The Occupation is bold, ambitious, and a bit of a mess. Its bugs and occasionally obtuse storytelling severely detract from the overall experience, and yet it will live longer in the memory than the average game. There's something fascinating here: a real-time thriller that puts genuine political power in the palm of your hands. But it's strangled by its own ambition, and that's as inevitable as it is unfortunate.
Spike Volleyball's gameplay loop isn't atrocious, but poor animations and ugly visuals demonstrate the low-budget nature of the project. With glitchy online play and a rudimentary career mode, it's extremely difficult to recommend this release – especially when you consider that it's retailing at a price point five times greater than what it realistically deserves.
Life Is Strange 2 feels like it's flying under-the-radar, which is unfortunate because this sequel has all of the hallmarks that made its predecessor a success. Episode 2: Rules is slow, but DONTNOD is still easing its new cast of characters in. There's definitely something good brewing here, but for whatever reason we can't shake the feeling that the developer has utterly failed to capture the imagination of Arcadia Bay's biggest fans.
There's clearly a lot of effort been invested into bringing Borderlands 2 to PSVR, and that's appreciated. The gameplay does feel dated these days – and the lack of DLC and co-op is a real shame – but there's still fun to be had with the loot-shootin' loop, and Pandora scales well to virtual reality. The PS Move control scheme is cumbersome but the game plays fine with a DualShock 4 in hand, and an array of comfort options mean that you can tailor the experience to your exact needs.
Tetris Effect takes you on an emotional rollercoaster through oceans and to other worlds. While its striking audiovisual achievements sing on a standard screen, virtual reality elevates the experience to euphoric new levels. And yet, for all the chatter of spiritual awakenings, there's a damn good game of Tetris here, bursting with inventive modes and beautiful visuals which will keep you hooked for potentially hundreds of hours.
Astro Bot Rescue Mission is an imaginative and innovative platformer which plays to the strengths of PlayStation VR and delivers an immersive experience that isn't easy to forget. Stunning presentation elevated by insanely good animation ensure that you always feel present in the release's virtual world, while tight controls and genuinely clever level design will keep you engaged. This is the kind of game that will leave you beaming long after you've taken the headset off – and we can't give it higher praise than that.
Life Is Strange 2: Episode 1 – Roads has the same je ne sais quoi as its predecessor, but it's a different kind of game. This isn't a series about teenage angst anymore – it's about survival in a contemporary United States that's more hostile than it'd like to think it is. Larger, more detailed environments and inconclusive moral decisions that have a direct influence on key cast members make for an impressive, brave opening.
The Golf Club 2019 Featuring PGA Tour's foundations are built upon a rock-solid simulation, with tight swinging and tough greens making for a stern challenge that's difficult but fair. The addition of licensed courses means that this year's game has a much better campaign, but it doesn't feel like HB Studios has had quite enough time to capture the sense of occasion that real TPC events can have. As such, with 2K Sports now also on board as publisher, we reckon it's the next instalment that's really going to impress. The building blocks are all in place, though, and if you're in need of a serious golf game on your PS4 right now, then this edition very much finds the green.
Pizza Titan Ultra has a strong identity and a delicious gameplay loop, but the title actively works against you in later levels, sapping your momentum in a desperate attempt to inject some difficulty. It's a frustrating flaw, because between its high-octane arcade action and punchy personality, there's a slice of something nice here – you've just got to pick off all of the bits you don't like before you can truly enjoy it.
There's no doubt that Firewall Zero Hour's tactical combat works well in virtual reality – in fact, the fledgling medium adds a lot to this FPS, allowing you to naturally gesture to teammates and intuitively check your corners in a way you couldn't on a standard display. But while there are some structural and technical issues that we have confidence First Contact Entertainment will be able to fix, it's the question marks over its community that make it a tough sell. It's a chicken-and-egg situation that's unfortunate for everyone involved, but it's something that the developer would have been aware of when it embarked on creating an online-only multiplayer shooter for an install base of a few million headsets. Good as the game may be, it's something you need to keep in mind as well.
Shenmue I & II divided players and critics on the Dreamcast, and will continue to do so on the PlayStation 4. These games are an acquired taste, but there's nothing quite like them, and if you can overcome some of their more awkward idiosyncrasies, you'll be rewarded with a set of revolutionary sandboxes that impress even today. The ports are let down by a handful of recurring bugs, but are otherwise presented authentically, and while the voice acting is no less embarrassing today, there's a charm to both the script and performances that can be endearing to an open mind. There's no question that these titles deserve their place in the annals of gaming history – but whether you'll love them or loathe them will ultimately come down to personal taste.
Wailing Heights' presentation is perfectly in-tune, but its gameplay is out of time. While it neatly repurposes some old point-and-click tropes, it doesn't quite have enough quality to match the ambition of the classics it's so clearly inspired by. There are some laugh out loud moments and some real ear-worm audio, but it's not quite enough to demand front-row seats for The Deadbeats' reunion tour.
It's practically impossible to make any firm conclusions about The Walking Dead: The Final Season in its first episode, but the engine improvements have really helped step up the storytelling, while the new cast of characters seem interesting at this early stage. While we could take or leave the gameplay tweaks, particularly in the combat department, it's already clear that the stakes are going to be much higher in this concluding season than the series' previous disappointing outing – and for now, that's enough for us.
Electronauts' slickly presented, highly interactive sound stage makes for a thoroughly entertaining musical application. It's so easy to get into the groove as you remix songs in virtual reality, and while you probably won't recognise a lot of the artists included, the songs are solid and easy to manipulate. Veteran musicians may long for a little more control, but by emphasising accessibility, this is a game that everyone can enjoy.
You're right to be sceptical of EA Sports' buzzwords by now, but Madden NFL 19's headline Real Player Motion really does result in a more fluid game of football. The presentation may be familiar, but the game feels great on the field, and that consequently enhances all of its headline modes. Longshot: Homecoming may be short, but Tiburon's teen drama is well-presented and well written, while Franchise mode includes some oft-requested features, like draft classes. Ultimate Team, meanwhile, continues to be a grind – but it's an addictive one that's made all the more compulsive by the roster of gameplay improvements made elsewhere.
Games like Train Sim World will always benefit from a greater array of content: more trains, more routes, and more services. That said, learning how each of the trains in this title work and mastering the three main disciplines will take you hours at a time, and while it's very much an acquired taste, we derived a mixture of satisfaction and relaxation from our new role as a railway operator.
The Persistence cleverly blends Dead Space-esque outer-space sci-fi scares with the addictive arcade loop of rogue-lites like Rogue Legacy, resulting in a PlayStation VR campaign that's both gut-wrenching and weirdly replayable. It won't take you a million lightyears to complete the likeable campaign, but a hardcore mode awaits when you've finished, and clever co-op functionality adds a little longevity to the experience as well. With a compelling gameplay format as well as some great gadgetry, this is one survival mission we thoroughly enjoyed.
Look, it's a fun game, filled with flashing lights and so much digital detritus you'll need a shower after one run. But the thing is, you've played this before – not in this form in 4K on this particular format, but Tempest is Tempest and Tempest 4000 doesn't really try to be anything else.