You don’t ever think that virtual reality gaming could turn you into one of those videos of people screaming and cowering from whatever is being sent into their eyes. Why would you react like that? It’s not real, there’s nothing there. Then you load up VR World’s Shark Encounter and that’s exactly who you become. Why is your heart in your mouth? That furious Jaws-alike is just pixels, those razor sharp teeth merely make believe but it’s not quite that simple, is it? Suddenly those people running from that on-screen train in the cinema don’t seem like idiots anymore.
VR Worlds has everything you want to show your friends and family about how wonderful virtual reality can be. Made up of five separate experiences, this collection from Sony’s London Studio contains Ocean Descent, Danger Ball, VR Luge, Scavengers Odyssey and the bloody brilliant London Heist. ‘Experience’ is the key word here, though. Despite all having their own set of challenges for replayability, very few will be what you settle down to on a Friday night to get some hard gaming in. There’s no Destiny replacement here, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t a hell of a lot of fun. The quality of these offerings is unfortunately variable, however, so I’ll start with the best.
London Heist is the kind of action-packed narrative VR experience that needs picking up by a studio such as Naughty Dog, stat. The first person tale of London gangsters robbing a diamond from the Russian mob, it takes you from a dingy lock-up being intimidated by a cockney geezer to an explosive motorway car chase where you fire machine guns at passing motorcyclists. Move implementation is seamless. Look down and you’ve got two leather gloved hands that can interact with everything. Bumping along the motorway, your bald chum punches out the windshield and tosses you an Uzi. While firing that with one hand you can grab magazines with the other and slam them into the empty weapon to reload. Jason Statham eat your heart out; this person on a sofa in their Batman pyjamas has it covered.
There’s a genuine sense of immersion here, the kind that sells VR perfectly. Lighting cigars for gang bosses, picking up everything you can get your disembodied hands on, breathing out when smoking a cigar and it being picked up by the PS VR’s mic. It’s only a shame then that this isn’t a full game or something more. It’s half the length of Batman: Arkham VR and while there’s a brilliant shooting range to play in - complete with Cockney swearing that really isn’t for kids - and a few challenges to encourage you to head back in, you won’t be loading it up terribly often. A pity, given how much love and detail has clearly been crammed in. Plus, if you don’t have the Move wands, an entire section is missing, so it’s far better experienced with the tracked controllers.
Then there’s Ocean Descent, a beautiful, thrilling and, at points, an astonishing example of just how terrifying VR can be. At a point in its Shark Encounter experience - you’ll know it when you feel it - I was genuinely uncomfortable while somehow grinning at the same time. There are three different dive options here. Thankfully, only one will pit you against a great white shark, so perhaps pick the coral reef dive option to show your gran at Christmas. Again, there’s optional challenges such as scaring angel fish, but you don’t need to do much to interact here - just look around and take in the underwater sights.
Thankfully Danger Ball actually feels more like an actual game. Somewhat ironically, it’s an ultra-modern Pong you control with your head - welcome to the future that was invented 40 years ago, everyone! - but it’s a lot of fun. You battle against a CPU opponent who fires speeding balls straight at you, which you deflect with your paddle. The name of the game is to get it past your AI foe. Enemies mix it up with curveballs and varied paddles, and every match has a slightly different feel. It’s pretty naturalistic - you look where you want to go - and there’s a ‘just one more go’ mentality that none of the other experiences here have. It sounds strange in a (virtual) sea of immersive experiences but Danger Ball is one of the only VR games that if I think about, I want to play right now. There’s a satisfying physicality to it, but again, this one game can’t be the sole reason you pick up a £25/$30 package.
Unfortunately, the last two games on the disc, VR Luge and Scavengers Odyssey, are on the other end of the virtual reality spectrum and are relatively sickening in comparison to the others. Luge does what it says on the tin, sending you hurtling down a steep road on a board with wheels with a prone body in front of you. Firstly, I felt vaguely ridiculous lying rigid on my sofa while dodging cars with my head, but most importantly, I felt instantly sick. The only thing that kept me going was the desire to experience a few levels to see if I could get used to it. Spoiler: I couldn’t.
Also sadly on my own personal vomit scale is Scavengers Odyssey. This might not set off everyone else’s inner-ear balance but despite its gorgeous visuals as you scuttle around space in an alien scavenger craft - complete with body and arms that react - the use of standard FPS controls had me reaching (and retching) for the sick bag. It’s really unfortunate, as the combination of weaponised combat and genuine exploration looks and feels great. I need to say straight out that this is personal preference, but I found it almost impossible to keep on my head for longer than five minutes. I don’t think I’ll be alone.
VR Worlds, then, is a bit of a conundrum. Clearly nothing has been spared in creating incredible worlds to explore - even playing with the menu is a joy - but what’s on offer here is a mixed bag of VR goods. The highs of London Heist can’t be matched, Ocean Descent is brilliant and Danger Ball is brilliant fun, but the package is uneven. Thus this isn’t the must buy pack it could be - and isn’t cheap, either - but there’s plenty to enjoy if you’re content for your PS VR to be the reason everyone else wants the headset. It’s essentially an expensive demo disc but London Heist is a glowing example of exactly what the platform can do.