Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot Review

Released 2019
Platform PSVR (Reviewed), Steam
Publisher Bethesda (Website)
Developer Machine Games (Website)
Arkane Studios (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category Virtual Reality Experience
Shooter
Light Puzzle Solving

It’s a polished VR Experience packaged as a game – I thought we were past this stage, though?

When I saw the announcement for Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot, I was very intrigued. Wolfenstein has had an excellent reputation since being rebooted, and I have wanted to play them for a while. With the release of Cyberpilot and Youngblood last month, I thought this would be the best time to jump in.

Starting things up

You start the game in a room seated in a chair. Looking around, it felt like I was in Wolfenstein: Youngblood. The same model assets are being used in both games, and it makes VR look amazing.

Then you hear the voice of your resistance contact, the narrator and guide for the game. You go through some fairly standard VR intro malarky, and then you are in the game.

You are not allowed past this room. The door says so! :p

What you aren’t into though is into the Nazi killing. That threw me a little bit at first – isn’t this a Wolfenstein game? Shoot first ask questions never?

Instead of shooting, you’re tasked with reprogramming a captured Panzerhund. Again, reasonably standard VR fluff, but well-executed on the whole. Remove a panel with the crowbar, pull out the circuit board, listen to more talking, re-insert the circuit board – it’s all stuff VR has you doing already.

Repairing electronics rarely involves crowbars normally...

Then you get into the combat – well, almost. You get into a tutorial showing you how to move and use the Panzerhund, and then you are into the shooting phase.

So how is the combat?

Not bad – not bad at all. It was fun looking through the eyes of some of Wolfenstein’s harder enemies. The panicked reactions of the soldiers as they realise that their robot ally has turned on them is satisfying to see. And see it you do – graphically, I cannot understate how polished Cyberpilot is.

Using the Move controllers, having autonomous left and right-hand movement makes you feel like a badass. Walking through the streets looks and feels impressive, even if the level design is a bit linear.

The lighting effects are hard to show in a still, but the flamethrower looks amazing!

You don’t sound very enthused though, but you are saying it’s good?

Yeah, you knew the ‘but’ was coming.

There are three types of unit to control, of which the Panzerhund is the first. The next level has you flying a drone with an emphasis on stealth. It felt different from the Panzerhund, but it was another “wait for everything to be explained in unskippable sections” as outlined earlier before you got to do what you wanted.

The last robot is the Zitadelle and was, in most ways, the experience I was most expecting. Rockets on my left arm, minigun on my right, go and mow everything down.

By now, I thought the first three levels were the tutorials for the actual game – something fairly standard in a lot of shooters again. So then I started on the fourth level, where I got to jump between all three robots to complete specific tasks.

Rockets or bullets. Why not both?

Here I was, happy to be finally playing the game – and it was over. There are only four levels to the entire game.

Story wise, there was a bit of a twist (no I’m not going into it) but even that felt rushed and out of place.

Bottom line, this felt like the start of a great game that was rushed to meet an artificial deadline. If this had stayed in development another year with a more fleshed out story and levels, it could have been a great game rather than a good experience.

How are the Controls?

With the Move controllers, everything worked pretty well overall. Tracking was good for the most part, and I didn’t have to recenter myself very often.

The most annoying control issue I had was repairing with the Panzerhund and Zitadelle. In the cockpit, if you put your right hand down to the right and fire, Cyberpilot would often assume you were trying to dock the virtual controller to the frame and initiate repairs.

The other problem I had was the tutorials. They are unskippable and relatively slow. It felt like they were making sure you knew everything you could and couldn’t do in the game.

With the PSVR trying to help you lock onto things, repairing accidently happens a lot

So imagine my surprise when I accidentally find out 10 minutes before finishing the game I could strafe. That would have been nice to know earlier in the game!

So it’s not worth it?

No, by all means, grab it – just not at its current price point, and know that it’s not a game in and of itself.

Cyberpilot is fun enough – if you know it’s only a short term experience.

There are a variety of different challenges to try for in the trophy list, but they feel like they are there for completionists rather than fun things to do.

