Backwards Compatible's first Hands-on of Playstation VR, formerly known as Project Morpheus, was a bit of a terrifing experience. Hopes were high after trying Occulus demos of Eve Valkyrie in prevous years, and finding the resolution of the devices a tad disappointing. Sony had set up some appointment-only booths on their stand and were offering a charmingly personal exprience.
"Are you of a nervous disposition? Do horror games upset you?"
"No," I lied.
The Sony rep was very specific about placing the kit on my head, not letting me touch any part of the device or adjust it. It fitted fairly well, although the feeling was that there was still some work to be done before the final consumer product is to be released. The headset was pleasingly light and confortable and did a great job of closing off the outside world.
The reps were also very careful to repeat that this was not a game, but a tech demo, and quite often had to correct themselves whenever they accidentally called it a game. The demo was called The Kitchen. Due to the graphic content in the demo, they couldn't display wat I was seeing on the main TV screen in the booth. Inititally the quality of the image was not the pin-sharp display I was expecting, however I felt that a bit more time spent with the headset setting it up to suit my short sighted vision would correct this.
After pressing any button to start the demo I was shocked by what I saw. I was suddenly in a dirty, dingey kitchen, with Resident Evil-style trappings, stark lighting and plenty of shadows. As with VR, moving my head around let me view the room in any direction. I was sat down, tied into a chair with my hands bound. The rep told me not to let go of the controller. I could look down and see my arms and legs. Looking left and right let me see the edge of my body and shoulders. in front of me was a video camera on a tripod. Experimentally I leaned forward and knocked it over with my head. Oops.
In front of me was an unconscious man in a bedraggled business suit lying on the floor. He started to move and get up. That was when the impact of VR hit me. As he stood up and walked towards me, with knife in his hand, I genuinely felt his physical presence. This felt like a real person in front of me and not a computer generated character. He was actually there. I was terrified. He held out the knife in front of him and I pulled back and flinched.
Thankfully he was, it turns out, a friend who was just trying to cut the ropes around my wrists, and managed to half finish the job, until a young asian girl with lank black hair (which admittedly has become a bit of a horror cliché) leapt out of knowehere and dragged him off into the shadows to brutally murder him. His dismembered head eventually rolled across the floor towards me leaving a gruesome blood trail. I involuntrally lifted my leg up to avoid it.
That did it. I started spinning my head around to find the girl, even to the point of looking directly behind me. Suddenly her talons from behind grabbed my head and yanked it up to her face, spittle dripping over my vision. Much clawing and stabbing of implements into my thighs later the demo was over, a concenred rep pulled the VR headset off my head and asked me if I was OK. Apparently my screaming had caused some concern from onlookers.
It was an incredible experience. My initial concerns about the quality of the tech were replaced by the joy of immerison and the sheer believability of the demo. My only reservations at the this stage is how this experience translates to full long term gameplay. As yet we have only been treated to demos. It will be interesting to see how the games evolve for VR and how we cope with extended time in the dark.