While I had a brief hands-on in a simple luge demo last year, this E3 brought a much longer and more in-depth hands-on with Sony’s Project Morpheus VR headset for PS4, along with an idea of what kinds of games we can expect to see on it.
First up, as far as VR headsets go – it’s actually pretty comfortable. There’s a small button on the underside to adjust the headset’s proximity to your eyes, and another couple of knobs to secure it to your head. It’s light and the field of view is very good – it even seems slightly wider than the new Oculus consumer model. It’s hard to tell which of the two has the better display, as I initially felt the Morpheus had the edge, but after playing Edge of Nowhere in the Oculus, I’m not so sure. They’re definitely competitive with one another.
I played through a few demos at E3 2015, so here are my impressions of them:
This is a proof of concept demo from Capcom, as it’s not necessarily tied to any actual game in development, but just an idea of how a game could utilise the Morpheus. It felt a lot like Condemned as you’re given the role of a police officer tied to a chair in a decrepit living room, obviously having woken up after an attack. Your partner is also there, injured but struggling to free himself and help you. You’re unable to do much but sit and watch, although the motion control on the PS4 controller means that you can swing your arms around and have that movement reflected on-screen. A horrible zombie-like girl with a monster face appears and desposes of him. She then turns her attention to you and stabs a knife into your knee – a pretty cool effect with the 3D depth of the VR unit. She disappears briefly, before the game starts trying to creep you out with the surround sound, as you hear shuffling all around you. It’s pretty obvious she’s behind you, as she holds your head from behind, lifts your head back and gets to work with the knife – this is where the demo ends. It’s a short, gory piece of work, but it’s not a bad indication of what horror experiences could be available on the Morpheus platform.
I’ve played this demo before two years ago on the Oculus, and it’s just as fun as then, although there’s a bit more control now. It’s a simple 3D space shooter, like Colony Wars, as you have to shoot up enemy ships. However, along with standard machine guns you can also lock rockets by pointing your head towards an enemy and focusing on them for several seconds. The AI in the game seemed predisposed to circling around you endlessly, leading to several situations where I’d boost away from a battle and just see a big circle of ships rotating around each other. However, it’s still a fun application of VR.
This was decent, though hardly the best VR experience I’ve had. It’s essentially a time trial around a Trackmania-style race course, with vertical corners, loop de loops and massive jumps. The sense of movement and vertigo was decent, but not as extreme as in other games, and it was a bit repetitive overall – you play through the map once to get your bearings, again to race a ghost car and a final time on autopilot so you can have time to look all around you in VR.
The Playroom VR
This was a multiplayer demo where I was not using the VR headset. Another media person had it on and took the role of a Godzilla-style monster destroying a city. Four players using PS4 controllers and looking at the screen took the role of the little Playroom robots running away, trying to dodge the Morpheus’ players attacks along a narrow highway. This part of the demo was pretty average for the regular players using the screen, but the second part redeemed the whole thing rather nicely. After coming to the end of the highway, the screen players turn the table and run around a small arena picking up items to throw at the Morpheus player. The Morpheus user then has to duck and dodge their head to avoid these in real time, which was a great concept and really fun to play around with.
There’s still no release date for Project Morpheus, or even a final name, but it definitely looks to be a real competitor to the Oculus and a handy VR solution for the PS4.