I do regret getting the physical copy. I bought it for AUD$40 from EB Games, mainly because I added it to my preorder for Youngblood. It’s AUD$30 on the PlayStation Store, and I think it will either be a PS Plus add on or half-price shortly.

Once Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot hits the AUD$15-20 mark, I think it will be better value for money and can recommend more people play it. But by then I think the hype will be gone, so interest in the game will have probably died off to the point not as many people will try this game as they should.

There are little things to discover, but not enough to make you play Cyberpilot again and again
JohnHQLD
Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot

Final Thoughts

I don’t regret buying Wolfenstein: Cypberpilot at all. It looks so good, and the fun was there. Not enough to make a concerted effort for a platinum trophy, but it was fun enough. The seeds of an entire spin of series for Wolfenstein are sitting here, waiting to be nurtured.

What Cyberpilot doesn’t have is longevity. It’s like Batman: Arkham VR – it’s a polished and immersive experience, but that is all it is – an experience. This far into the PSVR lifecycle, I was hoping for more.

While the idea of Wolfenstein in VR is appealing, I don’t think that the PSVR is capable of doing it justice. Cypberpilot is a positive experiment and something that I would like to see Bethesda expand on. I will happily get the next game in the Wolfenstein VR series if it happens, but I would recommend picking up Cyberpilot when it’s on sale.

Overall
6/10
6/10

Pros

  •  Amazing Visuals
  •  Each robot feels different to control
  •  Entertaining especially for new VR players
  •  Lots of trophy challenges to complete

Cons

  •  2 hours tops to complete
  •  Unskippable Tutorials and Exposition
  •  No secrets or collectables to promote level exploration
  •  Controls can be awkward

Doctor Who is coming to VR this September – Don’t Blink!

I bet there is a play on ‘Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey’ somewhere.

Yesterday I told you about a VR experience that I hopefully have running by now. This week, there was another bit of VR news that had me fanboying all around the place.

Doctor Who is coming to VR, and includes the voice talent of the Doctor herself Jodie Whittaker.

Take a look at the teaser below.

Gameplay wise not much is known.  As the player, you will be helping the Doctor by collecting some Time Crystals (Discovery technobabble anyone?) to repair the fabric of Time and Space as we know it.

Basically, I am thinking another escape room type scenario with the Doctor giving you the background and the crystals the prize.  We will have to wait and see though 🙂

And the wait shouldn’t be too long apparently – it looks like it is all coming this September to PC (Vive, Rift and now the Steam Index I guess?) as well as PSVR.

The screens look quite good so far, but I am guessing these will all be from the higher res PC versions.

The original need of Police Boxes may have passed, but we all hope they are bigger on the inside
I am unfortunately not up to date with the latest series, but the inside of the TARDIS looks amazing
An everyday Laundromat. What could we find here?
Ahh. Play with the timeline, and find out.

But with promises of bad guys old and new and support from the BBC, hopefully The Edge of Time will shape up to be a quality Doctor Who experience.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Are you ready to enter Virtual Virtual Reality?

Inception says there are four layers.  Why do I feel like Tender Claws is prepping a ‘Hold my beer’ moment?

Another Virtual Reality game is coming from PC to PSVR this week.  This is a move I am enjoying keeping an eye on, as PSVR is tending to get the better ports of a lot of games.  This makes sense as PlayStation VR players outnumber Rift and Vive users by quite a margin!

The game if I can even call it that is called Virtual Virtual Reality.  In a lot of ways, it might be better described as one of the VR ‘experiences’, but it’s one that has always had my interest.

Before I even try to get into the why I am intrigued, check out the PSVR launch trailer:

In a bizarre Job Simulator type way, you enter the world of an Activitude employee, using VR to make their clients lives better. Or at least more enjoyable.

In the game, you don different VR goggles to enter different worlds as requested by Activitudes clients. Your task: help the AI master ‘Chaz’ deliver on the companies promises. Sounds simple, right?

Except there is a bit of a mystery to unravel. As you enter different worlds, you start to piece together the history of Activitude and the world you are in.

