As a big fan of the originals, released in the early 2000s, and as the owner of the previous HD remaster, it was hard to resist the allure of this new remaster for too long, which also includes the exciting option of playing it in VR. I purchased the PS4/PSVR version, but this new remastered title is also available on PC with Occulus Rift and HTC Vive compatibility.
The PS4 version allows a choice between playing the game on a flat screen or playing it in VR, using the PSVR headset. Both modes have their pros and cons. The regular flat screen version looks great, and gives the good, old ZoE third person combat experience of a series of deadly and yet elegant dances of fighting mechs. The flat version preserves the fluidity and mobility of the original gameplay. Its third person perspective allows the full appreciation of its sweeping attacks and artistic special effects. This is the game as it was designed to be played, and it’s never looked better, but, beyond the enhanced visuals, it offers nothing new.
The VR mode, in contrast, loses a lot that makes the original game shine. The first-person VR mode perspective, stifles the gracefulness of the combat and restricts the view, meaning the beautiful array of special effects can no longer be fully appreciated. The VR comfort options can also make the VR mode feel very clunky and restrictive, with its suffocating view and camera movement restrictions. When I first booted up the game in VR mode, I struggled to feel like I was playing in VR, at all. The camera was locked to the enemies and didn’t allow me to look away and the view was heavily restricted on the sides, leaving a box like view, not unlike the flat screen mode. However, after a few minutes of fiddling with the VR comfort settings, I did manage to unlock most of the restrictions.
This game’s VR mode, along with most VR titles to date, suffers from the assumption that everyone who plays it is going to puke up in the headset, if not immediately treated with kid gloves and given all available comfort settings. Current gen VR has been out for a few years now. Many gamers are used to playing on quite hardcore, VR mode settings. I really wish that VR games would start offering a simple choice of VR settings, for example, Newbie, Medium and Hardcore, so VR users can have a choice of their default VR comfort settings. Just like what is widely available for gameplay difficulty.
Nearly every game I play in VR, forces me into the VR comfort menus to turn off all the restrictions that they seem to consider essential. Very few games have been released that force people to play on easy difficulty on the the first play through, just because you’re new to the game therefore, clearly, won’t be able to handle the challenge of normal mode. So why is this done for VR settings? Anyway, rant over.
While the VR mode does lose out in terms of fluidity of movement and its restricted visual perspective, it does gain in the feeling of immediacy that the new first-person view gives. The cockpit perspective has a much more intimate feel and puts you right at the centre of the action. There is also some great design in the VR UI. My favourite is the little hologram of Jehuty which mirrors the moves of your orbital frame, restoring a hint of the third person perspective that the game was designed for. Unfortunately, all the cut scenes, even the rendered cutscenes, are flat and shows on the cinema style screen. This frequently yanks you out of the first-person VR view. These interruptions quite quickly start to feel annoying and intrusive, due to the frequency and length of the cutscenes in the game.
At the end of the day, this game was never designed with VR or even a first-person perspective in mind. If you think of this as a flat screen title with the added extra of a VR mode tacked on, then what is offered in terms of VR feels quite generous. Many titles that include VR modes, only allow brief segments of VR gameplay, rather than the whole title. In that, Konami have gone above and beyond. True, the game never quite feels comfortable with itself in its VR skin. In the VR mode, there is always that sense of ill fit, with a jarring feel between the visual and gameplay styles. However, as a fresh, new perspective in which to play a classic game, the VR mode is perfectly serviceable. It gives a view of the ZoE action unlike anything ever offered before.
If you already have PSVR and are a long-term fan of the franchise then this a must try experience. However, like many of the VR titles, released to date, it fails to deliver the definitive VR experience that many gamers are waiting on.