We had an amazing weekend at the Middle East Film and Comic Con 2016. I hadn’t fully appreciated how virtual reality will be taking over our lives until I did a full tour of all the halls. VR booths and installations were everywhere and I loved it! All the other VR beauty aside, I first ran towards Geekay’s PlayStation VR booth. They had two demos set up and I tried out The London Heist, which was first shown at last year’s E3 to much fanfare.
Oh boy, was I blown away. There was never any doubt in my mind that I would be investing in the PlayStation VR at launch this October because the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive require a far heavier investment. After the five or so beautiful moments of playing The London Heist using the PlayStation Move controllers as my hands, suddenly October couldn’t get here any sooner and I can’t wait to shoot bad guys on bikes with one hand while changing radio stations of the car I’m in with the other.
As I walked into the booth, we were greeted by a lovely Sony PlayStation promoter who explains the whole process to me. She says the Move controllers are my new hands and I accept this reality with child-like giddiness. All I need to do is use the trigger buttons and she urges me to move my head around as much as possible, looking in every direction because we’re just not used to this and there’s so much to see all around me along with objects to interact with. She tells me to not get worried initially when I’m being shot at; my driver will hand me a semi-automatic in time. The most important bit of her brief was on how to reload the gun. She stressed that I may not get it the first few times but the mechanism is very simple: I can hold the gun in my right or left hand, the magazines are in the glove compartment in front of me, which I will first have to open before picking these up. Once I’ve picked up a mag, I need to tap the bottom of the controller holding the gun on top of the controller holding the cartridge. Sounds simple, but it took me a few tries to get this smoothly. I was being shot at, so cut me some slack. With all instructions absorbed, I was ready to dive in.
The setting of the demo is simple. We’re driving down a long highway in a van. I’m the passenger and my driver friend informs me the Russians are coming to get us and he seems quite excited at the prospect. While he tells me this, I’m playing around with the radio, on which I can change channels and increase and decrease the volume. There’s an empty drink container that I pick up and try to throw at my driver friend. I open the glove compartment to find all my lovely ammo but I’m still without a gun. Out of nowhere, a biker overtakes us and fires a few shots. My friend casually runs him over and he’s lying dead on our cracked windshield. The driver smashes our cracked windshield to let me fire more easily at the shooters coming in. The first wave begins. I’m mystified at this wonderfully immersive experience and I try to dodge the bullets. The driver hands me a gun and I’m ready to shoot everyone.
I struggled with the first couple of reloads but it all became smooth sailing after. This went on for a couple of waves. Bad guys kept coming at us and I kept killing while my driver friend was expertly driving around them. Eventually a big van pulls up in front of us, the big bad guy comes out with a bazooka, fires at us and BOOM, demo over. I yelled “nooooo” as it ended and found myself in a mix of emotions: Amazed and delighted by an experience I hadn’t expect but sad because it would be months before I got to do this again.
Once the dust of amazement settled, there were some issues that stood out (if I’m to be overly critical of a demo of a brand-new gaming technology). When I shot at enemies or their vehicles, it had very little visual effect on them. There was no blood or tires being punctured. Enemies would jerk around a bit and only after a lot of shots fired directly at them would they finally fall down or the vehicles would explode. I should also add that the graphics are fairly dated but that didn’t bother me even for a second. Graphics aside, if the final version is smoother and incorporates all the necessary visual cues of a first-person shooter, The London Heist will be a fantastic game. PlayStation VR is beyond brilliant and I urge Sony to take all my money.