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How Bethesda Lost E3, But Won VR

The videogames industry bemoans sequels, but the VR community revels in remakes.

Bethesda Softworks’ Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) press conference has caught a bad rap this year. With an endless stream of new titles all confirmed for release in 2017, it would be easy to assume the videogames audience would be satisfied with the showcase. However, while the lack of innovation in a sea of sequels has not been well received, the virtual reality (VR) community has been blessed with exactly what they asked for.

A flurry of big names graced the screen at Bethesda Softworks’ ‘Bethesdaland’ themed press conference. After being offered cotton candy and Ferris Wheel rides amidst a mass of playable demos and free bars, the showcase saw new entries in the Wolfenstein and The Evil Within franchises appeared with a ‘2’ suffix, while new downloadable content was announced for Dishonored 2. A new beta for Quake Champions has been announced and The Elder Scrolls franchise is getting fleshed out further with a new mobile title and a Nintendo Switch port of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. That’s plenty for one publisher, right?

Well, it seems that’s not the case. Despite the hospitality of the publisher for those in attendance and the non-stop rush of new videogames and content being displayed on-screen – one big franchise after another – the general consensus is that Bethesda Softworks might as well not have bothered with a press conference this year. As much as they tried to deliver what their audience wanted (and as well as all of these titles will no doubt perform), the hivemind opinion of the videogames industry is that the publisher isn’t attempting anything new.

Conversely, the VR community has applauded Bethesda Softworks for the exact same thing that the larger industry has critised the publisher for. Two remakes and a semi-sequel have been presented, and all three have been welcomed with open arms.

Fallout 4 VR, originally revealed at E3 2016, has seen significant improvement since its unveiling. Now complete with free movement, V.A.T.S. implementation and a much more complete ‘Fallout’ feeling, Fallout 4 VR has been the highlight of the show for many of those already invested in VR. Fallout 4 VR is currently only confirmed for HTC Vive, and is set to launch late in 2017.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR, much like Fallout 4 VR, is a familiar videogame returning afresh in VR. And that’s the punchline: this isn’t another remaster, it’s a complete refresh. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR may feature the same environments, enemies and quests that you’ve experienced before, but you’ve never experience them like this. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR is the fourth edition of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim to be launched on a PlayStation console and the second on PlayStation 4 alone, but it’s got the potential to be the best by far.

And then there’s DOOM VFR. Although this semi-sequel will reuse a lot of assets from 2016’s hugely popular DOOM it does feature a unique storyline. More importantly however, DOOM VFR somehow manages to not only perform light years ahead of the prototype revealed at E3 2016, but it also finds a solution to many of the problems facing modern VR, including fast-paced movement.

So that’s three VR titles which, for all intents-and-purposes, are old videogames repurposed for VR. But they offer unique worlds for deep exploration in a way that no VR videogame has yet managed. The VR aspect of Bethesda Softworks’ E3 2017 showcase faces the same problems as the traditional videogames designed for play on a 2D screen, and yet they still feel wholly new. Regardless of what you think of VR platform exclusivity or locomotion control systems, there’s no denying that Bethesda Softworks are about to big the medium a huge push forward.

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