Holy moly, virtual reality is truly mind blowing stuff. We were recently invited out to legendary developer Rebellion's headquarters to get some eyes-on time with Battlezone on PlayStation VR – and we've talked about little else since. This is only phase one for the fledging medium's return to the mainstream, and already it's floored us like Mike Tyson wielding a mace.
We've tried Sony's futuristic face-mounted format before, of course, but sitting in a quiet cubicle in Oxford, we got our best demo yet: the image was crisper, the unit comfier, and the experience so immersive that we almost forgot where we were. But let's back up for a minute: what exactly is Battlezone anyway?
Well, it's based upon an old arcade game which the veteran Aliens vs. Predator developer recently picked up the rights to. Fascinatingly, this rudimentary, line-based battler was, for many, their very first taste of virtual reality back in the early 80s, so 2016 marks a timely moment for the intellectual property to plot a return. It's much, much better now, of course, as we're about to illustrate.
You assume the role of a pilot sitting inside the cockpit of a tasty-looking tank. It's worth stressing that, through the power of virtual reality, you really are inside this expensive armoured car: look beneath your feet and you'll see foot pedals, while directly in front of you are radars and various other pop-out displays.
It's just incredible – the sense of place is extraordinary. And as the Batmobile-esque shields peel back, it only gets better. The demo starts in a huge hangar type environment, with robots whizzing around to your left and right. You need to drive down this corridor to reach a lift at the end of the cargo bay, which whisks you away to a training room.
Again, we can't stress enough how surreal this experience is; despite our demo taking place in a tiny sector of Rebellion's workspace, PlayStation VR tricked us into thinking that we were sitting inside a gigantic warehouse. The sense of scale is unlike anything that you can imagine; playing a game on a 50-inch television screen really doesn't compare to the illusion here.
But this is a game, too. With the tutorials completed, the taster warps you to a nearby battlefield, where you must blast a batch of wily war machines. The release plays like a fairly straight-forward first-person shooter; you can strafe similarly to in High Moon's Transformers titles, and you need to use this ability to avoid incoming fire.
It's fast, though, with a boost button allowing you to make ground quickly. And, in this early level at least, the game toys with the elevation of enemies; you'll fight tanks on the ground, while swarms of mechanical mosquitoes will attack from above. This forces you to look around rather than keep your head rigid, which is yet another asset of virtual reality.
You may think that moving with such speed would have you reaching for the sick bag, but we played the demo twice in quick succession and felt absolutely fine. The DualShock 4 is actually rendered within the tank's cockpit, which not only acts a nifty-looking control sheet, but it also helps to ground you by pairing the virtual world with something tangible from reality.
The developer's promising a full single player campaign, which will be randomly generated to ensure replay value. And it appears to be aware that, while the novelty of strapping on PlayStation VR and blasting a few tanks is hard to beat, it will wear off eventually. "We want to give you a reason to keep putting the headset back on," one of the developers explained.
But the novelty alone really is very, very appealing. We don't want to throw out too many superlatives, but virtual reality really is a game changer in the way that few innovations in this industry are; it's a Super Mario 64 moment all over again. And the best part of all this is that it works on the PS4 and is coming soon. Yeah, we're struggling to come to terms with it too to tell you the truth.
Are your organic canons creaming all over your computer after reading this preview? Does the brilliant Battlezone look like the kind of game that you'd like to play on PlayStation VR? Enter a different dimension in the comments section below.
So is this the game you were under embargo for earlier? It's Super Tuesday 2 here today in America so I'm sort of out of the loop. Now go take a cold shower.
"""Holy moly, virtual reality is truly mind blowing stuff."""
With all the time he's spending praising VR, he could have beat The Witcher 3 already.
@rjejr Correct. This thing blew me away. In fact, I asked to play the demo again it was that good!
"It's a Super Mario 64 moment all over again." If that means the same to you as it does to me...Whoa, I need to take this whole VR thing more seriously!
Eeeeeeeek lol. Phooey, October seems eons away
@kupo Honestly, it's unbelievable. It's unlike anything you've experienced before.
I just wish they included multiplayer as it would be amazing chasing down friends in a tank. It would also give it longevity too. Having played the original in the 80's I was actually looking forward to this one.
@get2sammyb "blew me away" touche', you win, you always win.
I'm still not sold, but then I've always thought of Mario 64 as a tech demo for Jak and Daxter. I've never been an early adopter.
Hers my big bottom line question - can this really be used for 2, 3, 4 hours at a time? I'm sure it's an incredible experience for 15 minutes at a time, maybe an hour, but long term, day after day? I have a great beautiful head of hair I need to think of.
