It’s been a fantastic year for virtual reality games, and with VR titles hailing from ambitious indie studios and well-established developers alike, the prospect of having truly great games in VR is decidedly here. We at the Road to VR editorial staff, having explored content across VR platforms over the last year, have deliberated over the past few weeks and have come to a decision on 2017’s top honors.
Because the medium is still in its infancy, we felt it wasn’t possible to provide a meaningful set of awards based around individual genres at this time. Instead, this year we focused on the much broader task of weighing games according to the most immersive platforms available: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR.
Games eligible for Road to VR‘s Game of the Year award must be available to the public on or before December 1st to allow for ample deliberation. Games must also natively support the target platform as to ensure full operability.
Without further ado, here are this year’s winners.
As an Oculus exclusive title developed specifically for Touch, this first-person sci-fi adventure amazingly grounds you in the story while letting you fly free in zero-G. The game seems to have everything going for it too; incredible visuals, lifelike motion capture, quality writing, quality voice actors, excellent object interaction, detailed hand presence thanks to dynamic hand poses… we could go on. And we will.
Sometimes VR games overstep their bounds into territory the medium just can’t make good on right now. Lone Echo respects these boundaries while offering a locomotion style that is so freeing—while also being widely nausea-free—that it can even be used for its fast-paced multiplayer counterpart Echo Arena. It’s not only easy to control, but also contributes to immersion; you’re able to easily internalize how the world works and accept it without really thinking after only a few minutes of on-boarding. That’s an important part of the Presence equation for sure.
The game may feature cinematic sci-fi settings seemingly pulled from the set of Gravity (2013), but the star of the show is without a doubt Olivia. The early part of the game is filled with engaging ways to interact with her, creating a genuine feeling that she’s actually there—something that’s easy to screw up with poorly executed mocap, bad dialogue, or lackluster voice acting—basically anything that reveals her to be a hollow simulacra and not the living, breathing, ball-busting starship captain she is. Yet, the developers did a great job of making Olivia real enough for the player to connect with.
Lone Echo isn’t without flaws; nothing is. Puzzles show a great affinity for wow-factor and make good use of motion controls, but ultimately could be more complex. Despite this, Lone Echo it represents a shining light pointing towards greater, more in-depth games that don’t necessarily rely on old gameplay styles. Lone Echo has embraced the medium fully, searching for the most compelling way to deliver deep immersion.
Since the launch of Touch in December 2016, the distinction between the sort of games made available on Oculus Home and Steam has become less pronounced over time. Undoubtedly, the company’s ‘walled garden’ approach has been unpopular for its creation of exclusivity where open standards would better serve the public. Though it’s hard to deny that Oculus’ concerted investment in motion controller-supporting VR games in 2017 hasn’t resulted in some incredible titles that may not otherwise exist. Case in point, the Oculus-funded SUPERHOT VR that later found a resounding success on Steam.
It’s honestly hard to believe that the original flatscreen Superhot (2016) wasn’t conceived for VR in the first place, considering how well the game’s slow motion, red guy-shattering premise works with a headset and two motion controllers. Built from the ground-up for VR headsets, Superhot VR isn’t a lengthy game when playing through story mode, but its ability to immerse with its low poly style and physical movement-based gameplay immediately make it one of those “easy to learn, hard to master” games that are undoubtedly worth coming back to—if only to perfect your trick shots, and delve deeper into the feeling of being some sort of badass from The Matrix (1999).
Stylish, addictive, immersive. All of these words come to mind when we think about Superhot VR. Now that the developers have pushed their ‘Forever Update’, several challenge modes make the game that much more difficult, and ridiculously fun.
Farpoint made its debut on PlayStation VR as one of the first ‘full’ AAA titles to delivery an engaging single player campaign to didn’t feel like it ended just as things were getting started. The VR FPS also launched with full support for the PS Aim controller which worked seamlessly with the game’s two-handed weapons, including an intuitive method for switching between them with a quick and funcional gesture.
While Farpoint’s story didn’t enrapture us, it was a serviceable foundation for immersive and fun gunplay. The game’s weapons didn’t do much to break new ground—mostly falling into the usual tropes of shotgun, assault rifle, sniper rifle—but there’s something to be said about great execution of a known formula. The weapons themselves wouldn’t be much fun without the right mixture of enemies; a slew of interesting enemies with well-defined roles was a great match for the weapons on offer, giving the player clear and fun ways to develop a strategy and prioritize enemies in the midst of battle. And what’s more, just as things start to feel a little too familiar the game throws a curveball at the player, introducing new and quite different enemies, as well as a number of new weapons to use against them.
Farpoint already felt substantial at launch, but the game recently got a free ‘Versus Expansion Pack’ which added a brand new PVP mode—which takes advantage of a 15 new weapon variants for 1v1 combat—further rounding out the title’s value proposition.
We’re looking forward to next year’s awards with the expectation of even more great games and platforms to choose from.
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