Along with the announcement of the Oculus Quest virtual reality (VR) headset for spring 2019 came the announcement of about 50 titles to launch with it. A few of the upcoming game titles were shown at Oculus Connect 5 and held a dominant presence on the expo floor. We had the opportunity to test drive a few of these titles in made-for-the-game, room-scale environments, which were in many cases as noteworthy as the demos themselves
Another game, Dead and Buried Arena, was an arena-scale, co-located multiplayer, mixed reality game experience, which we did not try but was also demoed for the Oculus Quest.
Project Tennis Scramble
I probably shouldn’t compare sports from over a decade ago on the Nintendo Wii to a pre-release game on the Oculus Quest, but the comparison feels really hard to avoid. Not that it’s a bad thing, as Wii Sports is considered one of the best “example games” for the Wii.
The Quest’s Tennis Scramble games were demoed in a scaled-down two-sided tennis court parted with a net, completed by a bucket of bright green tennis balls off to the side. Only in a space as large as a convention center expo hall could this presentation environment at scale be possible — or maybe a few arcades and very large living rooms for one such tennis game play space.
I demoed the game with another participant, and after being greeted by Oculus’ Jason Rubin, We were calibrated, our avatars were automatically selected for us; and then before we knew it, we were ready to duel it out with pre-selected cutesy Rayman-like armless floating body avatars.
The in-game environment, where the action takes place, was bright, bold, cartoony, and still distinctively a tennis court environment. Seeing ancillary characters from the Mario universe in the stands would not have been out of place.
Project Tennis Scramble, developed by Armature Studio, seems to be an early name for the game, given the “project” monicker. The game, whatever its name will be and whatever final form it might take, would likely be better suited as a pack-in or bundle like Wii Sports (See, another reference to that set of games, again) was for its system.
The VR version of the SUPERHOT slow-mo FPS from 2016, this version retains a similar look and feel on the Oculus Quest. If you’re not familiar with the original, SUPERHOT, created by the SUPERHOT Team, is a level-based FPS with bullet time-influenced game play. The more the player moves, the faster the game proceeds, with red polygonal enemies coming for you with all manner of weaponry. Luckily, the environment is also stocked with ad hoc weaponry the player can use.
This basic form of game play is baked into the virtual reality version of the game, too. On the wireless Quest, stacked with 6DoF , moving your body to avoid bullets or an opponent’s punch feels natural. Without wires, Uppercut-punching an opponent feels natural, firing a virtual pistol does too. But with a trigger, time could be “sped up,” so the enemies rush at you faster if you are confident you can take them on. In the early levels, it’s easier. As the levels progress, of course, the choices and puzzles, with the placement of weapons and enemies, get a little more tricky.
As with Tennis Scramble, the play space the organizers had for demoing SUPERHOT VR was spacious, in shades of black and white and red, and delineated for the borders. The practical play area paralleled a grid-like wall in the headset too — or a player might stumble into the physical wall.
All in all, SUPERHOT VR felt like an organic, well-chosen experience to show off the Quest hardware’s capabilities.
Face Your Fears 2
Chalk this game up to a literal WYSIWYG. In this game, if you are phobic about zombies, spiders, and jump scares, then yes. this experience will give you the cold sweats and second or third thoughts about opening the creaking door.
Face Your Fears 2, developed by Turtle Rock Studios, is a sequel to the original horror-themed VR title. In this demo, I was in a clapboard-type room with dull illumination on the other side, complete with a swivel desk fan and cobwebs to bring a form of life to the play space. As a demonstration space, it was pretty impressive stuff.
The demo is limited to a certain objective, but for the 5-10 minutes it takes to reach it, it might feel closer to forever. You, the poor protagonist searches for a lost sister in a ghoulish haunted mansion under a moody, moonlit sky. Horror tropes are gleefully embraced, from spiders jumping out at you, to zombies greeting you (or shutting the door on you). Sound effects are used to good effect, as is the sense of immersion and the limits of what you can see or do to counter the encroaching the horrors. When playing through the demo, I felt my stomach knotting up, my breath going shallow — it’s an intense kind of immersion. From the demo space next door, adding to that impression, I heard a scream or two from another demo participant. Feeling helpless is, perhaps, the ultimate horror movie trope, usually reserved for someone not destined to survive.
To find out whether you can guide the hero to the end of his quest, you’ll have to wait until spring to play Face Your Fears 2.
These games are a few of the first sprinkles of water from a wave of games to be announced over the next several months. If we come across any at any events, we’ll be sure to share our impressions of those Oculus Quest games!