From all accounts, you can finish Virtual Virtual Reality in a couple of hours.  It was one of the early Virtual Reality gems after all. The story apparently has a great message on the Virtual World with slices of humor and warnings, but the pacing seems to have been the biggest downfall originally.

With all this in mind, I am hoping for a sub-$15 price on the PlayStation Store this week, but we will see.  If you have a Rift or a Vive, you can nab it on Steam for AUD$20 – and the Steam Summer Sale is surely only a few weeks away!  I am sure to play this in one form or another in the next little while 🙂

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is the gift that continues to give

Hellblade Senuas Sacrifice VR Edition Feature

Almost a year later, PC VR users have just got a free update

Last years Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice from Ninja Theory lit a fire under many gamers.  Self-described as in independent AAA title, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was a unique game for many reasons.

One of these reasons was a central narrative point of mental health. Without going into spoiler territory, a central element of the plot was Senua’s increasing psychosis.  As the player, you see everything from Senua’s perspective, and you also have to decide what is ‘reality’ and what isn’t.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is a strange one in my game collection.  I have played enough of it last year to know I want to play all of it, but I am well enough into the story to believe I have a handle on everything that’s happening and am content.

My idea was to grab it on sale when I had a weekend to dedicate to it, probably on PS4 so I could play it on the couch.  Also, the voice effects from the controller are an incredibly immersive touch.

But then while I was looking through GoG.com and Steam to buy a completely different game (I will tell you about that one Monday), something caught my eye.  There is an update for Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice a year after launch.  But it’s not DLC, or performance tweaks, or additional story.

Hellblade Senuas Sacrifice Screen
Even reviewers that didn't like the gameplay mechanics agreed that the story driven focus of the game was stellar.

Simply put – Ninja Theory have put the finishing touches on playing Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice in VR on PC, and it looks amazing.

The announcement trailer is shown below:

Talk about an immersive experience.  The amount of messing with the player that can occur in VR is almost limitless.  And unlike other games that have been essentially rereleased in VR mode, Ninja Theory have elected to make an almost standalone game experience completely free!

So much for my plans on waiting and spending quality time on the couch – it looks like I will be sitting upstairs on my PC in VR!

Even if you don’t have VR, this is potentially a game worthy of your time.  By all accounts, it is an amazing experience on every platform even though I have only played about 3 hours on PS4 Pro.

Just look at the praise it has received to date – not to mention a BAFTA-winning game to boot.  Well, five to be specific: Artistic Achievement, Audio Achievement, British Game, Game Beyond Entertainment and Melina Juergens winning the Performer category for her role as Senua.

Hellblade Senuas Sacrifice Accolades
A game made by 20 people shows you don't need multi-million dollar backing to make a great experience

Playing a game you have finished in VR may not sound like much to a lot of people.  I can tell you after playing Resident Evil 7 in both VR and 2D modes that it really does make for a different experience entirely.

If you are interested in getting Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice for yourself, you can pick it up from the following places:

PlayStation Store AUD$44.95, but on sale for $26.95 until 9/8/2018.  Ninja Theory has confirmed no PSVR Support will be coming, as it is ‘designed for high-end PC’s’.  It does include PS4 Pro support though.

XBox AUD$44.95.  Also includes XBox One X Enhanced support, but also no VR.

Steam – USD$29.99 (Approx AUD$41) including free VR update.

GoG.com – AUD$33.99 including free VR update.  This is probably the best deal (excluding PSN sale pricing) if you have a higher end gaming PC, even if you don’t have VR.

If I get around to playing it in the next couple of weeks, I will let you know how it goes!

Until Next Time,

JohnHQLD

Beat Saber VR Early Access Review

Beat Saber Feature
Beat Saber Feature
Released Early Access Release 2018
Developer Hyperbolic Magnetism
Publisher Hyperbolic Magnetism (Website)
Category VR Rhythm Game
Homepage beatsaber.com

Feel the beat, let it flow through you…

So I have been having a ball in Virtual Reality.  There are still a heap of games to be played, and a heap of games that I wish weren’t quite the ‘tech demo’ quickies they are.

That said, Virtual Reality is now closer to consumer-friendly than ever before.  PlayStation VR or PSVR is something you can get into for $1,200.  It wasn’t long ago that was the asking price for most of a headset.

