Intruders: Hide And Seek Articles RSS Feed | Intruders: Hide And Seek RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network What's Does the Future Have in Store for PSVR? 6 Changes We Need to See Fri, 03 May 2019 10:04:15 -0400 Ty Arthur

If you've got a PS4 and haven't yet jumped on the VR train, now is the perfect time to hit the station. Prices are lower, upgrades have been applied, and the catalog of games is currently booming.

Last year, we took a look at the PSVR's current incarnation and tried to determine if it's worth your money. It's still (essentially) the first-gen trial version of the hardware, and there are a lot of kinks to still be worked out. With big news arriving from Sony, it's nearly time to revise that opinion.

The cat is out of the bag: the PS5 is in the works and potentially coming in 2020. Although, we aren't supposed to call it the PS5 yet for some reason. We also know VR will be supported in some fashion, but the specifics haven't been revealed at this point. 

With new consoles on the horizon and the sea of virtual reality titles steadily expanding, it's time to take stock of what PSVR could do better. That's a fact compounded with Steam putting their Valve Index VR machine up for pre-order, and the Oculus Quest set to launch soon.

What's more, some players may not realize that a handful of quality of life upgrades have already arrived since PSVR launched at the end of 2016. I (sadly) bought my PSVR just before a 2nd-Gen edition came out that includes an inline headphone jack and slimmer connection cable.

While those are welcome additions, there are still some major shortcomings to overcome in its hardware and its overall design. Let's take a deeper look at the top 5 changes the upcoming iteration needs to implement to take the console VR experience to the next level.

Build The PSVR Breakout Box Into The Console

Anyone considering VR knows that price is a barrier. However, what a lot of new PSVR players don't realize is just how much shelf real estate this system takes up. 

Take it from someone who knows  you absolutely need to get a charging stand to hold all of the components in one place. This helps avoid a ton of extra clutter from the headset (with its massive cord) and the Move controllers all rolling around.

Even with a charging stand, though, you are still stuck with the connector brick (called the "breakout box") sitting next to your console. That's where the design could easily be improved. Sony absolutely needs to have the PSVR brick built directly into the base console at the PS5 launch.

Considering that devices like the new Oculus Quest completely ditch everything but the headset and controllers, its clear that smaller devices that take up less space are the future of VR.

Improved Tracking

I have to admit, the current PSVR camera is pretty nifty. Sony's engineers managed to make it highly adaptable in a very tiny package.

However, there's big room for improvement here. The PSVR has a major Achille's Heel not present in other PC-based setups: you only get a single camera for motion tracking.

Other systems like the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift S, and impending Valve Index all use multiple camera setups for significantly improved tracking (either with two base stations or with multiple cameras built into the headset).

The PS5's VR headset desperately requires either a multi-camera setup or some new design that tracks better with the single, forward-facing camera system. This single feature alone would catapult the PSVR past "novelty" into "must-buy" territory.

Foveated Rendering

Hardware setup aside, the biggest issue with the PSVR right now is that nearly all of its existing games feel hampered or restrained in various ways by existing technology.

On-rails or stationary games tend to be the most fun because you don't expect them to have huge open environments that can be fully explored.

Granted, some developers have found clever ways to get around that by using limited areas like the confines of a mansion in Intruders: Hide And Seek or by implementing teleportation-based movement.

Those are just workarounds, though, and they don't address the root problem. To make bigger, more immersive VR worlds, the next iteration of PSVR needs to take advantage of foveated rendering. If you haven't heard this term before, prepare to see it flung around like crazy in the coming months.

Essentially, what this technique does is track where your eye moves so the headset only renders what you are looking at. It then ignores all of the stuff you aren't actively seeing at the moment. The result is a massive reduction in system resources needed to render huge VR environments, allowing developers to go hog wild with bigger areas.

Quickly Switch Between Normal Vision And VR

I've spent hundreds of hours in VR at this point. However, I'm constantly wishing for a way to quickly switch between the VR game and the real world without taking off the headset. There are a couple of different ways the PSVR 2.0 could tackle this issue:

  1. Placing a button on the side of the headset to pop off the front of the helmet or slide it back into position for an easy physical solution.
  2. Using a see-through material for the front of the headset and then projecting the VR image against it, with an option to quickly turn the image off by tapping a button on the headset or the DualShock.

  3. Adding an in-screen segment in the corner of the VR image that shows your surroundings by using the camera, with the ability to turn this inlay segment on or off quickly.

  4. Implementing a boundary system like the Oculus Quest, which scans your surroundings and notifies you if you are getting too close to the edge of the play space. If you step outside of the play space, the Quest automatically shows you your surroundings with built-in cameras.

If you haven't played VR games extensively, you might be wondering why this is such a big issue.

First up, it's very (very) easy to get turned around when you can't see your surroundings.

That's not just an issue of looking silly if other people are in the room. Due to the current single camera setup of the PSVR, this can result in reduced precision for your movements. This is especially true if you are facing sideways where the camera can't track the controller lights.

But here's the biggest reason: people have pets and kids. At the moment, I almost always have to wait until my toddler has gone to bed to play VR. That's because he loves to get underfoot and try to figure out just what the heck his papa is doing with that weird helmet on his head.

For The Love Of Everything, Go Wireless!

If you haven't seen it in person, it's hard to overstate the bulk and length of the PSVR headset cable. That length is needed so you have room to maneuver while playing. But the girth and weight of both are out of control.

Thankfully, that was dealt with when Sony released the 2nd-Gen update and the cable was made much thinner, but frankly, there shouldn't be a cable at all.

Whether you have the huge first version or the slimmer second version, the cable gets in the way during games where fast, precision movement is important, like Beat Saber.

It seems like a flat out necessity for the PS5's VR headset to be entirely wireless if Sony wants to get a bigger selection of gamers to lay down the money on the virtual experience.

Add Multiple Headset Support

This is perhaps more of a personal preference than a "must have," but I'd like to see a local co-op solution for the PSVR. At the moment, only one PSVR headset can be connected to the PS4 at a time through the breakout box.

The desire to use two VR headsets at the same time may seem odd at first. Since you are immersed in a virtual world and many of these games already offer online co-op, why two headsets? Well, for a certain section of couch co-op fanatics, it's a must that is sorely missing.

In particular, it's noticeably absent from games just screaming for the functionality, like Dick Wilde 2. Both stationary shooters and VR versions of local co-op favorites, such as Fruit Ninja, would be more fun with in-room co-op. If your friend or spouse could play next to you in the same room and discuss strategy or just shout expletives together, that would considerably increase the social factors of VR.

This option wouldn't be useful just for games where you are getting up and moving, however. There are plenty of mini-games in The Playroom VR, for instance, where a group of people sits on the couch and one player stands in the middle. Adding multiple headset support would mean the whole family could sit together and watch VR movies.

Of course, making this work is entirely dependent on the on-screen surroundings solution above being effectively implemented so you don't smash into each other unexpectedly.

There's another potential barrier to local co-op, and that's the issue of CPU power. Rendering all of those fast-moving VR images at a constant rate is already taxing on the PS4. It's something that results in noticeably reduced graphical power from non-VR games. So, doing two at once might be a no-go even with the PS5's increased specs

What Do You Want To See From PSVR 2.0?

When do you think VR support will be added to the PS5, and what do you most want to see in the PS5 rendition of PSVR? Sound off in the comments below or take our poll of the most-requested new PSVR features! 

What feature do you most want to see in the next generation of PSVR?
Backwards compatibility
Built-in power brick
Improved tracking / multi-camera setup
Foveated rendering / bigger environments
Quick switching between living room view and VR view
Wireless connection
Multiple headset support
Something else entirely - leave a comment!
Intruders Hide And Seek Review: It Was A Dark And Stormy Night (In VR!) Wed, 20 Feb 2019 13:58:43 -0500 Ty Arthur

Although it actually released in late 2016 (wow, that long already?), in many ways, the Playstation VR experience feels like it's just getting started. As the selection of PSVR titles starts to expand, and the platform becomes worth the investment, we're seeing more quality as developers figure out what works, and what doesn't, in this fledgling medium.

New horror entry Intruders: Hide And Seek is one of these little quality gems. It's a shame that this game didn't get a huge ad blitz, as it is a PSVR title that's actually worth buying and playing if you dig stealth horror. 

Home Invasion: The Game

The setup of Intruders is incredibly simple. You are a little kid spending the weekend at the family vacation home. After learning the layout of the mansion by helping mom and dad around the house, you stumble upon a secret panic room you weren't aware of, and then all hell breaks loose as a group of criminals breaks in and ties up your parents.

Essentially, what you get here is a more horror-themed version of the home invasion segment of the 2006 movie Firewall (or, perhaps, a slightly less horror-themed version of the first The Purge movie). Your sister hides in the panic room, and you try to get help while your parents are held captive in the basement. This gives you plenty of opportunity to roam across a big, beautiful mansion out in the wilderness.

Rather than being old, creepy, and dilapidated, the setting is a sleek, bright, high end home with tons of rooms. The creep factor instead comes from the dark and stormy night environment, and the leader of the kidnapping crew insisting on wearing a very wendigo-style mask.

