Let’s face it: thanks the ubiquity of cell-phone cameras, social media and image hosting, we have now seen everything in the world that is worth seeing. That’s it. There is nothing else. Nothing new. Sunset over the ocean? Yawn. The Northern Lights? Meh. The blinking wonder in a newborn baby’s eyes? Shrug. Technology has doomed us to a future of disinterested clicking, a faded carousel of holiday snaps and travel blogs, which elicit neither laughter nor joy. The performance is over, the curtain has fallen, and we sit forlorn in the gloom of real-life’s theatre, squinting through the dust and blankly tapping the ‘Like’ button on our smartphones.
Mercy twice blessed, then, for virtual reality, arriving properly next year on PC via the Oculus Rift and PS4 via PlayStation VR. Rest your head, jaded traveller. Slip on your goggles and feel the fleshy shackles of your life-that-was fall away with a gentle click. Reality is dead. These are the eight VR games coming in 2016 that make it all OK.
100ft Robot Golf
The meeting was not going well.
“But it’s golf!” cried the first executive, throwing his heavy-bottomed tumbler of spring water across the room in frustration. “Golf is terrible. There’s no way to make it into a fun game for VR.”
The other suits sat in dejected silence round the boardroom table. Then, a buzzing; the soft rasping of wheels turning on expensive carpet. A clink of glass. The executives looked up. The office Roomba continued tending to the spill, oblivious.
“You don’t think…?” asked the first exec.
“Oh,” said the second, with a glint in her eye. “I do.”
A fevered hour later and they had their idea sketched out: giant robots, smacking massive golf balls around destructible cities, occasionally taking time out from the game to hit up to three other players at once with gigantic putters in glorious virtual reality. They all got promotions and the Roomba was hung on the boardroom wall. Like Tiger Woods, they had, however fleetingly, achieved the impossible: golf was as cool as mechs.
Something we always wondered about The Sims: when our lonely, malnourished, sleep-deprived householders slope off to their job at the courthouse/mausoleum/space laboratory, what happens? Job Simulator, in which developers Owlchemy Labs give you free license to go insane in a variety of tedious work environments, is probably the answer.
Set in a world where machines have made the slow, grave-ward trudge of the 9-5 an unobtainable luxury, people now use virtual reality to recreate life in the cubicle farm. Once inside the simulation, you can act out your most outrageous workplace fantasies: go on, throw that stapler out the window! Push over that fax machine! Pour coffee all over your workstation! So long as you’re happy, your binary overlords are happy!
We’ll take, “What is the absolute last game that Tim Kopra should be playing right now?” for $500.
Scientists go a bit funny when they talk about space. Whenever we watch a team of brave astronauts blast off into the darkening sky, the television fills up with earnest professors using words like “wonder” and “majesty” and “marvel”. And pointedly never “frozen sucking death-void”.
But that’s what space is, and that’s the space you’re trapped in in Adrift, a first-person survival game set aboard an orbiting space station. Or rather, the bits of it that are left after some terrible disaster breaks it up like someone dropped a Lego space station into a threshing machine. As a lone surviving astronaut, you drag yourself about in zero gravity, desperately grabbing for oxygen canisters, as you reflect that maybe a life teaching astrophysics to college students wouldn’t have been so bad after all.
Ace Combat 7
Of course, the problem of twitching out your final moments of cold and agony in the darkness of space is that you’re actually sitting warm and comfortable in a chair in your house. For virtual reality to be properly immersive, it needs to hurdle the problem of making you feel like you’re running about doing things while you’re sprawled across a couch like something being carried back to the ocean on a flatbed.
Unless you sidestep the problem altogether, and centre your whole game around sitting in a chair. Well played, Ace Combat 7. You can’t stand up in a fighter jet, even if you want to. It’s too windy. And there are loads of fighter jets whizzing around, hiding in the photorealistic clouds and trying to kill you with missiles. Best strap on that PlayStation VR headset and kill them first, eh?
Not that any of that needs explaining to CCP Games, which has been plugging virtual cockpiting since the Rift was made out of cereal boxes and held together by electrical tape and Palmer Luckey’s imagination.
We spoke to the EVE Valkyrie developers a while back, and since then the game has been such a staple at expos that this thousand-mile-an-hour-air-sickness-simulator – fronted by Battlestar Galactica’s Starbuck, Katee Sackhoff, no less – will now come bundled with every pre-ordered Rift that Oculus sells. Endorsements don’t come much stronger than that.
When we leave the real world behind, what will we miss, if not the rolling skies and merry tweeting of the birds? We’ll tell you what: murderous dog-fighting eagles, because we’ll have those in Ubisoft’s airborne virtual nightmare world of post-apocalypse Paris.
And before you say, “that’s not a post-apocalypse Paris – it looks lovely,” consider the facts. Eagle Flight’s Paris has been abandoned by humans, and colonised by a swarm of predatory birds that have made holes in all the buildings solely for the purpose of feathery aerobatics displays. This is basically that Hitchcock film, but in France. Don’t be fooled by the pretty colours and all the sedate gliding about – the City of Lights dangles limp in the talons of monsters.
Less of a game, more like what Daft Punk would dream about if they fell asleep next to a magnet, Rez Infinite’s PSX demo was a mad ballet of colours and basslines that was part flight sim, part ’90s techno nightmare. You soar through a neon wireframe purgatory blasting things with energy balls and chasing down robot hallucinations made from light that pulses to the beat. Then you take off the headset, ears ringing, and weep for the drabness of the real world.
How do you compete with a space sim that comes bundled with the Oculus Rift for free? Simple. You make promises. Huge, lofty promises. Star Citizen. And a first-person shooter. And a trading simulator. And have the best graphics. It will make you toast. It will rub your feet. It will be whatever you want it to be, so long as you give it your love.
All of which would sound like the sort of pledges a lunatic developer would daub onto the walls with finger-paints, were it not for the fact that Cloud Imperium Games has pulled in more money for Star Citizen than any other crowdfunded game in history. Studio head Chris Roberts also has a serious space sim pedigree in classic games like Wing Commander and Starlancer, and leads an army of loyal armchair captains who whoop and cheer his every pronouncement. For their sakes as well as ours, we really hope this is something special.
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