I just used Sony's newest version of the PlayStation 4 virtual reality headset, Project Morpheus. Rather, I should say that I just faced down a burly, British would-be-torturer before being whisked away to a first-person gunfight in a well-appointed London manor. That's "The London Heist," one of the new demos from Sony's London Studio being shown off this week at GDC 2015. It's intense, and demonstrative of the new prototype's upped specs.
I couldn't tell whether or not the aforementioned brute was reacting to where I was looking, but it certainly seemed that way. I stared at him until he asked, "What are you looking at?" I looked at the glowing red exit sign of a dingy basement, which made the angry gentleman flick his lit cigarette at me and pull a gun to shoot the exit sign with. He then shot the exit sign and let me know in very certain terms that I wasn't going anywhere.
As he lit a hand-torch and prepared to roast me, an adorably child-like ringtone went off: his mobile phone. After a brief conversation, "Frank" (the apparent name of my potential assailant) instead put the phone in my hand. (I physically lifted my right hand, which was holding a PlayStation Move motion controller.) I put the Move to my head and heard the voice of another man coming out of it. "Tell us what happened."
And suddenly I'm standing in an English manor, behind an ornate desk, using my "hands" (the Move controllers in each of my hands) to rustle through drawers looking for a gun and bullets. I quickly find them, load a clip into a handgun and -- uh oh! -- a guard is coming. I can see his flashlight through the windows of the room I'm in. So I duck -- in real life -- and thusly my character ducks in-game. Hiding behind the desk proves very effective, and the first guard is fooled.
As I continue rustling through the drawers -- looking for what, I have no idea -- another guard enters. This one sees me, and now it's time for a gunfight. I'm locked in position, but using the Move controller to aim and shoot is a delight. It feels like a light gun game (think: Duck Hunt), albeit far, far more accurate and detailed.
After taking down a handful of guards, my demo ends. Content aside, how was the new prototype?
It's hard to say it's a dramatic improvement over the first version of Morpheus, as the first iteration was already pretty solid. Are the visuals sharper? Yes. Is positional tracking very accurate? Yes! Does it still feel like your head is being squeezed into a vise? Sadly, yes. While the specs have improved, the comfort level is still in the "leaves something to be desired" category.
Sony says this newer version of Morpheus -- with a larger, higher-resolution screen than the previous model -- is "close" to what the final version will be. We expect the model we're using now will see many more improvements before the "first half of 2016" launch window, regardless of what Sony's saying this year.
We'll put the new prototype through more paces as GDC 2015 rages on.
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