VR still has problems.  PSVR tracking is good enough most of the time.  Oculus has had some interesting legal issues.  Oculus and Vive both have high entry points (although this is getting better).

On the whole, I have seemed to do OK introducing people to VR.  For younger people or those I think will suffer from motion sickness, I have VR movies like Invasion!.  For those that don’t mind a horror theme, Rush of Blood on the PSVR is a blast I still occasionally boot up.

But I think I found a game that I can show everyone as an entry to VR.  You stand fairly still, with targets coming towards you.  You cut those targets with lightsabers.  Everyone instinctively knows how to hit the thing, right?

That game is Beat Saber.

There are a number of people that will look at Beat Saber and just think ‘another gimmick game’.  And to a degree, they are right. Guitar Hero and Rock Band were gimmick games though, and look how much they sold.  Just saying.

The idea is so simple you really have nothing to teach.  Cubes come towards you in time to the music.  They have an arrow on them.  Slice them in half in the direction of the arrow.  If they have a circle on them, just hit it in direction.

Rules done.  And that satisfying vibration feedback and sparkles when you hit a cube is instantly a feeling you want again.

Beat Saber Hitting the Cubes
You can watch people playing, but nothing compares to the feel of cutting cubes yourself

You have to avoid cutting mines.  This catches people the first time.  It’s amazing how naturally ducking and sidestep walls is as well.  But even people that swing at a mine with gusto have that ‘Oh.  Makes sense’ look on their face when you add that rule.

But you don’t have to drag it out.  When someone cuts a mine and usually yells “What?!?!?!” all you respond with is “Yeah that was a mine.”  Not hitting them is instantly understood.  Someone doesn’t get out of the way of a wall?  Just say the red glowing thing is a wall.  Natural instincts just take over.

Beat Saber Wouldn't you just duck
In a situation like this, you may hear "What's that?" Just reply wall and watch them duck.

You can just kinda swing your arms and get through, and when practising is not a bad idea just to get the feel of a level.  Another reason why a lot of people kind of overlook Beat Saber.

I am hoping the scoring algorithm they posted disproves this though.  Yes, you can get through the game just waggling your wrists, but you won’t get a high score or rank.

Instead, for optimal scoring, you want to swing your saber at least 90 degrees to hit the target.  This gives you 70 points.  Then follow through the cut with an additional 30 degrees movement.  This gives you another 30 points max.  Finally, if you cut the cube close to perfectly in half, you can earn an additional 10 points.

I only learnt this algorithm this week, but it did confirm what I was experiencing playing.  Do a ‘proper’ cut and get high points.  The downside of this knowledge though is it made the number of cheats apparent.

So the scoring from the creators shows that the maximum score per cube or note is 110.  As you continue combos, you also get a multiplier.  As you consistently hit notes, this multiplies increases to 2x, 4x, then maxes at 8x.

So the first song $100 Bills has 264 notes.  Let’s be generous and add up the maximum score of 880 per note – maximum score possible is 232,320.

There is a problem though.  This score still isn’t possible.  It assumes you start on an 8x multiplier, which doesn’t happen.  So how is the leaderboard top 10 filled with scores higher than this?

Beat Saber The Maths Doesn't Work
$100 Bills on hard. 264 notes. 880 x 264 = 232,320. Hmmmm.

For the leaderboard, cheating seems to be a problem.  Now Beat Saber is still early access and anti-cheat maybe something that is coming, but here today now it isn’t happening.

Because it’s early access, I am OK with this.  I can continue to play and try to reach the coveted SS rank – the highest rank in the game.  But it did take the shine from my highest achievement to date.

A few days ago a secret song was unlocked – Angel Voices.  It is three times as long as any other song, and only has Hard and Expert modes.  I thought I was doing REALLY well, then I found out about the cheating.

I haven’t hit an S rank (yet) but looking at the player ranks I had cracked the top 500!  I did a little dance and felt immensely proud.  My scores in Angel Voices are playing all the other songs on Hard one after another.  I felt a push to do better – not by starting the song fresh, but by beating my score after playing through everything again.

