A woman tries out the PlayStation VR headset at Ginza Place in Tokyo, Japan. Photograph: Aflo / Barcroft Images
Sony’s PlayStation VR headset launches this week, offering a more affordable and intuitive introduction to the concept than the likes of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. All you need is a PlayStation 4, a PlayStation Camera – and the £350 headset itself of course.
If you’ve taken the plunge into virtual gaming, here are the nine games we’d recommend trying first.
Rez Infinite (Enhance Games, £25)
Rave flyers and ancient architecture … Rez Infinite. Photograph: Enhance
The reboot of Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s cult rhythm shooter Rez may deliver familiar content, but its a tremendous fit for VR. The on-rails, sonic journey through a world built from rave flyers and ancient architecture is a wonder to explore via a headset, and delightfully reminiscent of the VR vision the 1990s promised, and promptly failed to deliver.
Tumble VR (Supermassive Games, £8)
Understated gem … Tumble VR. Photograph: Supermassive Games
If Sony’s headset brings an understated gem to the table, it is surely Tumble VR. This simple puzzle game sees players piling up blocks to meet various goals, whether reaching for height, deflecting lasers or building round obstacles. The pleasure is in the highly tactile nature of selecting and placing blocks, making it feel very much like a simulated form of Jenga. Atypically meditative in contrast to its launch lineup stable mates, Tumble VR is as rewarding as it is modest.
EVE Valkyrie (CCP, £55)
Dogfighting in space … EVE Valkyrie. Photograph: CCP
Since the prototype Oculus Rift rekindled affection for VR, the traditional 3D space shooter has enjoyed a return to prominence. The reason? Glancing around and out your cockpit as you dogfight in the stars is a beguiling notion, and as there’s no character movement, it’s much easier on those who have limited space or are prone to motion sickness. In practice, everything works rather well, and while Valkyrie isn’t perfect, it hammers home a VR fantasy many have waited a considerable time to experience: shooting aliens from inside a cool spacecraft.
Batman: Arkham VR (Warner Bros, £16)
Dark Knight as detective … Batman Arkham VR. Photograph: Warner Bros
Devoted to the Dark Knight’s role as detective, Batman: Arkham VR highlights the fact that virtual reality can be at its strongest when shunning action. Here the emphasis is on a series of scenes where the Caped Crusader gathers clues and solves crimes. Rocksteady’s game may be too fleeting for some, but it offers an astounding sense of presence – that feeling you really are inhabiting its world. And seeing yourself reflected in a mirror wearing the bat suit is an extraordinary moment.
Super Hypercube (Kokoromi, £25)
Super Hypercube. Photograph: Kokoromi
Best described as a cross between Tetris and Super Hexagon, Kokoromi’s trippy, first-person puzzler has players reorganising clusters of blocks in order to navigate a series of approaching walls – each with a specifically shaped gap to slip through. The virtual reality element is subtly used, allowing clusters to be viewed from all angles, and the minimalist, hyper-colourful design makes for a highly sensual environment. This is a beautifully constructed score chaser.
Thumper (Drool, £16)
Cosmic obstacle course … Thumper. Photograph: Drool
Billed as a rhythm violence game, Thumper is a sort of cosmic obstacle course swirling through a bullet hell shooter. The simple controls have you piloting a metallic beetle along a galactic track, hitting buttons to take corners, leap over barriers and fire missiles, all to a driving electronic beat. Designed by ex-members of the Harmonix team (makers of Guitar Hero and Rock Band), it’s a visually astonishing test of timing and coordination.
Job Simulator (Owlchemy Labs, £24)
Boisterous anti-realism … Job Simulator. Photograph: Owlchemy Labs
Transporting players to a cartoonish realm, Job simulator demonstrates VR’s capacity to host a new form of comedy. This is a game that – through anarchic simulations of careers from chef to office worker – offers a boisterous anti-realism. It perhaps makes a strength of unruly interaction, but is delightfully silly, and perfect for introducing friends to VR.
PlayStation VR Worlds (Sony, £25)
Mini-gangland drama … London Heist. Photograph: Sony
This collection of short VR experiences, developed by Sony’s in-house studios give a polished and varied introduction to the technology. London Heist is a mini-gangland drama with some truly astonishing moments of embodiment, while Ocean Descent is a picturesque diving experience, and Street Luge is an interesting urban racer with a quite dizzying sense of speed. Another launch title that’s great for showing off the headset to curious friends and neighbours.
Headmaster (Frame Interactive, £16)
Football heading sim … Headmaster. Photograph: Frame Interactive
Developed during a virtual reality game jam co-sponsored by Valve, the comedic influence of the Portal developer is clear in this football heading sim. Set in a sort of sporting prison camp players have to successfully complete a series of heading tests, using just the requisite body movement to control the ball into a variety of tests and targets. It’s weird, funny, challenging and compelling, the lack of handheld controls adding to the easy, intuitive feel. An offbeat take on the sports sim that really makes the best of the hardware.