Virtual reality is set to revolutionize player immersion in the entertainment industry…at least, that’s what the developers of such technology promise. Based on Crytek’s VR tech demo that Nick Plessas and I were able to play during E3, however, that statement is far from just exaggeration.
This article is also partially in video form courtesy of Nick’s interview video with the developer we spoke with while I played the game, which you can watch below.
Before I sat down to play the tech demo while Nick spoke with the developer, we were privileged enough to see how other people played the game and what they did wrong versus right. Long story short: there were a lot of “oohs” and “ahhs,” as well as several other expressive words that I can’t type here.
Then came my turn: After donning and adjusting the headset to fit, I jumped into Back to Dinosaur Island 2, the tech demo for Crytek’s first full VR title, Robinson: The Journey. We were told that the features and area I played through in the tech demo are representative of the power of Crytek’s proprietary CRYENGINE technology, and boy it did not disappoint.
With the power of Oculus Rift, I was transported to a vibrant and beautiful island. Little did I know the trouble I was about to get into…
Given a Playstation 4 controller, I was first tasked with grabbing onto a pair of handles attached to a zip-line-like wire cable. Gripping the handles was controlled by holding down the respective left and right shoulder/trigger buttons on the controller. With the camera mounted in front of the screen tracking my head movement relative to it, leaning forward or to the side in the chair also makes the in-game avatar lean forward or to the side, which was necessary to switch from one set of cable handles to another set. Switching from one set to another is not easy either, since you need to always keep one hand gripped on one handle of each set to not fall to your death, like many others did that I observed while waiting for my turn.
Thinking it was a basic demo, I though the previous paragraph pretty much summed up the whole demo when I switched to another set of handles once I got to the top of the ledge. That is, until I was pleasantly surprised when I came face to face with a honest-to-God Pterodactyl (Or is it a Pterosaur? I’m not sure…).
Thanks to the Oculus Rift, I thoroughly enjoyed the ability to fully turn my head 180° and see a whole new world, so to speak. The whole demo allowed turning your head to look around at any time, either up, down, left, or right. Looking forward, however, is the direction you normally face to get stuff done, that is, until later at the end of the demo.
Each progressive ledge wall I ascended led to me disturbing more and more Pterosaurs from their nests. There even came a time when, after seeing more and more Pterosaurs fly off the wall, I turned my head around to “look” behind me in the game and saw, in addition to a captivating and beautiful landscape, more than ten flying around, being led on by a leader Pterosaur.
A disturbed Pterosaur is an angry Pterosaur, so as I ascended the final (and longest) wall, the largest Pterosaur started dislodging rocks in an attempt to knock me off the line and kill me. Adding to the immersion of the demo, I had to physically shift my weight in the chair and duck and move my head to avoid being “hit” by the falling rocks, which was kind of difficult to be honest, but also pulse-pounding and exciting. I literally feared for my life!
Finally reaching the top after evading death by rock, the suit or visual display the player avatar possesses induced an environmental scan of the stunning landscape before me from the top of the mountain. Indicated by circles with an icon on them that I can’t recall now, I had to turn my head around to look around the environment to analyze the pinged objects from the scan. Holding my general gaze in the direction of the pinged object initiated analysis of it…
And that’s how the demo ended. Anti-climactic? A little. Still fun, engrossing, immersive, and extremely-realistic? Absolutely.
Unfortunately, there is still no for-sure date yet for Robinson: The Journey.
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