The folks at Oculus have made some serious strides toward creating a version of virtual reality that feels like it's more than just a screen on your face that moves with your head.
Oculus Touch is the biggest step in that direction, using a combination of head tracking and motion controls to help make VR feel more like an immersive experience. The Touch controls mimic your hands, creating a pretty intuitive way for players to reach into virtual spaces and manipulate virtual objects. Breaking office supplies or defusing bombs is fun and, maybe more importantly, feels at least somewhat realistic in VR games such as Job Simulator or I Expect You to Die. But as Epic Games proved with its new demo, Bullet Train, Oculus Touch and VR in general might not do anything as well as they do shooters.
Proof of Cool Concept
Bullet Train is a new demo Epic created for the recent VR convention, Oculus Connect 2. It specifically makes use of Oculus Touch to allow players to actually reach out and grab weapons and manipulate them as if they were real. You spend the demo blasting bad guys as you pick up guns like pistols, shotguns and assault rifles, and use them until they're spent. Then you can toss them away and grab something new.
The demo itself isn't anything most shooter players haven't seen before, and most of its interesting features are to help it adapt to VR. The game itself is a small arena shooter (it's a mall or an airport or something) where teams of armor-clad enemies are trying to intercept and kill you. You blast them first, you win.
The notable difference from most shooters is in how you get around - by way of short-distance teleportation that lets you reposition around the arena, instead of by running - and in the ability to slow time, so that you can pluck bullets and rockets out of the air and throw them back at the enemy.
Epic's demo at Oculus Connect 2 was definitely nowhere near a complete, finished product. Enemies dealt no damage to players, for example, and the bad guys were constantly getting confused, running up and down escalators aimlessly as you took your time zeroing them. As a proof of concept for a full VR game, however, it's easy to see the implications of Bullet Train immediately.
For one thing, it elegantly solves some of the problems inherent in doing a VR game without the benefit of a traditional gamepad, like movement (although the Touch controls do sport thumbsticks and face buttons). For another, it integrates the motion control tech that's going to help elevate VR games above just being a new brand of the same old gaming experiences.
Most of all, though, it's a game that nails the action movie feel of grabbing a gun and taking on the world.