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Preview: The Deep

Sony Computer Entertainment Europe’s (SCEE) London Studio brought a brand new version of The Deep along to this month’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). Due to time constraints they were reluctant to offer a full demonstration to attendees, however VRFocus managed to get hands-on with the full version, from submersion to untimely retreat, companion app and all.

The original build of The Deep, first witnessed at the Game Developer’s Conference (GDC) back in March of this year, was decidedly limited. More of an ‘experience’ than a videogame, it was designed with the intention of offering newcomers a jumping-off point for virtual reality (VR) immersion. That it did well, but beyond that there was little call for The Deep. Indeed, as congratulatory as you could be after your first time through there was little reason to return. E3 saw a dramatic change in this position; clearly London Studio were aware of this fatal flaw all along.

The Deep is no longer an ‘experience’ as was stated above. Instead it is now a videogame. There are actions to commit to: objectives, successes and failures. Not necessarily those which threaten your virtual life, but rather instances that are designed to evoke greater emotions than simple stargazing. The Deep still doesn’t present any overarching system with which to measure your achievements but it does give you the opportunity to set personal goals.

At the very start of The Deep the player can use their flare gun to mark salvage for collection. There is a set number of containers to collect near the very surface of the water, offering a brief training area. The player must tag these containers for collection by hitting them with a projectile flare, but additionally a second player that has access to the companion app is able to highlight the containers to bring them to the player’s attention via the use of a mobile drone. Furthermore, they can communicate via the microphone on the tablet which is relayed to the player through their headphones with a filter to make it sound like radio communication. Already we’re seeing a greatly evolved version of a very simple demo, and one which emphasises the ‘social screen’ aspect of Project Morpheus that Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) have been talking about very loudly of late.

After completion of this initial area the cage within which you are contained will begin to lower you deeper into the water. This is where the challenge comes into play. As you sink lower there are all kinds of fish and other creatures to admire, debris from decades-old shipwrecks and amazing natural formations. More importantly however, there are more containers to collect. In the exact same fashion as before the player must aim their flare gun with the DualShock 4 and fire upon a container to designate the target for collection. However, this time around your time is limited. As you descend further your window of opportunity to hit the container shrinks, and given that the flare gun has a very long cooldown period between shots, the self-induced tension adds a significant amount of drama to the experience, perhaps even more so than the confrontation with the creatures that lurk below.

Though The Deep has seen significant improvements in places, you cannot move any more than in the previous iteration of the software: your feet are very firmly stuck to the ground. However you can turn and look in any direction you like, and also aim in any direction. That being said, the software did get very confused when the player ducked with the DualShock 4 controller placed behind their body, locking the player’s arm in place when returning to a standing position. An issue that’s likely to be ironed out before any potential release of course, but a little jarring nonetheless. London Studio were also responsible for the newly revealed Street Luge demo, and the suggestion was that there were many more example pieces that the studio has not yet revealed. VRFocus will keep you updated with any future Project Morpheus content from the team or other first-party SCE studios.

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