Not very sure about this one, Battlezone needs a good remake but I think it would do better if it carried on from Activision's 1998 remake. This looks slightly disappointing already.
@JAbroni1002 I think this is spot on for VR to be fair.
@WARDIE I agree with you about this being the right game to show off VR. What I meant is it looks like is a tank FPS with fancy controls but nothing more to engage your mind. It could have so much more depth if they kept the strategy element from the last battlezone.
@JAbroni1002 I think they went a different way because of it being VR and not expecting people to sit playing it for too long of a session, unlike other gaming formats. I agree with what you're saying though. As it is, how long will this game hold our attention. Yeah it has randomly generated levels but, without multiplayer or the strategy you pointed out its going to get boring once the excitement of VR wears off.
Though I must say, this will be a good one to show your friends how good VR actually is. I just can't get past the lack of multiplayer.But having said that, this is in my top 10 VR games so far.
@rjejr I ain't t early adopting this anytime soon. I'd need to buy a PS Camera and Moves (I don't have those because Sony inevitably forgot them or they flopped so no shock there) and this thing could go the same way.
Maybe the tech is good. Maybe the games will be good. Everyone else I know lacks a PS4 and are they gonna spend upwards of £600? I think not.
I have a few gripes with VR just as a concept. Not necessarily with PSVR (Hidden price and being late to the Off-TV party at a higher price aside anyway) but VR in general.
1: Damn that's expensive. It's like playing on a 40"+ TV I hear. I just bought a 1080p LED 40" TV for under £200. Why would I want that on my face when I have a good alternative already? It's uneconomical.
2: First Person. @get2sammyb wants a shift in stagnated gaming and I agree. Gaming is getting dull. However simply changing how you experience any given first person title won't remove the fact it is still yet another first person title. And they make me motion sick but hopefully we get peripheral vision now!
3: Support. VR in general will need support and to get to the masses. Simple as. And with PSVR on its own...well it's a Sony peripheral and people have every right to be sceptical there because the track record doesn't help.
4: As @rjejr said, extended use anybody? How will it affect people with vision issues? Mental conditions being placed in tense situations? God forbid you have an immersed player go into a jump scare and boom heart problems and a lawsuit. To quote Dr. Egg man, it's not safe for anyone aged 14 or over, and 12 or under. It's also not safe for 13 year olds.
Finally...I've gotta say. The word fad is written all over this. I want innovative gameplay. Sure I can experience the game differently but how does it play? What I see is a neat way of the game giving you information while we sit back and do what we have always done.
Virtual reality as a term, to me, doesn't mean a neat immersion screen on my face. A virtual reality is a reality that you can interact with that is around your being and virtual. Think the Holodeck. It's really hard to explain. It's like the game is the world around you rather than VR being a window. Less of a screen and more reality. If that makes sense.
I really don't know. VR just hasn't impressed me. Maybe it's because trying it is so damn hard. Maybe it's the medical warnings from my doctors. Maybe it's my cynical and blunt look that it is, basically, a screen. But hey. I'll sit and play a horror game and quickly update my sertraline dose. Or give the soon to be VR Call of Duty to my war veteran uncle. I'm sure the wider gaming market they need to have buy this to make it long term are perfectly suited across all demographics and possible scenarios to have no repercussions at all. Not a bad idea for an editorial @get2sammyb might be interesting to look at the demographics and audience and see the possible problems such as health not experiences that could threaten it.
TL;DR I'm overly negative and am too focused on the possible downsides of VR and the struggles it might face. I should probably abandon the site now before I'm shot. IN VR!
It's a strange one this, on the one hand if this was just a normal PS4 release I doubt I'd give it a second look but the experience created through VR makes this very appealing, and if it's really a Mario64 experience as @get2sammyb says then I can't wait. We need some news on where we can actually try these things out as I can't wait until October
@rjejr "I've always thought of Mario 64 as a tech demo for Jak and Daxter"
Get the f*ck out...
How far away do you have to be from the playstation camera for the VR to work ?
I've always been a doubter. But this article has me excited for the first time. £450 for everything isn't that wild, and I do need to treat myself a bit more.....
@BLPs Actually it's like sitting 2.5 meters from a 250in. TV
Amazing as the experience may be, most games will probably either be first person shooters or on rails. Maybe I'm just a negative nanny like @BLPs
@JAbroni1002 if I'm not mistaken, rebellion also acquired the rights to Activision's remake of battlezone, so they will likely make an updated version of that too. The VR title is meant to evoke the Atari battlezone and it looks like they have done an excellent job of that. If this can replicate the feeling I had as a kid playing battlezone in the arcade, I'm all in.
