The best VR of E3 2016

With three consumer VR headsets hitting us in the eyeballs this year, 2016’s E3 offerings were always going to be virtual reality heavy. Sony’s conference alone had a slew of VR exclusive surprises that made October look like an even more appealing time to get our heads right inside the game. But what was the pick of the bunch? What made us truly believe that VR has a place in the future of gaming? And, most importantly, what didn’t have us reaching for the sick bucket? Here’s our picks of the very best of E3’s VR.

Batman: Arkham VR

Platforms: PS VR 

Rocksteady’s Sefton Hill has said that the team wasn’t going to make anymore Batman but just couldn’t resist working on a new way to experience a Dark Knight story. Once you put on the PS VR headset it’s very easy to see why. This PlayStation exclusive literally lets you don the cowl - in its introductory sequence, you pick it up, hold it in your giant, gauntlet covered hands and place it over your head before being lowered slowly into the Batcave. It’s heart racing wish fulfillment of the highest order and effortlessly implemented with the PS Move wands. And once you’ve literally clipped your tools to your utility belt - yep, look down, there it is - you can solve crimes, scan the world with your detective tools and generally feel like the Batman. This is a whole new way to experience Gotham and given that it’s Rocksteady’s world, you’ll already feel dangerously at home. Louise Blain

Battlezone VR

Platforms: PS VR, Oculus Rift

Driving a tank just shouldn’t be this much fun. Rebellion’s PS VR revamping of Battlezone’s arcade roots drops you into the cockpit of a tank and sends you hurtling into an arena to take on slews of enemy types. The controls are effortless and beautifully nausea free as you take in the colourful polygon-style visuals and check your radar for incoming foes. Strafing around the arena whilst switching between rockets and machine gun fire feels genuinely exhilarating and it’s clear there’s been hours poured into making this feel just right. There’s even a procedurally generated campaign that means each playthrough will never be the same. This is key in a world where initially we’ll have more ‘experiences’ than games. With genuinely gorgeous visuals, this is a PS VR launch title you’ll want on your day one list. Louise Blain

Fallout 4

Platforms: HTC Vive

There’s a surprising level of joy to looking around in a VR Fallout 4. The demo currently drops you into an area near the Red Rockets Truckstop - one of the first bases you find in the game - and just being there, taking in the view, puts a smile on your face. Using the Vive gives you two ‘hands’ via its motion controllers and of course there’s a Pipboy on one. I wasted a good few minutes simply raising my arm to look at that and flick through the different options. But: there’s also a gun in your other hand and enemies to shoot at, which is where things get really enjoyable. With Dogmeat at your side and a 360 degree view Fallout has never felt like more of a real world. And letting off pistol shots or Fatboy rounds in VR adds a whole new level to everything. The only reservation I have at the moment is that this WIP version uses a 'point and teleport' movement system which really takes you out of the moment. We’ll have to see how that pans out in the final version. Leon Hurley

Doom

Platforms: HTC Vive

Currently more of a demo than a final project, Doom heads into ‘experience’ territory more than finished game. There is combat, but also rooms full of monsters to examine and items to look over. It might not sound super exciting but there’s something entertaining about getting to check out a 1/6th scale Pinky, flexing and roaring on a desk in front of you. While watching a life size Baron peer down at you is quite the Satanic Jurassic Park moment. The shooting side of things gives you a plasma rifle and endless grenades to fling from a fixed position (so nothing like the full game) as monsters approach. You actually have to physically throw the grenades too, which is extremely satisfying - although not as satisfying as the pops of red mist you get if you’re on target. Leon Hurley

Eagle Flight

Platforms: PS VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive

Whether you’re swooping through dangerously narrow alleyways, or circling the Eiffel Tower and enjoying the view, there’s an inherent joy in taking to the Paris skies in Ubi’s multiplatform VR offering. Eagle Flight uses your head movements to steer your first person bird of prey and it’s all the better for it. Tilt in a direction and you’ll soar that way. It removes any unnatural eye pulling and lets you see the sights and get fully involved in the action. While there’s a single player campaign to explore, I had a great time in the Capture the Prey mode, a three on three match to take food to a nest while avoiding the shrieking ‘fire’ of enemies. Add in the fact that this is all above a Paris where humans have been gone for 50 years and it’s a world worth exploring as well as scratching that ‘why can’t I fly’ itch. Louise Blain

Star Trek Bridge Crew

Platforms: PS VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive

VR’s a tricky choice for co-op, but piloting a starship is perfectly suited for it in almost every way. Firstly, you’re sitting down, which always works well for virtual reality. And secondly, everyone has a job with Command, Helm, Tactical and Engineering to take care of. The real payoff here though is how they all interlink. Helm, Tactical and Engineering all have to juggle power demands, shields, scanning, movement and combat, while at the same time feeding back to the captain. Whoever's in that big chair then has to make the calls as you rescue survivors and fight off Klingons. It’s loads of shouty, blame-ridden joy even if you’re not a dedicated Trekkie. Leon Hurley

Resident Evil 7: Beginning Hour

Platforms: PS VR

NO. No, no, no, no. No. NO. NONONONO. That’s pretty much how I’d sum up Resident Evil 7's playable teaser in VR. If you’ve tried the demo then you know it’s not really super scary once you’ve finished it, but the not knowing first time around gets to you, and somehow the virtual reality aspect amps everything up. There’s no screen to look away from as you explore this derelict spooky house, and the claustrophobia of being trapped ‘in’ PS VR’s view makes every corner and noise behind you a horrible and tense bridge to cross. For a 15 minute demo it’s a terrifying promise of what final game will actually deliver. Leon Hurley

Robinson: The Journey

Platforms: PS VR

This might be as close to walking with dinosaurs as you ever get. While it's not the most exciting virtual reality experience, it is one of the most thoroughly detailed as the world around you teems with life and reacts to your presence. Pangolins curl into protective balls as you approach, bugs scatter from your hand, and dinosaurs watch you with intent interest. It's one of the most comfortable games to be experienced in VR, as developer Crytek has gone to extensive lengths to alleviate VR-induced nausea. The result is a product that deserves your attention not just for its sense of immersion, but smart engineering. Sam Prell

Farpoint

Platforms: PS VR

Farpoint drops you into the spacesuit of an astronaut on a rocky, dusty alien planet and invites you to shoot some aggressive, sharp-legged bugs. Which is about as much as you can ask from any sci-fi shooter. Our demo had us retracing the steps of missing astronauts that preceded us, shooting bugs and, eventually, finding a space shotgun. All the while perilous walks over catwalks and around cliff faces capture the unique body illusion experience that can make VR powerful. Slower and simpler than almost every shooter made since Wolfenstein 3D, it's still novel thanks to pure, professional execution. If you absolutely must shoot aliens on new tech- and this is video games, so you must - Farpoint is an ideal option. Anthony John Agnello

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