Oculus Quest – part of an important year for VR (Pic: Oculus VR)

GameCentral takes a look back at the last 12 months in virtual reality, with games ranging from Ace Combat 7 to Boneworks.

Despite a lingering sense that VR is a medium yet to hit its full stride, this year has seen good indicators that it’s heading in the right direction. The launch of the excellent Oculus Quest, with its absence of set-up, and freedom from cables or the need to own a PC, is the first move towards mass market acceptance.

Of course, what VR really needs is games, and there have been some great ones this year, from the physics-based mastery of Boneworks, to the Bond-esque thrills of Blood & Truth. Half-Life: Alyx may not be here until 2020, but there’s no shortage of stuff to play while you wait.


Asgard’s Wrath for Oculus Rift (Oculus Studios)

You’re the newly minted Norse god of animals, which means that as well as going about the business of being a deity you can also possess heroes and transmute animals into handy support troops.

The first and final levels cast you as a god, but the middle four have you participating in human form, backed up by whichever animal followers you’ve chosen to bring along. And with each saga clocking in at five or six hours, there’s plenty of mythological meat to get your teeth into.

Mixing magical and melee combat with delightfully brain-tickling puzzles, it has side quests, secret and main dungeons to explore, and a AAA story with a level of polish that remains all too rare in VR.


Blood & Truth for PSVR (Sony Interactive Entertainment)

From the people who brought you GTA-lite The Getaway and the London Heist portion of PlayStation VR Worlds, Blood & Truth is a sublimation of those two games; a London-based gangster shooter that mixes Guy Ritchie-style cockney posturing and James Bond’s impossibly stylish gunplay.

Told in flashback as your former SAS soldier Ryan Marks is interrogated by a CIA agent, it’s a breathless rush between set pieces. Dual-wielding guns whilst diving through windows or setting about baddies on an urban motorway with an automatic grenade launcher, it’s all in day’s work for our boy Ryan.

It may not have much replayability, but is an intense, memorable and unusually cinematic experience, which is about to receive free DLC that adds a virtual DJ booth to play with, and a gun-based rhythm action mini-game.


Sairento VR for HTC Vive, Valve Index, Oculus Rift and PSVR (Mixed Realms)

Sairento VR’s set-up is extremely simple: you’re a cyber ninja deploying a dizzying array of weapons to take down a series of foes hurled at you by an errant AI.

That weaponry includes ninja standards like katanas, swords, and throwing stars, while also spinning in sniper rifles, SMGs, and plasma weapons, with most available for dual wielding. It goes further though, giving you the wire-fu skills of a movie ninja, complete with bullet time and back-flips off pieces of scenery.

The combination of all that empowers you to play exactly as you like, letting you take on its hugely compelling arenas at the difficulty level you want and with the weapons you enjoy, all of which are unlocked right from the start. It’s hugely addictive.


Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown for PSVR (Namco)

Building on Namco’s arcade dogfighting heritage, Ace Combat 7 is easily the best of the series, and although only a tiny sliver of it is playable in VR, it’s such a visceral pleasure you can’t help but wish there was more.

With its own discrete set of unlockable planes, each of the three VR missions in Ace Combat 7 tells its own miniature story set in a visually distinct play area. Moving from a tropical archipelago to a huge plateau with ground forces mounting an attack, and finally a mountainous region with snowy valleys and ruthless air defences – each arena requires its own tactics and selection of missiles.

Perhaps the most impressive thing though, is how little nausea the game causes, despite all the barrel rolls and plunging loops. It’s consistently thrilling throughout, especially if you have a flight stick to hand. A PC version is allegedly in the works for 2020.


Boneworks for HTC Vive, Valve Index, Oculus Rift, and Windows Mixed Reality (Stress Level Zero)

Hailed by some as being a bit like Half-Life, Boneworks’ playful, physics-based levels certainly have something in common with Valve’s all-time classic, even if it lacks the scale, polish and character of those seminal games.

It’s still very good though, its story mode combining elegantly designed puzzles that all have multiple potential solutions, with shooting sections where you gun down a selection of computer-controlled troops.

The solid, weighty items you find in its world may not always fit together quite as planned, leading to moments of irritation, but it’s an illuminating signpost to the next level of VR gaming.


Ghost Giant for PSVR (Thunderful)

Set in a world of Animal Crossing-style polite, village-dwelling creatures, you’re a large, friendly ghost whose job it is to help the animals with their problems.

As in Moss, you loom over events in the story, the tiny characters gazing up at you in awe as you move large pieces of scenery or gently yank the roof off a building to make sure its inhabitants are doing okay.

Although the animals are cute, they suffer from familiar problems. Some are sad or depressed, others have social difficulties, and it’s that constant hint of darkness that makes it feel all the more human, relatable, and at times quite moving.


No Man’s Sky: Beyond for HTC Vive, Valve Index, Oculus Rift & PSVR (Hello Games)

Following a launch that remains famous for all the wrong reasons, No Man’s Sky has fought a valiant rearguard action with a succession of free updates that have made it live up to every one of the occasionally hubristic-sounding promises of Hello Games’ founder, Sean Murray.

Its most recent update brought the dream ticket, though: you can now finally explore No Man’s Sky’s vast and glittering multi-verse in VR. It’s not a partial port either, with every single aspect of the game now fully immersive and available to VR players.

Yes, it’s still a little burry, especially on PSVR, but the sheer scale and wonder of a galactic-scale simulation in which you can take off from and land on any moon or planet remains mind-blowing.


Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series for Oculus Quest (Disney Interactive Studios)

If you grew up with Star Wars there is a 100% chance that you have at some point imagined what it would be like to inhabit that galaxy, with your own lightsaber on your belt and the Force powers of a Jedi Knight at your disposal.

The Vader Immortal episodic trilogy seeks to fulfil that wish, placing you in the lava-strewn depths of the planet Mustafar in a lethal battle of survival with Luke’s dad and his legion of Stormtroopers.

From the buttons you push, to the lever to send your ship into hyperspace, or using the Force to grab a downed trooper’s gun in mid-air and standing saber-to-saber with Vader himself, there has never been a more convincing way of actually being in Star Wars.


Trover Saves The Universe for HTC Vive, Valve Index, Oculus Rift, and PSVR (Squanch Games)

Whether or not you find Trover Saves The Universe funny will largely depend on your liking of Rick & Morty, a show also written and voiced by Justin Roiland. If you’re a fan, the chances are this will have you crying with laughter.

Putting you in the floating armchair of a Chairorpian, a species physically unable to stand, your mission is to recover your two dogs, which have been stuffed into the baddie’s empty eye sockets. You do that by controlling Trover, a foul-mouthed and unwilling puppet who does all your fighting using what is effectively a stubby lightsaber.

It’s not a particularly challenging game, or a very long one, but if you’re on the right side of its humour, it’s amongst the funniest games ever made, albeit one that is under absolutely no circumstances suitable for children.


Skyworld for HTC Vive, Valve Index, Oculus Rift, Windows Mixed Reality, and PSVR (Vertigo Games)

Played on a circular table that you spin around to get a closer look at any part of the battlefield, Skyworld is a table-top war game in VR, where your troops attack, defend and capture while you watch.

Using a slowly refilling mana bar like Clash Royale’s, you wait for enough magic to build up before dropping units onto the field. Unlike Supercell’s game, you give them an initial path to follow, after which they’re on their own and will fight enemies or attack the opponent’s castle depending on what they bump into.

The pretty-looking interface occasionally gets in the way of the sometimes rather simplistic action, but other than that it’s a fun and well-balanced attempt at bringing tabletop games to life in VR.


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