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Gaming News

Borderlands 2 VR Coming To PlayStation 4 In December

October 9, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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2K and Gearbox Software plan to bring Borderlands fans deeper into Pandora than every before on December 14, when a retooled version of Borderlands 2 launches on PlayStation VR. Who’s up for some cel shaded motion sickness?

More than just the original game with a new control scheme, Borderlands 2 VR has been significantly reworked in order to make it virtual reality friendly. A new game mechanic, called “BAMF Time” (or “BadAss Mega Fun Time”) slows down the action, allowing players to dodge bullets and perform other cool maneuvers. Driving vehicles now happens in first-person, with weapons controlled by head movement, and players can choose between standard controller movement or that new VR standard, point-to-point teleportation.

First-person driving with head-aimed weapons? Count me delightfully queasy!

And this version of Borderlands 2 is a single player experience, which means Vault Hunter skills that rely on teamwork are out. Maya’s “Res” ability, for example, is now something called “Empathy,” which eats her health and damages enemies, with extra bonus of doubling healing during BAMF time.

Hey Maya.

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Changes aside, Borderlands 2 VR looks to be a more up-close and personal version of the original. Harvesting full-sized weapons out of treasure chests, getting so close to enemies you can almost smell them — sounds like a good time.

Borderlands 2 VR arrives on PlayStation VR on December 14.

Gaming News

In Space Channel 5 and Dragon Quest VR, The Hero Is You

October 3, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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A Tokyo Game Show attendee plays Space Channel 5 VR.Photo: Chris Kohler (Kotaku)

When I was in sixth grade, my best friend at the time penned a short story for a school assignment that was titled “The Video Game That Sucked Me Into It.” We did not have the lingo of “self-insert fanfiction” or “Mary Sue” at the time—I’m pretty sure neither of us even had an America Online account at this point—but this hard-copy tale was the offline, ur-version of that, the story of a young man very much like the author who found himself pulled into his CRT and on an adventure with the cast of Super Mario World.

This would turn out to be a very common fictional trope among people our age. I did it too. I only mention my friend’s story because I laugh out loud every time I think about its title, and I was thinking about that title after recently playing Space Channel 5 and Dragon Quest in VR, two games that are about precisely this: Being sucked into the world of your favorite video game. Long these many decades later, it is finally an idea whose time has come.

Space Channel 5 VR Kinda Funky News Flash! and the more prosaically-titled Dragon Quest VR are at the opposite ends of the spectrum of VR experiences. I played both games a couple of weeks ago in Tokyo. One’s a simple PlayStation VR game, the other is an elaborate, four-player, room-scale installation that uses a massive custom-built playing space in Tokyo. What they have in common is that you don’t play as the series’ well-known heroes. You play as a non-descript avatar, and you interact with the heroes just as you interact with the villains. In other words, you’re You.

Space Channel 5 VR.Screenshot: Grounding/Sega

As a big fan of the Dreamcast originals, I’m really glad to have Space Channel 5 back in action. They were sort of the Dreamcast’s Parappa the Rapper, helping define the then-new genre of the character-and-story-based music game. The difference was the music was funk and the setting was something like Austin Powers In Space, but instead of Mike Myers with fake teeth the star was Ulala, a television news reporter in an era in which all TV news is set to music and dance.

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Ulala’s signature look, the cotton-candy pigtails and vinyl orange miniskirt, made her a striking game protagonist. But would you really want to “be” Ulala, in VR? To not actually see her in the game unless you look down to see her hands and feet awkwardly inverse-kinematizing themselves around as the PlayStation VR attempts to divine your body position? No. You want to see Ulala, to hang out with her, to witness all her perfect dance moves in life-size.

So that’s what Space Channel 5 VR gives you. You’re a cub reporter who happens to be on the scene with Ulala when aliens invade the spaceport, and you have to engage in funky dance-offs with them to stop them from hypnotizing the human populace and/or get them to leave in humiliation. The Tokyo Game Show demo is pretty much a repeat, then, of the plot and setting of the first level of the original Dreamcast game. But that’s part of the appeal as well—being inside the world of a classic game that you have fond feelings for.