I think, for the first phase, the novelty is so powerful that it can just about get away with simpler games. When you're driving down the tunnel that I mention in the preview, it's just unreal. The sense of space is absolutely mind blowing.
Never had a Mario 64 moment personally.
Tomb Raider 1 on the PSone though, that was the ultimate game changer for me, absolutely blew me away. Incredible experience.
Hope to give this a go at some point this year.
@rjejr I got the Gear vr and yes before everyone starts telling me it's not on the same level I know. Thing is I find it hard to play for longer then 30 minutes at a time, even if it is a subpar piece of equipment the experience is the same. It is painful on the eyes as they are constantly straining to do something which in a way is unnatural. And yes it will probably ruin your hair. The headset also gets a little uncomfortable after a while as it's much heavier then a standard pair of frames.
Still, it's a great experience and for horror games in particular I see a bright future. I imagine between now and October you will have plenty of opportunities to test these new headsets and judge for yourself.
@rjejr shave your head dude.
Grinding down my stance on 'I'll buy it at 300' ugh, just hope there's a good bunch of games at launch, this is a game I'm definitely interested in, makes world of tanks kinda redundant.
It would be MEGA-COOL if they included the original Battlezone game(with it's wireframe vector graphics and old-skool sounds) in VR mode to God the original takes me back
FFS I didn't want to get exited about VR, but, BALLS, damn I am going to have to get this, I just have to.
@Dan_ozzzy189 I'm too old, I'm afraid it wont grow back.
@Pinkman I find it hard to play my Gear VR for longer than 15-30 minutes, but thats just from a lack of interesting content that can keep me entertained for more than a few minutes. I really hope that PSVR doesn't suffer from this. Looking at BattleZone and a few other titles that the PSVR has announced, gives me a bit of hope.
I played the original game in the arcades and even had a version of it for home use (not VR) in a 'compilation'. However its not a game that remember fondly or would rush out to buy today. Its 'novelty' is purely the VR. As a game it is very superficial. Some people may like 'superficial' of course but its not something I want from gaming these days.As I said, I played this at home on a standard monitor/TV and I doubt that this wouldn't work on TV either although you won't get the effects of VR. If its true to the original, the only purpose is to shoot other tanks/vehicles before getting shot yourself. Even if I had a VR headset, this wouldn't be a game on my wanted list and even if it was 'free' I doubt I would give it more than 1 or 2 trys - obviously basing that on my previous experience of the game as I don't really know if its added more depth this time round...
@mcnoisy your worth it treat yourself
@Pinkman I hate horror stuff - rides, movies, whatever - I don't like being scared. Or tickled, not sure if the 2 are related. But yes, scary horror stuff, this should be unbelievable as it has you engulfed in w/ both vision and sound. I could see it actually making people piss their pants. And enjoy doing so.
I do really like rumble rides though. Put me in a moving chair in front of a big projector and I'm there. I'll even wear 3D goggles, virtual roller coasters in outer space are a blast. As long as they aren't creepy scary.
When these headsets come with rumble gyroscopic chairs and they make a Last Starfighter game, I'm in. It's all about the death blossom, baby!
@Dodoo I just can't gt into anything on N64, those blocky 3D graphics all look the same, and the look is bad.
I did really like SM Sunshine. And the Galaxy games are some of the best platforming ever, but that original 3D Mario, every time I start it up I just think - why am I running around outside this big gray castle and why do I care?
@rjejr Fair enough mate. Apologies my comment was a bit harsh!
I suppose if you're playing it now for the first time then it hasn't aged very well and is probably hard to see how it was so revolutionary back in the day.
@Dodoo No apologies necessary, I know it's revered, I get a lot worse when I disparage Ocarina of Time. (Which I never would b/c I've never played it, but if I did and didn't like it I would still know too shut up.)
I didn't play Mario 64 until years after all those great PS2 platformers, and some great PS1 platformers as I never owned an N64, NES or SNES - I'd still take the original Spyro, or the 2nd, over Mario 64 - after that the Spyro games drastically went downhill. And I kind of missed all the 2D Mario's as well. I don't think I played Mario 64 until after SM Galaxy on the Wii VC. It did have some good level design and there was some fun to be had, but I honestly don't think it has aged all that well. If it was the 15th 3D game rather than the 1st it wouldn't be held in such high regard. I just think it's famous for bringing Mario - and almost all of videgaming - into 3D.
I would be interested in an HD version to see how I liked it, I really am biased against those N64 graphics. They're so blech. But I also really do like a story in all my gaming. Hard to go back after the PS2.
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