When virtual reality first became a, well, reality, plenty of games came to mind that deserve all these delicious new dimensions. The breathtaking speed of a racer, maybe. The scale and spectacle of an open-world RPG, perhaps. L.A. Noire, a 2011 neo-noir detective action-RPG, however, might not have been the game you might have expected to strap to your noggin.
That said, L.A. Noire was technically advanced for its time: its pioneering facial capture helping you select the baddies from those just caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Where the chin-stroking deductive side of L.A. Noire won Team Bondi plaudits, its combat failed to match up. Enter L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files, a truncated version of the police game that doesn’t just improve the relatively weak gunplay and driving aspects, but it is one of the best VR games on PC. Rather than twiddling and tapping away at your keyboard and mouse, you lean, shoot goons, and reload your classic Remington physically with the HTC Vive controllers – and it feels invigorating. Doggedly plugging away at each case just feels better in virtual reality. The heat of battle is much more intense – especially when you punch yourself in the face. No, that totally wasn’t us.
Rez Infinite is a musical twin-stick shooter in which you tackle waves of Tron-esque enemies while journeying through the subsystems of a corrupted, far-future AI. The game is played in third-person, and your character can ‘evolve’ through several stages, each with its own quirks. It is a trance-inducing wonder of a game that was originally released for Dreamcast in 2001, but has since undergone iterative changes through various re-releases on its way to PC.
You can lock-on to up to eight enemies at a time with your weapon, releasing your trigger finger to let off a volley of homing shots, or spam the fire button for rapid single shots, and every action contributes to the game’s bass-heavy soundtrack. Some enemies drop items that allow you to evolve, while others bestow a screen-clearing smart bomb. Lurking at the end of each stage a spectacular boss awaits. While the whole game can be played in desktop mode, the technology of today transforms Rez Infinite into one of the best VR games available. The original game featured five areas, all of which are even better using a headset. But a sixth area, dubbed Area X, is creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s reimagining of the concept for VR. The result is a remarkable journey through a thematic mashup of undersea imagery and futuristic mechs, the whole thing liberally peppered with iridescent particle effects that shimmer around you as you pass through the debris clouds left by recently shot-down enemies. Essential.
For developer Drool, creating a music game just wasn’t enough: Thumper would be a rhythm violence game. We were intrigued when it was announced, and now we are captivated by its immersive embrace.
Piloting a metallic beetle-thing with a ravenous taste for blistering speed, this indie game has you zooming through trippy, psychedelic surroundings. Neon pathway resemble Amplitude and Guitar Hero, the notes replaced with walls to skid on and obstacles to scale. Each level introduces a new gameplay wrinkle, with your efforts culminating in a showdown with the giant animated skull, CRAKHEAD. Hey, at PCGN, we don’t judge. Thumper is astonishing in VR, its physicality and speed creating an intoxicating mix with its original, pumping soundtrack. As far as music games go, this far and away one of the best VR games on PC. Drool say “To reach synesthetic bliss, you must face rhythm hell.” To say VR takes things up a notch would be a severe understatement.