Space Channel 5 VR.Screenshot: Grounding/Sega

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The VR version is much more kinetic than the originals, as you might imagine: Instead of pressing the Dreamcast controller buttons to get Ulala to do her dance moves, you actually do them, with two PlayStation Move controllers. Enemies will also shoot beams that you have to dodge. There’s a gameplay purpose to having Ulala there, since you can watch her do the dance moves and know what you’re meant to be doing at any given time. (The game’s pretty lax about the input windows for all of these things, which is probably for the best.)

It’s a hell of a lot of fun. The development team, made up of many of the original Space Channel 5 developers, has absolutely nailed the details. And that’s also an important part of the “inside the world of the video game” trick: that it matches up perfectly with what you’d imagine it to be.

I’m not as much of a Dragon Quest fan as I am a Space Channel 5 fan, but I imagine that feeling of happiness when being enveloped by the world of a game series you love is the same feeling that’s currently being felt by thousands of Dragon Quest fans as they cycle through that series’ new VR installation in Shinjuku, Tokyo. Part of the same VR Zone facility that houses Mario Kart VR, Dragon Quest VR is an experience head-and-shoulders above all of the other branded VR demos in the whole place. (And it’s priced like it, too—about $30 just to play it once, on top of the VR Zone admission fee!).

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A Dragon Quest VR logo projected into the entranceway of Shinjuku VR Zone.Photo: Chris Kohler (Kotaku)

The whole experience is sort of like going on a Disneyland ride. First, you wait. Not in a line, but in a little cordoned-off area, so that as soon as the group ahead of you is finished, you can be escorted in. Prior to the actual VR game, you’ll watch an introductory video that preps you for what you’re going to do: As a group of four people, you’ll enter into a series of Dragon Quest battles. Two of you will be warriors, swinging swords, holding up shields, and forming a barrier between the enemies and the two other players behind you, who are black and white wizards.

Much like in Space Channel 5, you’re not playing as any recognizable character from the series. They show up later, heroes and villains both, at appropriately spectacular moments. But before you get to all of that, you do have to decide amongst yourselves who’s going to play what role in the party. Not wanting to rock the boat, I said I didn’t care, and got stuck being the healer, meaning that if we died it would be my fault.

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A trailer for Dragon Quest VR, with in-game imagery, is shown at the Shinjuku VR Zone where players wait to try the game.Photo: Chris Kohler (Kotaku)

After the intro video, the next step was to proceed one step further into the Dragon Quest VR space, into a small room with a cart full of computers and assorted equipment. There, staff members strapped massive gaming laptops onto our backs. This let us move around the play space unencumbered by wires. We were brought into said play space, which is a large black room, something like a Hollywood soundstage. A grid of lines on the floor gave us our starting positions, and we were quickly given our VR headsets and motion controllers before we had too much time to look around behind the curtain.

And suddenly, we were in the world of Dragon Quest. We looked around to see each other, no longer tethered to our boring human forms but now living Akira Toriyama puppets. After an interstitial screen to get us all synced up, we were in front of the King, who told us to go out and fight some monsters and slay their evil lord. Cool, no problem.

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What you look like in meatspace when you play Dragon Quest VR.Photo: Chris Kohler (Kotaku)

We were thrown immediately into a battle. While a true recreation of Dragon Quest would have had everyone waiting around while we picked options off a menu, Dragon Quest VR is understandably action-based. We can only occupy a relatively small square of the playing field (pretty much just enough space for four adults to stand and swing our arms around without punching each other in the face), so the enemies started off in the background and moved towards us. The warriors got in front and hacked and slashed away, while we mages used spells to attack from a distance.

The first battle, set in a green field against classic adorable monsters like Slimes and Drackies, was a literal and figurative walk in the park. I imagine that if you have ever dreamed of being transported into the world of Dragon Quest, this is precisely what you imagined you’d be doing. These guys were so cute I had to resist the urge to hug them. The next battle scene was much more intense: With your backs to a cliffside drop, you have to fight off larger, scarier, more damaging enemies like Golems.

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The elaborate custom setup for Dragon Quest VR is explained on an instruction sheet handed to visitors.Photo: Chris Kohler (Kotaku)

The final battle against the demon lord was surprisingly difficult. Actually, he wrecked us, and I kind of think that’s what Dragon Quest VR is designed to do: Smack you down so you’ll pay another $30 to come back and win. (I’ll pass on some helpful advice to you if you happen to play this and be the healer: Just spam your healing spell. Don’t try to be cute and use your attack spell and shift over to healing only when the characters are in danger, because they go from “danger” to “dead” in less time than it takes you to switch spells. Spam healing all day.)