Beat Saber Angel Voices
Angel Voices - the most difficult song in the game. Not even an S rank and in the top 500 players!

But now I know someone can essentially cheat an unobtainable score.  I am still going to go for SS and try to beat my previous scores, but it does put a damper on things.

Seriously, Beat Saber is a game that anyone can play, but people can work themselves to an elite level of play with.  This could easily become an eSport.  It’s amazing watching people in the mixed VR filming seeing just how much they put into getting the perfect form for the song.

And that’s what Beat Saber instantly reminds me of – kendo and kenjutsu kata.  Anyone can pick it up, but practice and master the song and the top scores are yours.

There is also another benefit to this – you really pushing your upper body for maximum movement.  You work up a real sweat when you throw yourself into this game.  There is even evidence to suggest that Beat Saber burns almost as many calories per minute as tennis.  Now Beat Saber wouldn’t be able to replace your entire workout regimen, but it is a workout if you treat it the right way.

You can extend the side steps or even begin marching to the beat to increase the whole body workout side and get the heart beating faster.

But this one game aside, it does show the potential for VR fitness.

Beat Saber Fitbit
The Fitbit registers Beat Saber as an Aerobic Workout - if you didn't believe you worked before, here's how I went this morning

At the moment Beat Saber is available for HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Microsoft Mixed Reality.  The easiest place to get Beat Saber on PC is Steam, but your VR store should also have it.

And it was announced just prior to E3 that Beat Saber is coming to PSVR!  I can guarantee I will be buying it again just to have more people playing it at the same time.  I just hope Hyperbolic Magnetism can nail the tracking with the move controllers, and I will miss the haptic feedback.  Maybe some peripheral upgrades Sony?

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

HTC Vive Pro Preorders and Vive Price Drops

HTC Vive Featured

Do you think of VR as Lawnmower Man or more Ready Player One?

In the early 90’s, I remember being massively excited because Timezone in Melbourne City got the Virtuality VR arcade machines and the FPS shooter Dactyl Nightmare.

It was blocky, choppy, expensive – but it was AMAZING.  You got to stand in this massive contraption and wear a helmet that should have come with a health warning due to the weight, but everyone that went in came out grinning like a fool.

Just to prove it, below is a video from Piku’s Junk YouTube channel showing the machine at Retro Revival 2013:

There were a few other attempts at VR, but on the whole, it kinda quietly died as soon as is came to be.  The idea was amazing, but the tech wasn’t quite there yet.

Then in 2012, something amazing happened.  A dedicated group took to Kickstarter to look for funding to bring Virtual Reality to everyone.  Even people that didn’t know what a Kickstarter was soon learned that Oculus meant Virtual Reality.  Oculus managed to raise almost USD$2.5 Million dollars largely from gamers with the desire to see VR in their homes.

This massive success made many other companies suddenly jump up and take notice.  Over the following couple of years, many companies started to announce their own versions of VR and more commonly Augmented Reality (AR) looking to join in the success of Oculus themselves.  A lot of these companies pretty much based their work on the first Oculus Development Kit (DK1) and interest reached such a pitch that in 2014 Facebook acquired Oculus for USD$2 BILLION dollars.  Not only was this a staggering amount of money, you also have to remember at this time Oculus had only produced Developer Kits – no ‘product’ as such had been achieved yet.

Oculus DK1

Cut to 2015 and VR Gamers had a great year of announcements to look forward to.  HTC made an announcement that had many gamers frothing to hand over their money.  Known as the HTC Vive, this was a VR headset with great specs on paper and even more importantly a release window!  Just this little ray of hope was enough to turn people watching the Oculus from the wings looking squarely at the Vive as a solid and almost preferred alternative.

There was one other fact that bought many others not currently following the VR world on board though.  The Vive was being developed with Valve, the company behind Steam and many great games.  This gave the Vive something that the Oculus was currently lacking – an inbuilt ecosystem of games and support.

HTC Vive Headset

Like many others, the Vive had me excited but I knew the cost would be high.  Like AUD$1,500+ high, and that was just for the headset and controllers.  The fact you also needed a high-end PC was also a factor.  Now I have always had beefy rigs, but my equipment wasn’t built with VR in mind, so while I could run things another $1,000 or so was going to be needed to bring my graphics card up to scratch.

