Today marked day one of the huge E3 conference and with it came many awe-inspiring demos and exhibits. Gaming of course took center stage with Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft consuming a majority of the floor space in one of the massive show halls. But this year’s event also saw a new contender curiously distracting and consuming attendees. (VR has that effect sometimes.) A few times I overheard such statements as “there are so many VR booths this year, what’s up with that?!” or “the games are cool but try them in VR!” It’s exciting to hear such exclamations!
Admittedly, I was overwhelmed at first. So many booths. So many people. So much to see! I wandered around snapping pictures and eavesdropping on conversations. Today’s demos held new and exciting things for me: I was finally able to try Sony’s Morpheus Project and I was also able to throw my press badge around and score an incredible demo with Oculus and their new Touch controller. But today’s “highlight” award goes to Crytek and their fantastic Back to Dinosaur Island 2 demo, shown on the Crescent Bay.
As the title suggests, the game is set in a world ruled by dinos (think Jurassic Park); however, there were glimpses of derelict manmade objects, suggesting a former human presence. As this was only a brief demo, I’m honestly not sure what the full storyline and setting is. You, the explorer, begin using a zipline-meets-pulley system to maneuver your way up the side of a cliff. Using a controller, you’re able to maintain a solid two-handed grip while enjoying a lift to the top. As you make your way up, you can take full advantage of the 360 VR experience: tilt back and up to see how far away the top is, or swivel around and apprehensively peer (a very long way) down to a waterway, and you can of course check out the views on either side of you. And these views are astounding! As far as the eye can see you’re in a canyon-type setting with huge ravines, misty waterfalls, and lush vegetation all around.
In addition to this already visually captivating game, dinosaurs are everywhere. And who doesn’t love dinos? You hear their thunderous roars in the background and you jerk suddenly to the right as a pterodactyl screeches past you on its insane downward descent. The trip up is filled with moments like an encounter with the a baby pterodactyl and its mother who is beckoning the baby to take its first flight. As it falls your heart sinks as it struggles to take flight, only to finally regain control and fly into the distance. Or perhaps its angry father who has decided to try and drop rocks on your head from the ledge above. Crytek even included some little hidden nuances like the ability to scrape lichen off the side of the mountain with your hands.
Once you reach the top, you’re a greeted with a majestically prehistoric scene complete with AR-inspired interactive components. Large circles embedded amongst the landscape illuminate areas of interest and by simply staring at them long enough information will appear. Again we see the remnants of human life. (In the image below, it looks like a space station that has crashed.)
This was all immensely engaging but what set this game apart from others I’ve seen was the lighting and attention to detail. You can almost feel the texture of your worn leather gloves and the scaly skin of the dinosaurs is enough to make you believe that you might actually get hurt as they dive down the cliffside very near to you. The foliage glistens green. The cliff surface shines with the smoothed slickness from centuries of exposure. And the deep ravine below you feels so realistically far down that you may actually catch your breath. The beauty about this game is that it also provides this beautifully engaging experience for the viewer while also eliminating any of the negative side effects commonly seen in many existing VR games. Rather than seeing the depth of the ravine and going into a height-induced frenzied scare, I was able to assess the open space beneath me and then remind myself that I had a firm grip on the handles (and that it was just a game).
I’ve always dreamed of a ‘Jurassic Park’ experience and today I got so close to that. I loved this experience and am quite excited to be able to try Crytek’s newest VR game Robinson: The Journey which I learned was inspired by Back to Dinosaur Island VR. If you’re attending E3 this week make Crytek’s demo a must-see.