There’s a line in the instruction book for the original Super Mario Bros. that I’ve always found interesting. In the Japanese version, it reads: “The Mario inside your television is you.” In the early days of games, the idea that the protagonist and the player were the same being was commonplace, but you don’t hear that so much any more. If anything, it’s more common for games to play with that notion by reinforcing the separation between player and protagonist. With VR games, that’s changing, and for better or worse, it’s introducing a new character into these long-established worlds: “You.”

PC News and Reviews

Oculus Quest Announced: A 6DoF Standalone VR Headset

September 27, 2018 — by Anandtech.com0

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Oculus VR this week introduced its next all-in-one untethered VR headset, based around a 6-degree-of-freedom (6DoF) positional tracking system as well as the same optics as the Oculus Go launched earlier this year. Essentially an upscale, more powerful iteration of the Oculus Go, the new Oculus Quest will hit the market next spring at a price starting from $399.

The key feature of the Oculus Quest is its inside-out 6-degree-of-freedom (6DoF) positional and controller tracking that does not need any external sensors or a PC. The manufacturer says that tracking relies on four ultra-wide-angle sensors and computer vision algorithms, but does not go beyond that. When it comes to display subsystem of the Oculus Quest, the developer claims that the new unit has the same optics as the Oculus Go, but a display with a 3200×1440 (1600×1440 per eye) resolution (up from 2560×1440).

Besides graphics, Oculus VR also indicates improvements of built-in audio capabilities of the headset. Last but not least, the Oculus Quest will ship with its own Touch controllers that work just like controllers of the Oculus Rift, which will be a welcome upgrade when compared to the current-gen untethered Oculus Go headset that comes with a very simplistic controller.

Oculus VR has not disclosed which SoC it plans to use with the Quest, but considering the fact that the chip has to run games in a higher resolution than the Oculus Go and also process computer vision algorithms (unless Oculus VR uses a special purpose chip for them), it is safe to say that the new headset uses something that belongs to the ultra-high-end of the SoC space.

When it comes to games that take advantage of the Oculus Quest, the manufacturer promises that “over 50” titles will be available at launch, including games originally developed for Rift, such as Robo Recall, The Climb, and Moss.

The inclusion of Touch controllers as well as a more advanced SoC naturally had an effect on pricing of the new headset. The Oculus Quest 64 GB model will cost $399 (and this price alone implies on a more powerful SoC than the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 used for the Go), which means that the unit will sit right above the Oculus Go ($199 – $249), but will still be more affordable than the Oculus Rift ($399) which requires a high-end gaming PC to function.

Related Reading:

Source: Oculus VR

Gaming News

New Darth Vader Game Is Coming To Oculus VR

September 26, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Vader Immortal is a new series of virtual reality games coming to the just-announced Oculus Quest headset.

Here’s the trailer:

Not much to go on there, other than the fact it looks like you’re playing as some scmuck who gets kidnapped by Darth Vader then forced into some kind of Indentured Sith Apprenticeship Scheme.

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The first episode will be out alongside the Quest, which launches in Spring 2019.

Gaming News

Ubisoft's New Thriller Transference Isn't Very Thrilling

September 21, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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It is spooky to traverse through the simulated reality of the psychological thriller Transference, but it feels like countless spooky experiences I’ve had before.

Scientist Raymond Hayes has created the means by which a human consciousness can be uploaded to a digital simulation. To test his experiment, Hayes uploaded the brain data of himself, his wife, and his young son. Predictably, this alternate reality goes haywire, and players must enter this glitched dimension to discover the fate of the Hayes Family.

If you’ve played any of the exploratory adventure games of the last few years (often derisively known as “walking simulators”), then Transference will feel overly familiar, a bit like Soma, Gone Home, Layers of Fear, and P.T. mashed into one. You see the game world in a first-person view. You interact with objects and find video logs that will provide background information and provide some puzzle clues. You walk down hallways, figure out how do open locked doors, and solve a mystery. You’ll encounter a few scares along the way. The most unusual feature is the mix of live-action footage in computer-generated environments.

