How Sony's Impressive First-Person Shooter Virtual Reality Demo Works

How Sony's Impressive First-Person Shooter Virtual Reality Demo Works

They're calling it a demo, not a game, and it's not quite perfect. You can't even walk in it, after all. But there's something really cool about the London Heist, a snippet of a first-person shooter made to be played using Sony's PlayStation 4 Morpheus virtual reality headset.

I know that telling you much about this is largely pointless. Virtual reality, like the 3DS' glasses-free stereoscopic gaming before it, is something you need to see to judge. Virtual reality's tough because the best I can do is show you postcards and write you some words. You've really got to be there yourself. Nevertheless, let's try.

Here's the Morpheus:

Shipping in early 2016. No price, but you can guess it will be somewhere in the ballpark of $expensive. Think about putting that on your head.

Supposedly we'll see games for Morpheus at E3 in June, but for now you've got to use your imagination. So imagine you're one of these people:

How Sony's Impressive First-Person Shooter Virtual Reality Demo Works


Congrats. You're a member of the gaming press at the 2015 Game Developers Conference. You're about to play a VR shooter.

You take a seat. And a bruiser of a guy starts talking to you.

How Sony's Impressive First-Person Shooter Virtual Reality Demo Works

Note that for this demo you'll be holding two PlayStation Move controllers which, like the Morpheus, are being tracked in space by a camera sensor.

Here's more of a direct-feed look at the bruiser guy, who has a blowtorch out because he is planning on torturing you.

How Sony's Impressive First-Person Shooter Virtual Reality Demo Works

I played this, and this shot here just doesn't do justice to the experience.

You're sitting. Your front field of view and some of your peripheral vision — along with the headphones you're wearing — pretty much place you in the sewer/basement/wherever that you're virtually sitting in. You are in the room with this man, and having even a virtual guy get up in your face is surprisingly uncomfortable. You can look around while he threatens you. At one point, when you look at him, he flicks his cigarette in your face.

Anyway, he gets a phone call and has to cancel his torture plans. You're getting out of this. He hands you a phone, at which point you are supposed to stand up, reach out and take the phone from him. You do that by reaching forward with a Move controller, pulling a trigger and you see your virtual hand taking the phone. You can then move the phone to your ear. Thanks to the 3D audio coming through your headphones, as you move the phone toward your ear, the sound from that phone moves closer to your ear. (Remember: you're not really holding a phone. You're holding a Move controller that itself can't emit sound.)

At this moment in real life, you look like this, especially if you're Game Informer's Matt Bertz:

How Sony's Impressive First-Person Shooter Virtual Reality Demo Works

Then the demo switches and you're behind a desk. Unpleasant people will be arriving soon to shoot you, so you need to start reaching for some drawer handles to open the desk up and find a gun. This is a so-so part of the demo. Your hand movement is supposed to directly control that of the virtual hands, but the lack of physical feedback is a little weird.

There's some good tension, though, as you try each drawer while the guys are getting closer and closer.

How Sony's Impressive First-Person Shooter Virtual Reality Demo Works

You get the hang of it, and are soon opening little hatches, turning a key, finding a pistol, using your other hand to put a clip in the pistol.

You studied the controls, right?

How Sony's Impressive First-Person Shooter Virtual Reality Demo Works

By this time, enemy dudes are rushing on. You need to shoot at them. Extend that arm and fire away!

How Sony's Impressive First-Person Shooter Virtual Reality Demo Works

You see that hand floating in the middle of the screen right there, right?

If you're like me, you don't immediately realise that there are guys on the balcony. If you're like Matt, you duck for cover and then shoot! He even changed his shooting hand. He's good.

How Sony's Impressive First-Person Shooter Virtual Reality Demo Works

Kill the guys, and the demo ends.

Stepping back... if you were just some good-hearted person reading this demo, you might be like, "Yeah, whatever, I might buy a Morpheus if they make a God of War for it, but I don't own two Moves and, really, don't we need an analogue stick here to move around? And do I want a game where I have to start by sitting on a chair and then have to depend on someone else pulling the chair away so I don't fall on it when the shooting and ducking starts?" You would be raising some valid points if you said those things.

Now, if you actually played the demo, I think you'd be impressed. You might say, "Hey, this might be an impressive, fun, gimmicky tech demo or it might be the foundation for a satisfying immersive shooter. I'm not sure, but I'm glad people are making crazy stuff like this. I hope I can afford all the gear I'd need for it."

Sony is talking more about Morpheus this week, because they want the thousands of developers at GDC to make games for it. The sooner they show some deeper, more substantial VR games, the better. London Heist was, at least, an interesting tease of the PS4's potential VR future.


    Not sold on VR, but at least I have 2 Move controllers (and a Move navigational controller as well!)

      Yeah me too, but they haven't been used or even charged in about 2-3 years so the batteries are probably cactus!

        We used ours for Johann Sebastien Joust on PS4 fairly recently, and I also used Move for playing Under Siege, Singstar Dance and the Wonderbook games. They don't get a *lot* of use, but hopefully enough to keep them going.

      I only have one set of move controller :(. I should have pick another set when they go clearance last year.

      Are the Move controllers for PS3 the same as those for the PS4?

    I was also wondering about the lack of an analogue stick on the move. They could you use the Dual Shock 4 as it has an analogue stick plus two triggers and the light bar for positioning. Although I doubt the light bar will do as good a job of being tracked as it is a flat surface rather than a ball like of the Move. They could also just release new Move controllers with analogue sticks like a Move/Move Navigator Hybrid.

      I really hope so. I loved the potential of move, particularly the games that used 2 move controllers to track both of your hands. BUT I hated how on the rails those games normally were as a result.

      I know that the VR dream is to 'transcend' needing inputs like an analogous to move, but I will not walk in place or something stupid to move my character. Until they work out the niggles like that, having an analog to fall back on, while retaining the censor orb, would be ideal IMHO.

        I totally agree. Apparently the Valve/HTC VR system Vive has really good controllers. They are described (No pics currently available) as being Moves with analogue sticks. Hopefully Sony will see the light and make a new controller for this. It will upset all the people who currently have Moves but that might be the price they have to pay so the games are not restricted by the controller. I also don't like the idea of everything being on rails.

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