Playing ‘Deus Ex’ With Lenovo’s ‘VR Upscaling’ Was Far From Enjoyable

by Jamie Feltham • January 9th, 2017

When I heard about Lenovo’s VR Upscaling feature, which debuted at CES last week, I just knew I had to try it. This strange little feature, included as part of the company’s upcoming Entertainment Hub storefront, takes AAA games and ‘upscales’ them to run inside the HTC Vive. In one corner of their show booth sat one of their new laptops with a Vive, running 2011’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Now, I had imagined this to look and run a little something like vorpX, the third-party software that lets you play games like Skyrim inside your VR headset in full 3D and decoupling head movement from the HUD. Obviously this doesn’t provide an experience anywhere near as fantastic as a native VR game, but it’s a fun way to see what your favorite games might have looked like if they’d supported the Rift or Vive. If Lenovo had come up with something similar to that, then I might have genuinely considered buying some games off of its hub, just to have the option to see them in VR.

But VR upscaling isn’t really VR at all. In fact, it looked like all that had been done was to take the 2D game and stretch the screen all the way across your face. I could even seen a small blip of black at the very bottom of my view where the screen appeared to end. The world didn’t stretch out in front of me but instead appeared flat and oddly proportioned. I never once thought I was actually in the space I was playing in.

Despite being on Vive with two base stations facing me, positional tracking was completely disabled in this mode. Head-tracking, meanwhile, replaced the functions of the right control stick on an Xbox gamepad, though you could use that stick too with seemingly no consideration for the player’s comfort, steering the camera with the same speed it would have in a normal game. Your gun followed you wherever you looked, so fighting enemies was a simple case of looking at them and shooting.

As I was playing a Lenovo representative noted that I had gotten further than most people, and I had only been in VR for about 5 minutes. I don’t have issues with simulation sickness most of the time, but I imagine most people will with this mode. It took me back to the heady days of the Oculus Rift’s DK1 where many design rules for VR games hadn’t been established and we had a sort of wild west of games that just made you flat out ill.

I had expected this option to be bad considering Lenovo hadn’t really shown a lot of interest in VR on the public-facing side so far, but not this bad. This was not playing Deus Ex in VR, this was playing it in an oversized ultra-wide version of PlayStation VR’s cinematic mode (you could switch to a smaller screen floating in front of you with the press of a button), and it’s worrying to see a big company — no less one that’s making a VR headset itself — use the tech in this way.

Lenovo’s Entertainment Hub will be launching this summer, and also offers the ability to watch movies in a VR space, which was at least in 3D it seems. The company plans to support over 200 AAA titles with its VR Upscaling feature. Don’t be fooled, though; this is not a good way to play your favorite games in VR.

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