E3 hasn’t even begun, and we’re already a bit weary about so many gaming publishers and companies hosting press conferences at the event. What’s one more, right?
In the case of the virtual reality enthusiasts at UploadVR—a media site, not a publisher or developer—their first take on the press conference format actually managed to raise our VR-loving eyebrows. The hour-long conference included some delightful surprises and solid fare for PlayStation VR, Oculus Quest, and gaming-PC platforms. Here are a few highlights from the indie-heavy event.
Every major article about virtual reality in 2016 included at least some mention of the immersive stealth demo Budget Cuts, but when that full game finally launched in 2018, the results fell a little flat. The lack of variety in terrain, enemies, and tactics made the game’s original sales pitch—Metal Gear Solid in VR—harder to swallow.
Hence, we were excited to see the game’s creators at Neat Corp. announce Budget Cuts 2: Mission Insolvency today, developed in cooperation with Fast Travel Games and slated to launch by the end of 2019. The game’s reveal almost reads like a beat-by-beat breakdown of what we had hoped for in the first Budget Cuts. First, there’s more world variety, including massive cityscapes and one sprawling, 007-worthy level spread across a bunch of moving train cars. Second, the game has finally given players access to an accurate long-distance stealth weapon (a crossbow!), which already looks like a great improvement over the first game’s awkward knife-throwing system.
Additionally, series’ creators Neat Corp. surprise-launched a new Stardew Valley-like game for PC platforms today: Garden Of The Sea. This early-access game is priced at only $6 and looks incredibly cute, but we can’t yet tell how its building, crafting, and pet-care systems work in action (since Ars’ VR critics left their PC headsets at their respective home offices). It’ll soon go toe-to-toe with another cute island-sim VR game revealed during today’s event: The Curious Tales of the Stolen Pet.
Arguably the showcase’s biggest surprise was Pistol Whip VR, a rhythm-shooter game from the developers at Cloudhead Games (who are also behind The Gallery puzzle-story series). Like other popular VR fare, Pistol Whip‘s action is timed to the beat of the music, but instead of having musical notes rush at you a la Beat Saber, your own perspective rushes forward in an on-rails manner. From that perspective, you can sidestep enemies’ gunshots and attacks while firing your own, and you can either focus on hyper-accurate shooting or rhythm-matching blasts. (And, yes, you can use your pistol as a melee weapon in a pinch, which explains the game’s name.)
Presumably, the VR veterans at Cloudhead have figured out how to make this auto-scrolling system work comfortably, as opposed to disorienting VR users thanks to rapid movement. We sure hope so, because this stylish blaster makes no bones about resembling John Wick (the developers call out that film series by name, and the demo video includes a player dressed in a stylish, black suit). Currently, Pistol Whip VR is slated to launch on “major VR” systems “soon.”
After receiving a flashy reveal at Sony’s 2015 PlayStation Experience, the VR adventure Golem has gone into such a lengthy hiding state that we’ve been openly asking if the game (led by former Halo composer Marty O’Donnell) has been outright canceled. Turns out, it still exists. There’s still no telling exactly how the game plays, but today’s brief trailer at least includes new footage and an announcement of a physical launch. When is Golem launching, though? Highwire Games still isn’t saying.
Thankfully, most of the showcase’s fare had firmer details, ranging from familiar VR sequels to weird, brand-new fare. In the latter category, Hotel RnR took the cake with one of the wackiest elevator-pitch sentences we’ve ever seen in VR: “an indie VR game about a rock-‘n-roll star smashing up hotel rooms for the devil.” In action, this summer 2019 game looks like the silly manipulate-anything concept of Job Simulator, only with an increased emphasis on smashy-smash lunacy that combines traditional weapons, supercharged implements of destruction, and everyday items. Destroy stuff as if you’re a drunken member of Mötley Crüe, officially on the devil’s behalf? Sign us up.
A single mission was teased for I Expect You To Die: Seat Of Power, which seems to put the original game’s puzzle-solving spy character in a position of power only to get caught up as a potential victim of a hit. We’ll see more about how that VR-puzzle sequel plays out when it launches on July 16.
And buyers of the new Oculus Quest platform will be happy to know that one of Oculus’s best first-party games, Echo Arena, has finally been announced for the weaker Quest platform. Sadly, its developers at Ready At Dawn did not arrive at today’s video presentation with visual evidence of this Quest port. So it remains to be seen how the game’s visuals and disc-flinging controls will translate from the PC-VR ecosystem (or whether this SKU will include the newer, gun-crazy Echo Combat mode).
There’s a ton more to dig into, so if you have any interest in VR games, we strongly recommend flipping through the below, embedded video. It includes updates on popular VR fare like Arizona Sunshine, Hotdogs Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, and Angry Birds VR, plus more new footage of the upcoming Valve Index Controller game Boneworks and reveals of a few sword-and-shield combat games (particularly the intriguing Undead Citadel).
Listing image by Cloudhead Games
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