesome box of living room fun around which inoffensively attractive 18-to-35s gather in pastel shirts to have quality time. And I get that the sense that PlayStation is having trouble relinquishing that mindset. Push your VR-based local multiplayer party games all you want: there's no denying that VR is inherently a singleplayer innovation. It's a device for lonesome spods to find more lasting escape from a cruel reality, which is great because it means those spods aren't shooting up movie theaters or hovering around an office Christmas party making suggestive remarks about vol-au-vents in a disastrous attempt to flirt.

Speaking for the spods then, the PlayStation VR helmet is comfortable enough to wear with enough adjustability that I can find a sweet spot where my vision isn't blurred and the bridge of my nose doesn't hurt after bare 30 to 40 minutes of fiddling which puts it above average for commercial VR headsets. And there I was, inside the virtual world with a heavy thing hanging off my face like a tortoise was trying to mate with my cycling helmet, which doesn't help with the queasiness but a big part of that is game design, and developers are continually finding new ways to mitigate the issue.

Batman Arkham VR, for example, hits upon the clever notion of being such incredible garbage that you close the game in disgust before you have a chance to feel ill. 30 fucking bucks I paid for a half hour CD-ROM virtual tour from mid to late 90s. I would've expected more if I found it on the cover of a fucking magazine. Now I know why I couldn't find a free demo of it. The demo would've probably been two nanoseconds of Batman looking sad.

Here They Lie was better: a rather absorbing horror game about exploring a dilapidated and increasingly fucked-up city that will probably turn out to be hell or limbo because that's usually the case in games like this and -- well, Limbo. It's a linear walking simulator and there's not a whole lot of gameplay barring a few rather anti-climactic monster hiding moments that felt more like a simulation of trying to walk home from work without having to pass by any groups of scary-looking teenagers. But I enjoyed it nonetheless, which may prove my point about VR as it was absorbing enough for me just taking in the sights, standing on the edge of bridges, leaning over and looking down to see if I could spot places that the developers forgot to texture.

I was, however, a little bit confused by the turning controls. Every time you nudge the right analog stick, the game pulls a black bag over your head, rotates it precisely 45 degrees and pulls it off again. I assumed it was another puke preventative but I wouldn't have thought merely turning around would have caused a stress mess until I played Windlands, which is a game that lets you turn off the black bag approach, and turning felt like my brain was attached to my eyeballs with partially melted Slinikes.

Windlands is rather basic platformer with an air of my first Unity project. But if you're looking for an encyclopedia of nausea prevention aids then look no further than its options menu. "You want black bag turning? You want to disable strafing? You want to stick your head in a great big hamster ball? Come on! There's got to be at least one combination of these that will keep your lunch down while you enjoy the very expensive tech investment you've got strapped to your bonce!"

About the hamster ball thing, there's the option to put a cage around your head partly because one must occasionally take a risk trying to stay ahead of fashion trends, but partly because having something stationary around you helps with the nausea. "Hey! I thought we were sitting immobile on a couch!" says Mr. Body as we play VR. "What's all this jumping around and exploring dilapidated cities business Mr. Eyes is going on about? I'm confused, so I'm going to have a big sulk and send all this food back up to Mr. Mouth in protest." "No wait!" said Mr. Eyes. "Look! There's a stationary cage around us. We're sitting immobile after all." "Hmm, story checks out." says Mr. Body. "My apologies. Back to normal business. Let's eat something bad for us and have a quick wank."

That's the theory anyway and perhaps it's the reason why VR comes into its own with games where you're piloting a vehicle. It would be a shame if VR ends up only really working with certain very specific kinds of games like the thing that Wiimote had with rail shooters and bugger all else. But doing only one thing can go a long way if you do it well enough and anyway vehicle-based gaming covers a larger variety of experiences from Forklift Simulator 2016 to giant mech combat in orbit around the planet of tits.

The game that finally gave me the VR experience I wanted was Eve Valkyrie, a space shooter. That was where it all came together: the yawning majesty of the infinite but an inch of Plexiglass away, interludes of intense, 3-dimensional combat, looking down and seeing the body of someone attractive and physically fit. Of course the only version of the game available cost me $90 and only had 3 story missions which is taking a not insignificant amount of piss. But you know what, there's no need to rip a toilet seat out just 'coz there's a bit of piss on it. That's what your sleeve is for!

AddendaEdit

  • Forever struggling with the knobend issue: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • I find the nausea is further mitigated by spending the entire play session with my head immersed in a fish tank
  • Well it takes your mind off it at any rate
Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2 · Hellblade · Agents of Mayhem · Sonic Mania · Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle · Destiny 2 · Metroid: Samus Returns
Q4 Knack 2 and SteamWorld Dig 2 · Cuphead · Hob and A Hat in Time · Middle-earth: Shadow of War · The Evil Within 2 · Super Mario Odyssey · Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

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