The story, too, is filled with recognizable tropes: A brilliant, eccentric man doesn’t feel recognized by the world at large. He becomes obsessed with his work and neglects his family. His wife gives up her career to support him and regrets it. His growing mania puts everyone in danger. Disappointingly, it hits all the same old beats and plays out as you’d expect it to.

Screenshot: Ubisoft

There are some touches that make escaping the Hayes apartment a challenging experience. There are essentially three versions of the apartment, each tied to the consciousness of a family member, and flipping light switches allows you to change perspectives on the fly. The item that you need to solve a puzzle in the son’s bedroom might be found in the dad’s version of the kitchen. You have no inventory and can’t simply carry items until you need them, so you need to remember exactly where you spotted that certain something. Although the layout of the apartment doesn’t change, the three realities feel like glimpses into three distinct consciousnesses.

Puzzles are often presented as missing data. Solve the puzzle, clear the glitch.Screenshot: Ubisoft

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The sound design is a highlight, as whispers, knocks, growls, and other requisite horror noises come from all around you. A glitched-out monster-looking thing makes a few appearances, and while the experience should be a terrifying one, you’re not really in any mortal danger. This lowers the stakes completely, much to the game’s detriment. Like Layers of Fear, it feels as if Transference has a story it wants to tell and you’re just along for the ride.

As a collaboration between film production company SpectreVision and developers Ubisoft Montreal, Transference is presented as a cinematic game what with its brief runtime (about two hours) and Roger Rabbit-style blend of live-action footage and standard game environments. In the framing narrative, Raymond Hayes (Macon Blair) addresses you directly and explains the situation, and the experience is akin to watching a videotape. Once inside the simulated apartment, you’ll find genuine photographs and video footage of the Hayes family. While this is supposed to make you feel like a real person interacting with an actual alternate reality (a sensation heightened if you choose to play Transference in VR), it still comes off as goofy as an old full-motion-video game.

Screenshot: Ubisoft

There’s no doubt Transference is an interesting world to inhabit for a little while. Puzzles will keep you on your toes, running the gamut from “find the key” to a few head-scratchers. The colors and glitch effects are terrific, reinforcing the idea that you’re in a simulated reality. Ultimately, though, the superficial trappings of the game aren’t enough to transcend the overall feeling of familiarity and make it a totally unique experience.

Gaming News

Zone Of The Enders In VR Is Some Good Mech Action

September 4, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner is one of my favorite mech games. It has downright horrible localization with the voice acting to match, but the combat is fast. A new remaster for the Playstation 4 adds a VR mode that finally gives me the definite mech-nerd experience.

Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner released on the Playstation 2 in 2003, at a time when the series was mostly famous for having a demo of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty in the package for Zone of the Enders. Kojima’s strange mech drama was always a niche affair, but The Second Runner reached new players thanks to an involved story featuring multiple locations and combat with tons of sub-weapons to choose from. The game became a cult title for mech enthusiasts, enjoying a remaster on the PS3. Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner — Mars, the Playstation 4 remaster, keeps the game alive in the next console generation and adds an entirely new VR experience.

In Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner, players take the role of Dingo Egret, a miner with the best name ever. He’s also a retired ace pilot of a giant mech called an orbital frame. After Dingo finds a highly valuable frame hidden on one of Mars’ moons, he’s forced to pilot it and face off against space terrorists. High tech hilarity ensues.

Giant mechs fall on a spectrum ranging from Battletech’s tanky and slow battlemechs to the amazingly agile mobile suits from later Gundam series. Zone of the Enders’ orbital frames are firmly in the latter camp—they engage in fast melee duels and can literally warp across space and time. The emphasis on agile combat and dramatic, anime-esque poses creates a unique pace where each new enemy pattern is part puzzle, part fashion statement. The joy of Zone of the Enders has always been taking out enemies in as stylish a fashion as possible. Mars cleans up the graphics and the sound with sharper edges and surround sound that adds an extra punch to each explosion. However, it’s not the fresh coat of paint that’s most impressive; it’s the chance to see the game from a new perspective.

