PlayStation VR is a Must-Own Platform for 2019

 

 

I’m just going to come out and say it: PlayStation VR has become a must-own platform for 2019. I know that, commercially, all the focus is in other places and deservedly so. Yes; Xbox is buying up studios and creating services to make that push for the next generation. And yes; PlayStation has been making some noise knocking the balls out of the park with their PS4 games. And still yes; Nintendo Switch remains an unstoppable machine. However, it seems like no one has noticed that PSVR has quietly had a critically dominating year and is now a must-own console.

No console is worth a single game, no matter how good that game is. You may buy a console to get that game, but you do so knowing there are others worth your time. That was also PSVR’s truth in its first two years. It had some really good technical experiences, but it really only had a single game or two I would recommend as a buy. It mostly felt like a collection of technical demonstrations.

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A game in a game so you can game while you game.

Let’s go back to January 2017. Until then, VR titles were mostly just simple experiences. Although some of them were still pretty good. Until Dawn: Rush of Blood is still a top tier VR title over two years late. Everything changed in January, as both the best and worst thing happened for PlayStation VR thanks to Resident Evil VII: Biohazard. This WAS the game to get everyone to run out and buy a VR unit! This was it! Then quit literally, it was it.

Afterwards, there was nothing. Crickets. It felt as if PSVR peaked after just three months much like the PlayStation Vita peaked early on with Uncharted: Golden Abyss. No one could figure out Capcom’s secret sauce. No one else could recreate how to make a full game work. Everyone read the tea leaves wrong and because of that, we got more experiences and PlayStation VR modes to games like Rise of the Tomb Raider.

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In all fairness, 2017 ended on a rather good note for PSVR. Superhot VR got ported and is easily a must own title if you have the headset. You also had Bethesda releasing Skyrim for the umpteenth time, and giving us Doom VFR. Both were complete games that were actually well worth your time, even though they were clearly inferior to their original counterpart.

And then came Moss in early 2018. We started seeing the shift from technical experiences to full-fledged games during this time, but even then, using VR was more of a planned event. There was still little chance I would sit on my couch and choose a VR game to jump into, not when my other choices were Assassin’s Creed: Origins, God of War, Celeste, Monster Hunter: World, or Destiny 2. The difference in quality, although narrowing, was still too much for me to choose any VR title over these others.

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Fast forward to a few months later: mid-2018 arrived, and that’s when developers finally figured out PSVR. One of the first releases out of this new batch was The Persistence. I was initially skeptical of this game. I just wasn’t sure how the grind of a roguelike would work in virtual reality, where getting physically tired after a few dozen minutes is more than inevitable. Pixel Ripped 1989 followed soon after and I had similar concerns. How is playing a retro 2D platformer going to work inside of a VR space? Both games completely blew away my expectations and abated my concerns.

What we were seeing is that success for VR wasn’t going to initially come from a new playing experience. The true success in VR was going to be from taking already proven genres and breaking them completely down. Then re-envisioning and creating that genre, from the ground up, to work in virtual reality. The wheel had already been invented so there was no need to recreate it. Just figure out how to make it roll inside of VR in a way it never could on a flat screen. The changes might be subtle, but they are substantial.

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Two games stick out to me as not only Best-Of candidates for Virtual Reality, but also being capable of going toe to toe with the premiere AAA titles of this year. Firewall Zero Hour is a Rainbow Six and Counter-Strike-type game that is stripped of non-essential mechanics that work for a flat screen, while adding functionality that makes sense in virtual reality. They don’t go in over their head, but rather tweak and polish one thing incredibly well. Astro Bot: Rescue Mission is a game I was wishing for ever since playing the rescue mission minigame in Play Room as a free PSVR launch game. I fully believe if this were a Mario game, it would have been mentioned in a lot more Game of the Year nominations, not just as a Best VR Title, but for Game of the Year itself. Astro Bot: Rescue Mission was as good and as game changing as playing Super Mario 64 for the first time.

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Throw in Creed: Rise to Glory, Deracine, Tetris Effect and Zone of the Enders, and the PlayStation VR lineup can easily rival any other console’s exclusive 2018 output. The reason is obvious: each title mentioned above is built to maximize what it already is, but through the use of VR, no matter the genre. All the signs are pointing to the fact that developers are finally figuring out how to best handle virtual reality. It is no longer a gimmick, but a new way for a developer to envision a proven genre.

We talk constantly about how the current generation consoles don’t feel “next gen” enough. We say that we are getting the same experiences that we did with the PS3 and Xbox 360, just with prettier graphics. Now developers are figuring out the best ways to maximize VR potential to usher in a true next generation. Because of this, PlayStation VR quietly became the best platform of 2018 and a must-own for 2019.

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