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.