It’s hard to deny that all the best VR experiences are happening on PCs. They have a multitude of excellent premium headsets, an open software market, and plenty of support from the likes of Valve software. The problem is that VR on PC is just so darn expensive. A powerful gaming PC will run you well over $1000 and then you have to shell out half again as much to own a VR headset. Not too long ago things were even worse, with the necessary figures almost double!
Sony saw a huge gap in the VR market and now we have the rather excellent PSVR, which is compatible with all PS4 models, including the very affordable PS4 Slim. Not only that, but Sony has re-purposed the Playstation Move controllers, which were an attempt on the PS3 to compete with the Nintendo Wii. This means you can find these accurate motion controllers all over the place as used items, might still have them lying around, or can just buy them new if you have to.
Right now, hands down, the PSVR is the most affordable way to get a AAA VR experience. This is especially true if you are already a PS4 owner, since you just have to buy the HMD and then you’ll be ready to rock.
PSVR – Not So Exclusive
Usually when it comes to highlighting the best games on a given platform, it makes sense to highlight games that are exclusive to that platform instead of ones that you can also play elsewhere. In this case, however, it doesn’t matter to me that you can play some of these games in VR on a PC. It doesn’t even matter if they’re better on a PC. The difference in asking price between the two systems is so vast that you can either afford the best or not. Instead, I’d like to concentrate on the games that I think are the most fun on the PSVR, ignoring wherever else they may be available.
Note that some of these games require the move controllers, some work better with them, and others are perfectly fine with just the gamepad. Always make sure to check the controller requirements before shelling out for a game.
Resident Evil 7 VR
This may not be an exclusive PSVR game, but it sure as hell is a system seller. Resident Evil games (known as Biohazard in Japan) go with the Playstation brand like peanut butter and jelly. This is basically the only truly AAA PSVR game right now, but honestly it’s worth buying a PSVR just to play RE7 VR. Then all the other lesser games are just icing on the cake.
Of course, if you have no appetite for horror games in general then a VR horror game is probably not the way to go, especially since RE7 has received acclaim as one of the goriest, grossest, and scariest RE games in ages. Resident Evil 4, 5, and 6 went into a much more action-oriented direction that worked very well at first, but the sixth game really jumped the shark for many people. RE7 signals a return to survival horror in a big way, and nothing is as heart-pounding as experiencing it up close and personal. Just be glad the PSVR has no way to replicate smells. Yet.
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Batman Arkham VR
Batman doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to quality video games. For the most part Batman games over the years have risen to the level of “mediocre” at best. That is, until the game studio Rocksteady created the first Batman Arkham game, Arkham Asylum. They showed that they really understood what it took to make you feel like the Dark Knight, and the slick hand-to-hand combat system they created has since been emulated by a number of other games.
Arkham VR is by no means a full-scale Arkham game, but it does demonstrate once again that Rocksteady lives inside the mind of our batty friend. Arkham VR is an action adventure game rather than a brawler. For a little while you get to embody Bruce Wayne’s alter ego and live a small part of his story.
While you do play the game standing up, you can’t actually walk around, which makes sense since the PSVR doesn’t really offer a way to move around freely. Instead there’s a bit of teleportation, but that doesn’t diminish the excellent illusion the rest of the time. Arkham VR may not provide the VR Batman experience many people would have hoped for, but it does provide the best take on a VR Batman game with current hardware. Remember, always be yourself – unless you can be Batman.
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In the year 1980 there was a little game called Battlezone released in arcades and for the incredibly popular Atari 2600. The game was remade in 1998 with less success, but when VR came to the PS4, the license was revived for a virtual remake.
Battlezone is notable for being one of the first 3D games for a home console and in the arcades. This VR version of the game is clearly much prettier than that blocky original from three decades ago. There’s not much to explain about the gameplay. You have a tank, they have a tank, don’t get blown up. Easy. It’s a funky sit-down vehicle arcade game that will help you recover from the dark depression of Resident Evil.
