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Racing, mech piloting, and Final Fantasy fishing: PSVR at TGS 2017

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It’s hard to tell just how well PlayStation VR is doing in Japan, but demand is still outstripping supply — the headset remains extremely difficult to buy in Sony’s home country almost a year after going on sale.

Sony isn’t exactly discouraging people to try their luck with the infrequent in-store lotteries, either, announcing a price cut and some new VR releases ahead of Tokyo Game Show this week.

I spent some time at the VR section of Sony’s booth this afternoon; here’s what I played and thought.

(No, Neko Atsume wasn't there.)

Gran Turismo Sport

Gran Turismo is one of Sony’s biggest and most enduring franchises, and driving simulations are a natural fit for VR. Gran Turismo Sport is coming out in less than a month with the series’ first VR support, so how does it fare? Pretty well, but with some caveats.

The immersion is definitely there. It’s unambiguously fun to drive a Nissan GT-R around Suzuka Circuit in VR, especially with a force-feedback steering wheel, and it even bestows an advantage — it’s easier to judge corners, and it feels really natural to check your mirrors for overtaking opponents.

Or opponent, I should say, as that’s one of the bigger caveats; Gran Turismo Sport’s VR mode consists of a separate tour that only features one-on-one races. You’ll also notice a major visual downgrade compared to what you’ll get on a TV screen, though that’s of course to be expected. While the VR experience doesn’t match up to, say, Project Cars on PC, it looks good enough to keep you in the moment.

Don’t expect a full-on virtual reality Gran Turismo, then, but GT Sport’s VR mode should be a neat bonus when the game sees release on October 17th.

Zone of the Enders: Anubis Mars

Anubis Mars — officially and inexplicably styled “ANUBIS ZONE OF THE ENDERS : M∀RS” — is a full-on remake of Zone of the Enders 2, perhaps the most technically impressive PS2 game and one that saw an HD remake for the PS3 five years ago. This new version of the mech action game supports 4K on PS4 Pro and PC and can also be played through in PSVR.

I think I’ll be there for the former experience, but unfortunately the latter is looking pretty rough right now. The demo didn’t show off any of ZoE 2’s most explosive moments, to be clear, but what I saw wouldn’t have been especially impressive on the PS2. It’s in VR, of course, but that didn’t add much to the action — ZoE’s lock-on attacks seem a lot more mundane when experienced through your eyes.

Maybe it was just a bad demo. It’s not set for release until spring 2018 in Japan, anyway, and an updated version of ZoE 2 isn’t something I’ll ever complain about. But on today’s showing, the VR compatibility isn’t going to be the best reason to buy it.

Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV

Continuing Square Enix’s crusade to wring every ounce of life out of what turned out to be a surprisingly successful Final Fantasy game, Monster of the Deep sees you join the bros for a spot of high-intensity fishing. Prompto wants to take photos of fish, you see, but is finding it difficult to see them in the water.

So, with the PlayStation Move controllers in your hands, it’s up to you to go fish. The controls are pretty intuitive, though the tracking isn’t great and I often found myself overshooting when casting out my line. It’s attractive, as PSVR titles go, with colorful environments and expressive character models.

Once I’d caught three little fish, Prompto took a picture of me — actual IRL me, using the PlayStation Camera — posing with my catch, and that was that. Except this triggered a boss fight, where suddenly I was armed with a crossbow and had to weaken a massive fish monster before I was able to catch that as well. Then we all sat around a campfire eating grilled fish skewers and looking at my photo.

Dumb? Yes. Also kind of great, though, and a definite improvement on the seemingly abandoned shooting demo shown off last year. I don’t know how deep — sorry — the full version will turn out to be, but one of Final Fantasy XV’s most endearing elements was that simply hanging out with the characters turned out to be fun. Monster of the Deep looks like it’s leaning hard in that direction.

The Inpatient

The Inpatient is a prequel-slash-spinoff to Until Dawn that's also developed by Supermassive Games. I loved Until Dawn, a horror title with the key feature of branching story paths that played out based on your decisions, and The Inpatient uses the same “butterfly effect” system.

It’s in first-person view this time, however, and your choices seem largely limited to responding to people talking to you. Set in the same sanatorium that featured in Until Dawn, much of the demo involved being restrained or pushed in a wheelchair, and when I did gain freedom of movement I immediately hit a bug that rooted me to the spot. Once freed, the controls worked well enough, but again the PlayStation Move controllers really limit what Supermassive can do with hand tracking.

I didn’t get to play enough of The Inpatient, really, but it definitely shares enough of Until Dawn’s DNA and visual style for me to want to check out the final product. If the kinks get ironed out, it ought to be one of the better, more polished story-focused VR experiences to date.