Then an answer came from an unexpected place – Sony.  Project Morpheus was announced as the Playstation Virtual Reality solution, and even more people turned in interest to what might be possible.

Later in 2016, Sony stunned everyone with a single announcement at E3.

PSVR E3 Price Announcment

The price was key to Sony essentially ‘winning’ the VR battle at the moment.  For about the cost of a competitors headset, you could get a Playstation 4, PS VR, Camera and Move controllers giving you everything you needed.  This is a large part of the reason I decided to back the PSVR.  Back in 2015, developers were still trying to decide which headset to back – Oculus or Vive.  Vive was starting to come out ahead, but developing for the new tech was still considered a gamble.

By buying the ‘mass market’ option in the PSVR, the gamble was developers would work on the headset with the most sales, even with some technical drawbacks to it.  And to a large degree, I was right.  In 2017, over 2.5 million PSVR headsets sold – far and above more than any other unit, and the headset I purchased for myself in 2016.  This is more than Oculus and Vive combined.

PSVR has a low price of entry, it’s simple to install and use, and a growing games library that continues to excel.  Like any games library, there are some decidedly below average games, but some amazing ones as well.  Resident Evil 7 blew me away playing it in VR, and the new Moss shows what people can do with the unit.  Initially, there were the more ‘tech demo’ experiences just like the Vive and Oculus, but overall the library is getting stronger all the time.

It does have it’s drawbacks as well.  With the reduced price and console power, there are compromises made in the experience.  The Move controllers, while overall fine, do not have fine control and tracking is easily lost.  The game forgets which way you are facing at times, and restarts for longer sessions is pretty much guaranteed.  A lot of these things have improved, but after using the Vives controllers the difference in experience is real.

It’s like driving your Hyundai which is great and gets you around reliably and comfortably.  Then you get in a Tesla and drive for a day, then get back in your Hyundai.  Your car is still great and costs a fifth of the Tesla, but you know what you would rather be driving 🙂

The Vive, Oculus and PSVR all share one annoying feature – cabling.  When you are playing something that has you seated, this isn’t really a problem.  You can arrange the cable like an oversized headphone cable.  But if your playing a more active game (say Superhot VR), the cable can get wrapped around you pretty easy leading to some interesting positions and damage to persons and/or equipment.

HTC Vive Manual Setup

And that is where this little tale comes to the point.  Yesterday, the HTC Vive Pro was made available for preorder, for the little sum of AUD$1,200.  This is just for the headset, all of the other units like the base and controllers need to be purchased on top of this, as well as your high-end computer system to run it.  But this is the Virtual Reality System I have been waiting for, even if I still have to wait for it a little while longer.

HTC Vive Pro Headset

The Vive Pro is the first unit to officially support a wireless setup.  I say officially as there have been third-party adaptors around for a while, and some have varying degrees of success, but updates don’t keep this hardware in mind so improvements to the headset with firmware updates can kill these adaptors.

This wireless support won’t come until later this year, and will be another purchase, but it’s this wireless functionality that will give users the freedom in VR that is required for true immersion without fear of damaging some very expensive equipment.

Other features are the integrated headphones, increase in screen resolution, and a few other bits of hardware geekery.  The main feature that has me intrigued though is the front-facing cameras built into the headset.  This could allow an Augmented Reality experience similar to Microsoft’s Hololens, which has applications wider than simple gaming.

So I think it’s pretty clear I will be getting a Vive Pro eventually as my VR setup of choice.  I will wait until I can get it with the wireless adaptor and equipment all at once though, so I won’t be preordering the system soon.  But for people that have been on the fence with the Vive and hesitant with the costs, there is some great news.  You can purchase the complete VR set (minus the PC of course) for AUD$879 from the Vive store.  This is an amazing price, and if I didn’t have the PSVR I would be seriously considering purchasing this now.  If you already have a PC with a Nvidia 1070+ or equivalent, this is a great investment at an amazing price for a whole new experience.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD