As the techno-tentacles of Oculus Rift get ready to grip the globe into submissions of an alternative reality, USP Content got to have a play of the virtual reality kit deemed to be the future of gaming technology ahead of its official release.
Understandably, there was no training and no manual to read beforehand. But, having grown up with a Commodore 64, Super Nintendo and eventually a PlayStation, it was just going to be another computer game, right?
No. In fact, not at all. Make no illusions, no amount of preparation for this highly anticipated ultra-3D experience can get you prepared for how mind-boggling and emotionally overwhelming the whole concoction is. Transporting from the office chair to submerge into an entirely different world is nothing short of the experience.
Place the goggles before your expectant eyes, headphones over your eager ears andâ€¦relax?
The excitement is unsettling and even for the most hardened of joystick tapping veterans of the home entertainment world it is, heart-wrenchingly good fun!
So, what did we do?
The first game played was Alien Isolation. Inside the dilapidated spaceship you look around to discover youâ€™re stranded in some kind of green armoured metal wreck. Itâ€™s an iron fortress, galactic-hopping vehicle destroyed by a rogue alien who was on the prowl for human flesh – yours!
Turning the headpiece fullâ€“circle in order to navigate the room, you are conscious of the fact that your nodding and bobbing head probably looks ridiculous in the real world and to those watching, but humiliation is a small price to pay for staying alive when aliens are on the hunt.
Walking around the ship using the controller, your warm seat and gravitational pull to it is the only reminder that you are not really dodging an alien assault. Push the controller forward and you walk towards a door, press a button and it opens. Then you see a new scene with which you only have a minute to comprehend fully before an alien â€“ on this occasion â€“ stabs you in the back before you are forced to look over your disemboweled body. Your heart, though virtually dead, is thumping in reality!
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
Our next challenge was to defuse a bomb in the new game called Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. With the help of colleagues shouting instructions (or should that be destructions!) aimlessly from afar. We gave ourselves names: the man in the hot seat, Maverick, received the codes from Goose in order to stop the explosive device detonating. The bomb Maverick saw was settled on a table from which he could hit various buttons at the right time, or work out picture sequences in the right order, from only the communication between the two ‘top-gamers’ and the manual Goose had to command instructions and defuse it. No member of the USP team averted a nuclear disaster and itâ€™s fair to say the future is safe without us interfering!
Adjusting to Reality
While this colourful piece of prose might question the reader into believing they’re harder than the average man â€“ unlike us softies here! – duly note this: the true difficulty of virtual reality, in whatever format it comes in today or in the future, is adapting back to normality once the headphones and goggles are off. A part of you ends up questioning whether it all really happened at all, whilst a different part of course notes that it was just a game. This, much like stepping off a boat youâ€™ve been on for three days, leaves you sea â€“ or game â€“ sick and a number of us here at USP Content (including a tall burly bearded beer-drinker, surely of Viking descent) enough to crash into corridor walls on our way out of the games studio.
The conscious separation of knowing that youâ€™re somewhere physically but seeing something else confuses the mind delightfully. Look out for another USP Content production in podcast form over the coming weeks about this awesome piece of kit. One thing is clear, virtual reality gaming has arrived!