Reality keeps expanding.
2017 marked the second year that VR has been widely available to consumers. Shooting galleries and driving simulators continued to dominate the platform, but the biggest innovation this year was the execution of larger, more robust experiences. You could feel terror playing the entire 10+ hour campaign of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, and you could totally immerse yourself in the fantastical world of Tamriel in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR. Despite shortcomings in the platform’s design in allowing you to comfortably play for numerous hours, it was still remarkable being able to dive into such experiences in VR. While there’s still much work to be done to standardize the platform for casual play across wider audiences, it still yielded plenty of amazing games this year that you couldn’t get anywhere else. In no particular order, here are our picks for the best VR games of 2017.
With the VR medium finding its footing, we're seeing a number of games that have managed to refine their core mechanics compared to earlier titles. Robo Recall is one such game that strikes the right chord when executing its approach to fast-paced action, pulling off slick moves and tricks with weapons, and offering an immersive experience. When it comes to delivering quick and exciting FPS action in VR, Robo Recall is in a class of its own.
Keeping the story to a minimum, you'll have to fight waves of rogue robots that have run amok across a metropolis. With your character dual wielding pistols, shotguns, and possessing some useful close-range combat moves--allowing you to yank off arms and heads of enemy bots--the combat in Robo Recall feels incredibly kinetic. It's also effortlessly smooth and accurate.
The amount of action on display in Robo Recall can be overwhelming, but once you get a handle on the mechanics and feel of the action, mowing down hordes of bots is immensely satisfying. Robo Recall is a standout VR action game, and one of the most refined and well-executed experiences for Oculus Rift.
It's of little surprise that games with first-person views naturally translate well to VR. Driving games prove a natural fit and hardcore fans of the genre love to pair their racing wheels with cockpit camera views. As Gran Turismo Sport unfortunately proved with its limited virtual reality options, converting a traditional racing game into a VR experience with all the features intact can be a tall order.
This wasn't an issue for Slightly Mad Studios, developer of Project Cars 2. Aside from improving upon practically every shortcoming of the previous installment, this robust sequel can be fully experienced in VR, with every track and car intact. If you want to take a Honda Civic to Long Beach or test drive a Toyota GT-86 at Fuji Speedway in VR, Project Cars 2 has you covered. In fact, the game provides a strong argument that VR is the ideal way to play any racing game. It brings you closer to the real life sensations of spatial awareness beyond the road in front of you. That includes keeping an eye on your rival by turning your head and using your mirrors as you'd normally would when driving. And while Project Cars 2 doesn't have the most realistic car models, it is impressive to look over your shoulder to appreciate the work that was put into the detailed back seats. Such touches go a long way in making racing in VR convincing and immersive.
When virtual reality first started to come to fruition a few years ago, for many the dream game was probably something like Skyrim. A massive, fantastical world with hundreds of hours of exploration and discovery. In that respect, Skyrim VR is a resounding success.
Skyrim VR is not a small, simplified Skyrim “experience”, but the game in its entirety. Being able to walk from Falkreath to Winterhold, taking in the sights and sounds of the world is something no other VR game has matched yet. And at any point you can detour to enjoy one of Skyrim’s many dungeons and quests, or face a massive dragon. The game does allow you to play with a traditional DualShock controller, but the Move controllers provide the most fun, matching your in-game hands. Equipping a sword and shield and mimicking the rhythms of melee combat or firing the perfect shot with a bow gives the game’s dated combat a fresh feel. But it's wielding magic that really shines through, with the ability to freely move your hands independent of one another, letting you attack multiple enemies at once with different spells.
Skyrim VR isn’t perfect; it's the same buggy RPG we’re all used to and seeing unrealistic NPC collisions in VR is both more hilarious and also more disappointing for those wanting a truly immersive experience. But Skyrim VR shows the potential for what the future may hold and seeing Tamriel in this new way is absolutely worth experiencing.
On paper, Farpoint seems like a fairly standard shooter about an unnamed space pilot who crash-lands on an unidentified planet. But since the game uses PlayStation VR, it becomes an exhilarating, immersive experience, and with PlayStation’s new Aim Controller, it also includes phenomenal gunplay.
Farpoint's early hours show off all the clever ways the Aim Controller elevates the game beyond a typical VR shooting gallery. Closing one eye to peer down the simulated holographic sight and swapping between weapons by physically reaching over your shoulder are features that make it an engaging experience that can only be appreciated in VR.
Yet, the game's biggest surprise comes in it’s overarching plot involving the two scientists who crashed on the planet first. When taking periodic breaks from gunning down aliens to scan holographic memories, you experience a dramatic narrative about hope and survival. You begin to care about the story unfolding all around you, rather than treating the game as just an arcade VR shooter. Learning the fate of your fellow crew members represents a tonal clash from the rest of the game that adds a much-needed emotional hook.
From the Aim Controller’s rumble to how you navigate its alien environments, Farpoint gives you a taste of something new for PlayStation VR and also provides a hint as to what the platform can do. Farpoint and the Aim Controller are a proof-of-concept that opens new doors for the future of VR shooters.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is special for many reasons but high among them is the fact that it's one of the few games that can be played either traditionally or entirely in VR. What's all the more impressive is neither version feels compromised, and you’ll have a fantastic time regardless of how you play. That said, if you own a PSVR, you should absolutely try it in VR.
The game’s realistic, and frankly gross, visuals are perfect for virtual reality. You’ll want to inspect every element of each room in the Baker Mansion, and taking in the detail of a disgusting dinner feast or rotting corpse up close really sticks with you. After playing a while, the Baker Mansion starts to feel like a real place, and looking at it outside of VR after the fact feels disconnected, like looking at vacation photos.
It’ll scare the hell out of you, too. Some of the game’s more bombastic scares are even more in-your-face, but it's the many dark claustrophobic hallways that are truly terrifying. The simple act of walking down a staircase into a basement may have been the most nerve-racking experience we’ve had in years.
Resident Evil 7 in VR is an accomplishment showing how, when well implemented, VR can enhance a game. The fact that it's packaged in the full game and not a separate release makes it a great value, and an absolute must-play game for owners of PSVR.
GameSpot will be unveiling its picks for the best games of the year throughout all of December. Check out our Best of 2017 hub for even more.