I really love Penn & Teller VR for what it was willing to do differently with a VR headset, something that no ordinary video game can replicate. The headset becomes a magician’s prop, and you the performer. But its welcome wears thin too quickly, its traps, tricks, and inner workings too easily revealed, and gimmicks too often expected. It’s just not the magic of video games that I was hoping for from two of magic’s greatest.
Blood & Truth isn't doing anything completely revolutionary for VR, particularly because we saw many of its own bullet points back at the PlayStation VR's launch. However, it packs these ideas into a cinematic package whose presentation can hardly be rivaled. If you want to step into the shoes of an action hero a la James Bond or Jason Bourne, Blood & Truth lets players live those experiences. From high-octane explosive thrills to intimate emotional moments of character connection, it exemplifies everything that an interactive VR action movie should be.
The more I played it, the more I loved it, until finally finishing the long journey and not wanting the adventure to end. Sam Witwer is brilliant as Deacon St. John, and his journey of survival, humanity, and self-discovery through a deadly world via motorcycle is a memorable one that shouldn't be missed.
Falcon Age gets its animal interactions right. Bonding with the falcon is an incredible experience, but the rest of the game just feels like going through the motions. Falcon Age suffers from following too much of a "video game" formula where it doesn't need to, which makes those elements noticeably stick out as sour points in something that is otherwise remarkable. There's still a magic here, but it's weighed down by unnecessary baggage that feels disconnected and separate from the central conceit of the game.
Sekiro is challenging, but fair—a game with the goal of allowing the player to grow, rather than the avatar. It blends mechanics and narrative in a way that is too rare in games today, allowing for a deep level of immersion that begs for just one more clash of blades no matter how difficult the encounters get. Seeing each one to its bloody finish is well worth the trials it takes to get there.
The King's Bird has a lot of potential in both the challenging and the serene, but its tolerances for mistakes get just a little bit too tight. It wants to be two games. On the one side, there's an almost Journey-like indie with beautiful gameplay, audio, and visuals that calm the mind and soothe the soul. On the other, Serenity Forge wanted to create tough challenges that would feel like a triumph to overcome. While I was completely on board with the marriage of ideas at first, the two began to clash somewhere along the way as the trials no longer supported the gameplay. What Serenity Forge managed to do with the visuals and sound is on another level, but the loose gameplay mechanics never quite fit into how precise the challenges are designed to be. I wanted more of what The King's Bird was, and less of what it became.
Far Cry New Dawn is definitely another Far Cry game, though the changes it makes to keep everything feeling fresh are intriguing. a very light RPG touch makes much of the typically repetitive content feel new with a difficulty curve that will challenge how people play. While it can be played independently, Far Cry 5 and New Dawn together create an interesting story package featuring some great twists, turns, and betrayals of the player (even if those pesky convenient macguffins keep coming into play). Coming less than a year after 5, New Dawn does retain some of the sins of its predecessor, but it still managed to make enough new inroads to keep me hooked until the end.
All great VR experiences start with an idea. “Wouldn't it be cool if…?” As much as I enjoyed my time with A Fisherman's Tale, the unique concepts it bears and the surprisingly deep narrative carried on its roiling waves, it's hard to recommend something so brief. Not to mention, the game feels more like a proof of concept for something far bigger, rather than a proper VR title in its own right. This lighthouse will always carry a forlorn sense that infinity isn't quite as infinite as it is meant to feel.
Silver Lining is another excuse to strap on the web shooters and play more of one of 2018's best games, but it makes that excuse in a way that feels complacent. Some great banter and a decent boss fight aside, it doesn't provide satisfying conclusions to the stories that were started in the first two chapters while hastily wrapping up its own narrative threads without giving the nuances any room to breathe. For the players that have long since mastered Spidey's web of abilities, there's nothing new to learn here. It's more Marvel's Spider-Man, but that's about it. Now that Silver Lining is out, we can finally start looking forward to the potential innovation and forward-swinging momentum that a proper sequel might take.
Arca's Path is at its best when it's giving the player long and curving paths to cruise along and at its worst when it forces you to be tediously meticulous along short narrow paths. I understand the need for these slower sections in order to present the player with a challenge, but there aren't enough of those purely fun rewarding portions to make up for the frustration. Beautifully designed and an interesting idea, Arca's Path rarely expands beyond the simplicity of its novelty in a meaningful enough way. It wasn't long before I wanted to untie my hands from behind my back and actually use a controller. I'm glad it exists simply to try things outside of the box in VR, but this is a building block, not a definer.
Just Cause 4 is just a better Just Cause 3, and that's not a bad thing, but it feels that many elements were added just 'cause rather than seeking to revolutionize Rico Rodriguez's many revolutions. New weather elements hardly play into the moment to moment gameplay, even if they make for some pretty epic moments during a few campaign missions. It's a physics playground of the highest order, but rarely does enough with the clever mechanics in it's repetitive mission structure, whether it's the bland challenges scattered on the map or the increasingly dull and overly long Region Strikes. Just Cause 4 has some great ideas, massive explosions, and much needed improvements over the last game, but it can't quite step out of the shadow of its own idea that pure and utter chaos should be the headliner, making the massive open world feel less compelling and more, well, just 'cause.
Darksiders III is a game for fans, but it will struggle to find lasting appeal outside of that audience. It has a slow start that won't do much to sway anyone that's not invested. If you're willing to dig deep and stick with it, Darksiders III can be an extremely rewarding experience that has a lot to offer. It diverges from the first two games enough to feel interesting, but retains a distinct look and feel that fans of the series will instantly be familiar with. Technical issues drag the experience down, but underneath them is a game that people have been clamoring for. While not my favorite of the series, it's good to be back in this world in yet another horseman's shoes. I can only hope that we get to finish out the four with Darksiders IV and Strife.
Beat Saber is among the defining VR titles, pushing the platform forward in fun and unique ways. Driving music underlines a virtual reality experience that's a huge workout. Despite being exhausted, I found myself losing hours at a time to Beat Saber, replaying my favorite tracks to try and master them. Simple, fun, and addictive, Beat Saber has a hook that will immediately grab players and keep them engaged for a long time. Hopefully Beat Games continues to support the platform, adding to what I would consider an essential VR experience.