When Sony set out to launch its own virtual reality headset, one of the most important things that it had to do is make sure that it had lots of games released alongside it. Through the years, the games industry has seen many a peripheral fail miserably due to a lack of support. To combat this, an impressively large launch lineup was made, among them an impressive number of first-party titles. And one of those games is Here They Lie, the obligatory horror title in the device's catalogue.
As a first-person game, the discussion here must centre on motion sickness first and foremost. Basic locomotion is handled by looking around and holding forward to move in a given direction. The right stick can also be used for additional snap turning, as well as quickly to your rear. Initially, it seems incredibly awkward, and it's a rather bizarre sensation. However, by the game's end, we felt really comfortable with this system, and would say that, at least for now, this is the most comfortable motion system we've encountered on the platform thus far.
Another thing that really impressed us was this game's restraint. We were heading into this title really worried that the game's only concept of horror would be a combination of loud noises and other jump scares. Sure, there are a couple of those, but the game largely opts for an unsettling and tension-based form of horror. This was much appreciated, particularly in virtual reality, as a constant barrage of jump scares would've not only been manipulative, but rather irritating. It's the dark underbelly of an unspecified monochromatic city instead that does a lot of the heavy lifting in regards to being scary.
The grungy city is as much a character in the game as you. And the sense of scale in the environments helps to combat the rather sparse narrative. Looking upwards and seeing skyscrapers looming hundreds of feet above you, as well as dark, endless abysses below is a really impressive feeling, and really got us thinking about the scope of the environments. On several occasions, we found ourselves just looking around the immense locales in wonder, something that we don't really encounter in regular games anymore.
This wonder and awe stemming from the game's environments comes to a head towards the end of the three hour journey through the dark city. One particular sequence finds you on a gondola, and we aren't kidding when we say the sequence left our mouths agape. It's remarkably well done and a real highlight of the game.
The game's environments would've been even easier to enjoy if the game's level of detail were handled differently, though. The problem is that the world's really sparsely detailed unless it's shoved in your face. This causes problems from a gameplay standpoint, too. While it makes taking in the huge, cavernous environments a little more difficult because of how lacking in detail they are, it also makes one segment of the game harder than it needs to be.
We found ourselves sneaking around in one particular area that had tall grass all around. Our goal was to navigate the maze-like area while avoiding a rather imposing horde of enemies. The only problem is that, because of the weird way that texture pop is handled, the enemies and the grass are indistinguishable. As a silver lining, though, the way that the death loading screen works is really cool, to the point where we would recommend that you make a point of dying at least once while playing to see it. It's worth it.
Another ever-important feature in horror is, of course, audio. And, fortunately, the chance to utilise the 3D audio offered by PlayStation VR is put to good use. Situational awareness is key, and got us out of a few situations that could've ended badly. Some of the enemies only get aggressive if you look at them – think Slenderman style – and the 3D audio allowed us to know exactly where not to look.
Here They Lie is not a perfect horror game – but it's tense and well worth experiencing if you're looking for some frights for your new PlayStation VR headset. The narrative could have been stronger, and the way it displays textures is odd, but the cavernous environments and clever control scheme make this a ride worth taking.