Despite the simple setup, and easy to learn stealth mechanics, Intruders feels more open, and plays significantly more like a full game, than The Inpatient, a stylistically similar title available on PSVR. While The Inpatient often felt like a sitting and standing simulator, Intruders gives you the freedom to roam across the setting without restrictions.

Surviving The Night In VR Mode

The bulk of the game consists of figuring out different routes through this opulent home in order to avoid kidnappers, all the while completing objectives like trying to email the police or find medicine for your kid sister. For the most part, this works out very well in the virtual reality medium.

My one big complaint is a frequent problem with PSVR games in general: there's no Move controller support. My soul turns a little blacker every time a PSVR game comes out that only uses the Dualshock, as I wonder for the fiftieth time or so why the hell I spent $100 on those damn Move controllers.

This is a game that would be greatly improved, on the immersion front, if you could use your hands to actually interact with key objects. Even just being able to grab the edge of a couch, before peeking out to see if anyone is nearby, would be welcome.

That issue aside, Intruders has one big leg up over the competition: an option to choose between frame based turning, like we saw in The Inpatient, and full normal smooth turning. If you haven't played VR games before, it's hard to overstate the importance of the feature. Most games right now force you into one or the other, with no option to switch between the two styles.

Frame based turning is stilted and reduces immersion, but it is a necessary evil right now, as it has less chance of making you feel nauseated. For those lucky people who don't get sick playing VR games with free movement, smooth turning is a significantly better option, making the chase sequences more fluid.

While free turning movement is a smoother experience, if it doesn't make you sick, it's another instance that shows the current limitations of PSVR games. Unfortunately, it's hard to implement both proper forward movement and interactive hand controls with the Move controllers, which is probably why the developers ditched that option and just went with the standard Dualshock setup.

Umm...shouldn't I have a lap here somewhere?

 Despite taking a big step forward by offering free movement, the game does move backwards in other areas. The most noticeable one is that there's no physical depiction of your body in the game.

Instead, you are just a disembodied force that strides around while making shoe clacking sounds. When you look down, there's no torso and legs below your view, and there are no hands found at the sides.  

Additionally, the death and capture sequences aren't particularly grisly or memorable, which may be due to the fact that you're playing as a child. While I get that having a kid horribly mutilated might be a taboo that the developers didn't want to cross, it does result in less motivation to be stealthy. 

It also seems clear that there could have been ways around that issue. Why not implement a sequence where the kidnapper drags you into the basement and makes you watch while one of your parents is executed? Same effect, but no kid death.

In other horror reviews, I frequently mention how the first Outlast game made me play more cautiously, to the point of paranoia, because I didn't want to see my head get ripped off again. A visceral reaction on that level is really needed to make these first-person hide and seek horror games work as intended, and we're sadly missing that here.

That being said, there is one major way in which Intruders is actually superior to games like Outlast. Specifically, getting to learn the map layout before the home invasion begins means that there aren't any of those super frustrating moments where you are running full speed down a corridor and miss the vent, doorway, hatch, etc. and have no idea where you are supposed to go.

Additionally, Intruders adds in an interesting heartbeat mechanic when you are hiding and a pursuer gets close. If you don't shake the controller to a nice steady beat to calm yourself, you'll inadvertently breathe too loudly, or make a noise, and attract attention. This is a nice touch added to the standard hiding mechanics.

The Bottom Line

  •  Much more open and unrestrained than most PSVR horror games
  • Ability to choose between frame movement and full turn controls
  • Excellent overall level design
  • Lacking key immersive details like Move controller support
  • Very short overall experience
  • Dialog isn't the best

If you've felt the PSVR horror selection is lacking, and that the handful of titles that are available are too limited in scope (aside from Resident Evil 7, obviously), Intruders is easily worth your time. With more gameplay mechanics, a map to fully explore without restrictions, and even collectibles to find on multiple playthroughs, this is one of the most fully realized Playstation VR horror experiences so far.

The dialog probably won't win any awards, but the plot will keep you engaged as you try to figure out the personal stake the intruders have in your family and how it connects to your little sister's illness. Unfortunately, it isn't a particularly long game. You are likely finish it in four hours, and maybe less if you are particular adept at this kind of stealth gameplay and don't ever have to re-play a segment after getting caught.

While short and lacking in key immersion features, Intruders is still one of the better horror entries for PSVR so far. That said, it is also a reminder of just how much farther VR needs to go before it really hits its stride.

[Note: A copy of Intruders: Hide and Seek was provided by Tessera Studios for the purpose of this review.]