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VR has really found a home in cockpit-based games – whether in the seat of a jet fighter, a racing car, a giant robot, or a space fighter.
At first glance EVE:Valkyrie might look a lot like Elite: Dangerous or even Douse of the Dying Sun, but the resemblance is only skin-deep and this is a beast of a different kind altogether. There’s no space exploration here. This game was built to be a VR-only multiplayer dog-fighting simulator set in the EVE universe. There’s single-player content, but this game should really be played with other human players.
The game was originally PC-only as well as VR-only, but both of these things are no longer true. The game can be played without VR and also on the PSVR system. CCP, the developer, has also indicated that it wants to allow cross-platform play between PC and PS4 users.
This is a game that’s very light on story content, but if you want to have a thrilling space combat then look no further.
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Star Trek Bridge Crew
This is also available on PC, but I like this game so much that I think PS4 owners should know about it too.
Star Trek Bridge Crew pretty much does what it says on the box. You can assume one of four roles on the bridge of the USS Enterprise. Unfortunately this is set in the nuTrek universe with Chris Prine rather than in the TOS or TNG ships which most Trek fans (such as myself) would prefer. Still, one must not look a gift horse in the mouth; the game really does have a fantastic level of polish and it’s a good game at its core.
Although it is possible to play this alone, it’s meant to be played with three of your friends. Each person assumes a role on the bridge and you have to work together to accomplish your missions. Yes, this is basically the premise of the fantastic Artemis Bridge Simulator, but in VR and with an official license. Even if you aren’t particularly a Star Trek fan this game is a worthy addition to your PSVR library and a different take on exploring space in VR.
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Rez Infinite VR
Rez is a game that originally found life on the now-ancient Playstation 2, but it has been revived over and over again since then to live on multiple generations of consoles.
Rez is widely thought of as one of the most imaginative video games ever made. It’s an abstract musical game built around a core of shooter mechanics. While the colors and rhythms of Rez were never meant for VR, it’s turned out to be a match made in heaven – so much so that the game has won awards almost every time it gets re-released.
However, Rez is such a psychedelic game that a lot of people felt it might actually be a bad choice for a VR remake. In practice, it turns out that it’s a brilliant idea for a VR game and has been widely praised as a must-have experience on the PSVR platform.
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Just like Statik, Superhot VR takes the limitations of VR and turns that into its main strength. This is a game about standing still in one spot while you fight off a massive assault by a bunch of guys with knives and guns.
Sounds like a pretty typical video game so far, right? The big difference is that in this game you have incredible reflexes; so incredible that time literally stands still for you and only moves forward when you move. That makes Superhot not an action game, but a tactical puzzle game. You can spend as much time as you like figuring out how you’re going to take out all the dudes without being hit, since just a single hit is enough to kill you. When you have it all figured out you have to execute your plan. If all is well, you’ll make it out alive while your enemies lie defeated around you.
Superhot also has a distinct visual style. It’s not a heavily textured game, but this helps you keep your head in a complex environment and makes it smooth as butter. This is a unique and dynamic experience that will realize your bullet time dreams.
Something that (most) game developers have figured out pretty quickly is that you can’t just extract the game design models that work well on a 2D screen and stick them into a VR game. You need to think carefully about the nature and limits of the VR hardware in front of you and work within those limits to make something brilliant.
Statik is an amazing example of taking a limitation and turning it into a game’s defining feature. This game makes use of the standard PS4 gamepad instead of the motion controllers and is specifically designed to make sense as a seated experience. You see, in the game both of your hands are trapped inside a puzzle box, matching perfectly with the fact that both of your hands are holding onto the controller, which is being motion tracked. This creates a very convincing illusion that your hands are actually trapped in the box and shows how you can make something incredibly immersive with a few simple design tricks.
To free your hands from the box you need to manipulate its various parts by pressing the buttons on the controller. Each box is different, so the buttons change the effect they have with each puzzle. Through a patient process of trial and error you can figure out how to get the darn thing off you. It’s not a big AAA game but it’s clever, enjoyable, and deserves to be in every PSVR collection.