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Mars’ VR support allows players to experience the action from the cockpit of the game’s mech, Jehuty. It swaps out the dramatic poses and awesome choreography for something more intimate. Jehuty’s cockpit has always functioned as a safe space in the series: In Zone of the Enders, the cockpit is the one place where young protagonist Leo Stenbuck is absolutely safe. In The Second Runner, pilot Dingo Egret’s life-support draws energy from Jehuty. Fans finally have a chance to sit in that safe space, and the result is empowering. Zipping around in Jehuty is exciting, and seeing the action close up really helps sell how powerful the mech is.

Adjusting to this new perspective can take a while. Mars offers a new “Very Easy” difficulty mode to allow players more leeway in first person mode, but there’s not a lot done to revamp the core experience. As a result, the frantic hack and slash action that worked so well in third person can seem strange in first person. It often feels like your attacks are flailing around wildly, and changing targets can be abrupt. It’s never enough to become a deal breaker, but it does take some of the allure out of controlling a giant mech.

Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner — Mars is a great excuse for fans to leap back into the game, but it’s also a chance for new players to see why so many people gravitated towards the series as well. The fast, explosion-filled combat mixes well with the corny dialog, and getting to play from the cockpit is a real treat. Plus, unlike walking in Skyrim VR, it didn’t make me puke. 

Tech News

Google brings Chrome to Daydream VR headsets

July 30, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Google

It’s been a long time in coming, but Chrome browsing in VR is finally here. Google has released a version of Chrome that supports both Daydream View and stand-alone Daydream headsets like the Lenovo Mirage Solo. It can visit any website and includes Chrome staples like incognito mode, syncing and voice search, just in a wearable-friendly format. Google is also promising Daydream-specific features like a “cinema mode” when you watch online video.

You should see the VR-ready version when you update Chrome on Android. This make the most sense if you have a dedicated headset (where there isn’t a guarantee of phone access), but it promises a much more consistent VR experience. You could resume reading a story from your desktop, or check on a web guide for an app without having to remove your headgear.

Tech News

Adorable VR game 'Moss' now supports Windows Mixed Reality

July 27, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Polyarc

Launched earlier this year as a PSVR exclusive and eventually released for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive last month, adorable adventure game Moss is getting an update to support Windows Mixed Reality headsets.

In addition to the great Moss Soundtrack news, @polyarcgames is excited to announce that with today’s Moss update, we’re now supporting the @Windows Mixed Reality headsets. Now Moss can be played on all four major VR platforms. #Moss #WindowsHMD #Dell pic.twitter.com/Nm5AyTCY9Y

— Moss now on Rift | Vive | PSVR (@PolyarcGames) July 27, 2018

Now players on all four major VR platforms can get into the immersive, lush, Zelda-esque world of Polyarc’s Moss with its charming little mouse heroine. Players will control Quill and her magical orb to navigate dynamic platforms, solve environmental puzzles and even fight bad guys across several chapters of engagingly beautiful design.

The new update also adds a new Controls sub-menu that enables two new controller layouts to better suit your play style. The first option lets you swap between the default Touch-to-Move style and a new Press-to-Move layout. The developer says that this should help “mitigate a handful of the ghost input issues players have been reporting.” The second option gives players the ability to change the way the Jump and Attack actions are mapped, to “alleviate issues players have been reporting with the Vive want touch pad.”

Tech News

'Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice' is getting the VR treatment

July 26, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

British developer Ninja Theory is bringing its critically acclaimed Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice to the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive later this month. The new version will be available as a free update for anyone that has already bought the game on Steam, starting July 31st. According to Ninja Theory, the VR version is almost identical to the original game — this isn’t a side story, or some kind of technical demo that you can blast through in 30 minutes. It will retain the original’s third-person perspective, keeping the player locked behind Senua. You will, however, be able to turn the headset to look around and gently guide the Pict warrior in a different direction.

For Ninja Theory fans, this is an unexpected bonus. During development, the studio was transparent about its small team size and meagre budget. Following divisive blockbusters Heavenly Sword, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, and DmC: Devil May Cry, the company found itself on a financial knife-edge. To survive, it needed to make a “triple-A” game that was both visually stunning and artistically interesting with dramatically less cash. The result was Hellblade, a beautiful exploration of psychosis, Norse mythology and Celtic Culture. With over 1 million sales and a bunch of awards, the team was acquired by Xbox owner Microsoft last month.

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If you’re curious about the new version, here’s 14 minutes of VR gameplay:

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