Entry #2031
4:36 PM - May 23rd, 2020
So I've been a hardcore VR enthusiast for some time now. Nothing in entertainment comes to close to immersing you and I've loved it since my room scale Vive in 2016. (Actually I first tried it in the mid-90s in college and was hooked then... just had nowhere to go with it. LOL.
However until now it has been a series of experiences without a true AAA title as an actual gaming experience. That changed two months ago with Half-Life Alyx and because of Animal Crossing,I (of all people) just kind of forgot about it. And then I finally got a little bored of AC and booted it up...
...oh. Wow. So this is what it can be like. I've struggled to give my impressions any weight because until you've experienced VR you don't really understand how good it can be. Nor can I express why one thing is better than another thing. So I'll tell you what this did that no other experience ever has.
Roughly ten hours into the game you're already quite invested in the story. What you may not have realized is that presuming you have all the top notch video cards/horsepower etc? The game is so photo-realistic that you don't even question it. So of course that means just standing in an abandoned warehouse is unsettling. Sound design mixed with an expanding story leads to even the mundane kind of soaking into your head.
I'm at a part where you're kind of hiding in the walls trying to be quiet while you wait for bad guys to pass and you're trying to figure out how to take them out without having your location known. Also, the main character is female (this actually matters, hang on) and you do absolutely feel a headset on your head. You are aware that you're not actually there, but because the world is so real and your choices move this character (that isn't you)? I started to feel like I was a drone operator. I started getting that level of anxiety where you're watching this screen and you are personally safe...but that drone is really in the air and if you fuck up it could fall and hurt people. Anyone who has ever flown a drone in pretty tight quarters knows this feeling all too well.
Here however, I'm not controling a drone. I'm putting on this headset to control a real person in a real situation with real life-and-death consequences. Because it looks and feels so real (yet I feel the apparatus on my head) my brain conjured up this logical construct almost sub-consciously. It's really pretty trippy. And only because this is a long 12-15 hour campaign with a story and massive landscapes could this even work. Smaller experiences don't allow you the time to build up to that.
Now as headsets get lighter and less intrusive this will make way for even more immersion. But it's not necessary for an amazing experience. I mean I guess you need to have empathy to react the way I did. Maybe some people need to feel like it's THEM for it to really hit them, but I found the idea of controlling an ACTUAL HUMAN in another part of the world while I was safe at home to be even more anxious than games where it feels like I'm somewhere. Because, sure, I'd feel uneasy - then I'd remember I'm at home - and I'd come down a notch. Rinse and repeat. Here? That never came down because it looks and feels so real that I'm HEAVILY invested in NOT killing this person. We're at a crossroads in human storytelling. This is so different. Very exciting really.
Of course there is just the surface fact that it looks so good in VR that it's just scary as fuck. Not jump scares, mind you - just scary because. Enter Exhibit A:
Talya is indeed easily frightened, so this is a little much (LOL) but your takeaway should be that we don't see hardly ANYTHING scary in that video. Nothing has fucking happened. It just looks so real in the headset to a point, I'm not sure we've reached before this? Again, I've done so much VR it's hard to explain. There's been amazingly detailed and photo-realistic games before. I can't completely put my finger on what's happening here. But hey, I'm not paid to write a nice review, I'm just talking shit in my journal.