Sunday 4 December 2016

PSVR reviews: Rez Infinite, Thumper, PS VR Worlds

Rez Infinite (PSVR/PS4) 5 stars Age: 12+

Published 25/10/2016 | 13:39

Rez Infinite for PSVR
Rez Infinite for PSVR

A HEADY cocktail of trance techno, searing wireframe visuals and frantic shooting, Rez has waited 15 years for VR to catch up with its euphoric concept. Now Rez Infinite lays claim to be the definitive version of Tetsuya Mizoguchi’s seminal music rhythm shooter, which first showed up on Sega’s Dreamcast in 2001.

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Back then, it was a trippy little number, short on running time but possessed of a real spark that has kept its memory alive through a number of remakes from PS2 to Xbox. Infinite demonstrates Mizoguchi’s theory that its real home would always be VR.

This Rez works perfectly well on a regular PS4 in non-VR mode. Its on-rails shooting is still capable of thrills as you fire off missiles via a lock-on reticule at swirling enemies, each hit feeding into the pulsing beat of the soundtrack. But Infinite on PSVR pulls you like a magnet into its Tron-like world, the fast-moving graphics somehow avoiding inducing motion sickness, despite its frequent shifts of perspective.

Locking on requires just a tilt of the head and a squeeze of a button to shatter a phalanx of enemies into a glorious swarm of pixels.

Hypnotic and adrenaline-pumping, Rez Infinite may still be relatively short for the €30 entry fee. But it has one last surprise in the form of Area X, an extra level in which the rails are cast off for a free-form blasting session with a dramatically upgraded visual experience.

Clearly hinting at the direction for a possible sequel, Area X caps a triumphant return or perhaps a coming of age. Fingers crossed for Rez 2…

 

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Thumper

(PSVR/PS4/PC) 5 stars  Age: 7+

MUSIC rhythm games are generally a joyful affair, the satisfaction of matching beats to button presses delivering a tiny hit of dopamine with every score. But Thumper’s deliciously twisted take on the genre splices music rhythm with horror for a game that’s more anxiety attack than score attack.

You control what appears to be a beetle hurtling down a narrow, serpentine track, the neon-lit world warping and throbbing around you in time to a demonic, oppressive drum beat. Matching button presses to oncoming bursts of light increases the score and, occasionally, sends a torpedo back down the track to attack the nightmarish boss in your path.

In VR mode, it plays like a heightened encapsulation of the space vortex scene in Kubrick’s 2001, juxtaposing a breathless rollercoaster ride with a frantic test of the reflexes.

Created by two former developers at rhythm king Harmonix, Thumper subverts the genre with glee. You could carp that the music and the track design don’t evolve much after the early levels establish the premise.

At €20, though, Thumper is still an essential purchase for new PSVR owners.

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PlayStation VR Worlds

(PSVR) 3 stars  Age: 18+

LEADING game developer John Carmack (of Doom and Quake fame) accused his fellow VR creators last week of “coasting on novelty”. Carmack occupies the post of chief technical officer at Oculus, so he should know.

Look at many efforts in the fledgling Oculus and HTC Vive line-up and you can conclude the gee-whizz factor of VR takes them only so far.

PS VR Worlds also falls victim to the novelty factor. A €40 collection of five games, it’s unfair to call them tech demos but they’re clearly not each fully rounded experiences.

Charitably, you could say they showcase the future potential for PSVR. But there’s little to detain you here after you’ve run through the experiences once or twice.

The London Heist (pictured above) works best, a very sweary (hence the 18 rating) dip into Guy Ritchie gangster territory, mixing bits of mildly interactive theatre with full-on shootouts.

Ocean Descent is the one to show non-gamers the power of VR, though its quiet treasure-hunting trip to the bottom of the sea does get quite intense once the (spoiler!) shark begins to stalk you.

Danger Ball resembles 3D Pong, enabling you control a bouncing ball with a flick of your head. But without multiplayer or much in the way of options, it grows old quickly.

VR Luge throws you down steep slopes on a plank of wood and it’s as surefire an invitation to motion sickness as you’d expect, though the blurry visuals may prove the dealbreaker.

Scavengers Odyssey suffers the same issues to an even greater degree, ably demonstrating why first-person shooters will never be popular in VR.

So two out of five in VR Worlds ain’t bad but that’s hardly a great return for your investment.

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