Now this is cinematic virtual reality (VR). You’re standing on top of a blimp, a powerful wind trying to carry you away. Rooftops can be seen miles beneath you while your Captain fails to make his voice heard over the roar of the engines. You strap yourself in and rappel down the side of the craft, starting to suffer from a very real case of vertigo as you descend. Inside, there’s an intense series of fist fights and close-quarters shootouts to be had, with bullets screeching past your head and enemies racing towards you.
This week sees the launch of perhaps one of the most controversial videogames of the new generation of consoles so far. The Order: 1886 from Ready at Dawn Studios initially stunned with its impressive visuals and unique alternative history, but has since spread scepticism thanks to what appears to be highly-linear gameplay that’s dotted with quick-time events (QTE). Still, it’s hard to deny that the title looks to be one of the most deliberately cinematic experiences since Naughty Dog last visited its Uncharted series, raising a few interesting points for a VR adaption.
It’s the sheer quality of The Order: 1886’s presentation that makes it an intriguing candidate for a VR adaption. This is undoubtedly one of the best looking videogames currently available, with lavishly-detailed environments complimented by design that mixes fact and fiction in fascinating ways. Being able to exist within this world would be a treat for VR fans simply from an exploration point of view, as it tops most if not all of the technical showcases seen for the Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus head-mounted displays (HMD) so far.
The title’s brand of cover-based action could prove to be thrilling if properly optimised. The Order: 1886 boasts its own unique arsenal of weaponry that’s begging to be used in VR. That includes the Thermite Rifle, which burns through the enemy’s cover and the experimental Arc gun, shooting focus streams of electricity. It’s weapons such as these that could make the title an empowering shooter to play in VR, offering something different from the military simulations that are certainly on their way.
Of course, there are issues with The Order: 1886’s highly restrictive gameplay nature. Forcing the player’s hand does not work well in VR. QTEs and on-rails segments don’t mesh well when controlling a human character and can create simulation sickness if not handled with extreme care. This is undoubtedly where the biggest problems lie for a potential VR adaption of the title and ultimately seem to make it something of an ill fit for VR, even if its brilliantly well-realised world begs for more immersive exploration.
It’s a shame, but hopefully The Order: 1886 affects VR in the long run, raising the standard of production cycles on PlayStation 4 and ensuring that, one day, Project Morpheus titles will meet this high standard.