Scotch Corner – Virtual Insanity

Read Stuart’s column every week in The Scottish Sun, where he shares his reviews, news and podcasts with the 99.3% of the World’s population not fortunate enough to be able to buy a physical copy of the paper.  The following appeared originally in The Scottish Sun on Sunday 4th June 2017.

 

Farpoint (PSVR, £44.99 or with Aim Controller £82.99)

THE PlayStation Virtual Reality era exploded with a buzz of expectation but it all went a little bit quiet.  Now Impulse Gear has given it a shot in the arm with Farpoint.  This a first person shooter that goes up a level because of the VR element.  In fact, the game works so well that is feels like the first real PSVR game rather than tech demo or a bolt-on for a standard game.

The story is pretty much standard fare.  You have to save two scientists — doctors Tyson and Moon — who are stranded on an alien world.  The campaign will clock in at around six hours and the tale is alright.  You have to piece together what happened from watching cut scenes and discovering and scanning memory logs across the planet.  There are also co-op challenge missions for you and friends to attack and there is a score mode where you fight waves of baddies.  But the key factor is that this is an FPS in VR.  The Impulse Gear guys have got it right most of the time.  If it was a standard game, it would be more of an average experience.

You fight from area to area, fighting a number of different enemies with decent firepower although it feels a little under-powered at times.  But the action of firing, reloading and over-heating in front of you adds to the game and is down to the VR.  It can only get better as you add in the Aim controller.  You actually bring the gun up and look down the sights to get the best shot.  It is remarkably well done.  The graphics and good, but the sounds bring it to life although the weapons could have had a beefier thunk.  We found a few bugs from visual effects to checkpoints not popping and losing progress but a patch should put them right.  But there is a VR consequence — the movement actually made me feel sick at times especially when I used the smooth control.  And, as that is the best way to move, you do have to find your sea legs.  Also the system tracking isn’t the best — the camera often lost me in the heat of battle or it brought up a blue grid — a guide of where you have to stand — which does take you out the action and makes the game drift.

There is no denying that this is what PSVR needed — a fun, engaging game that shows off the system.  The tech side holds it back a little but it is good enough to make you forget you are wearing a big lump of plastic and are on a faraway planet.

Score: 4/5

Ready, AIM…

ON your toes people — there is a Farpoint bundle which comes with an Aim controller.  It is a must for playing shooters in VR.  Now, it’s true — you will look like a plank when you use it but the thrill it adds to the game makes that a worthwhile sacrifice.  It just feels right as you swing from side to side and get carried away.

The buttons are just where you want them.  It is also well built.  But, most importantly, if you are planning a long session, it is light.  The Aim controller opens up gameplay so much in Farpoint that it should be the standard controller for all PSVR shooters in the future.

Prey (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £39.99)

IT has been a bumpy ride for Prey since the first game was launched in 2006.  A second game was binned and the future looked bleak.  But Arkane Studio took over and gave it a healthy reboot.  It is 2035 and you are Morgan Yu, who can be a man or a women.  You decide by picking which version of boots you want to fill.  There is an immediate twist.  You are on a space station called the Talos 1 but it is filled with a deadly alien race called the Typhon, which is trying to escape.  The stage is set for a 20 to 40-hour firefight as you try to uncover what’s going on as well as stopping the Typhon at any cost.  If you have the time then emails and audio logs are stashed around to fill out the story.

The gameplay has a System Shock or Deus Ex feel.  It’s a first person shooter role-player as you have to find and manage resources as well as conquer skill trees to unlock abilities — and all while fighting off the Typhon.  The most interesting enemies are the Mimics.  They turn into random objects and sit in wait for you.  Insert instant jump scare for the first few attacks.  You get an interesting arsenal but 95 per cent of the time you end up sticking the enemy with the gloo cannon and whacking them with your wrench.  You can change the combat style but it never really feels as fluid as you’d like.  And rush things and you will die.  Take it from me.

The game has a strong look with a mix of old-world and future tech.  The soundtrack is outstanding at building the tension and it is backed up by solid voice acting.  However, the story becomes a grind after a strong start.  And the combat may not click for everyone as, early doors, you’ll take more beatings than you’d like.  But fair play to Arkane, they have given Prey a decent lifeline.

Score: 4/5

Turtle Beach Ear Force Stealth 350VR Headset (PSVR, HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, £44.99)

IF you use a headset in VR then you want something lightweight that still packs a punch.  Step forward Turtle Beach.  The 350VR Stealth headset takes VR gaming to the next level.  It works with PSVR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and mobile VR but we tested them on the PSVR.  Talk about light — you almost forget you have it on.  That’s great for long sessions.  The head band is also longer than your standard headset and the cups are covered in a special fabric which helps to keep your ears cool.  That is not as daft as it sounds because you can get a bit sweaty.

So to the bite — the sound quality is outstanding and adds to the gaming experience.  You get a crisp clean sound and a solid range of tones when we tested it with Farpoint, RIGs and Resident Evil 7.  The built-in bass amplifier allow you to boom the box even more.  But you have to have a charged-up headset to alter the bass.  A standard charge should give you around 25 to 30 hour’s of playtime.

The 350VR also has a really good detachable mic for online chat in games.  If you want a solid headset with great sound that is purpose-built VR then get your paws on the 350VR Stealth.  Well worth it, especially at £44.99.

Score: 5/5

In The Pits

McLAREN are set to make history as the first F1 team to get involved in eSports — with their World’s Fastest Gamer tournament.  They have teamed up with Logitech and the man behind the hit GT Academy, Darren Cox, in a bid to find the best virtual racer in the world.

The winner will bag a year’s contract with McLaren’s F1 team as their official SIM driver.  So what are you waiting for?  For more info and to find out how to sign up head over to mclaren.com.

On The Stream

SUPER Swede Kat is better known as Sniper Kat Six in Twitch world.  She is a survival horror specialist and dedicates her channel to all things that go bump in the night.  She takes on tough challenge runs and digs into the lore and story of classic and iconic horror franchises like Resident Evil and Silent Hill.

She said:

“Games often have very underappreciated stories and feature details many may have missed, and that’s where my channel comes in.”

She recently became a Twitch partner and she aims make this a full-time career.  Check out twitch.tv/sniper_kat_six.

I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border, catch ye’s…

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Stuart Cullen

Scotland’s very own thorn in the side of the London gaming scene bringing all the hottest action straight from The Sun… well… The Scottish Sun at least, every week!

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