PSX 2017 Hands-On: The Inpatient Uses Voice Recognition For In-Game Dialog

by David Jagneaux • December 11th, 2017

Until Dawn is one of my favorite PS4 games. It took me by surprise a few years ago with its choose-your-own adventure style branching narrative that melded a suspense thriller with a teen slasher flick in expert ways. Each of the characters was unique with their own personality and depending on the choices that you’ve made some characters may live while others may die. Then last year as a PSVR launch title Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, an on-rails horror shooter, released to tell a unique spin-off story.

The same development studio, Supermassive Games, is working on The Inpatient and even though it isn’t a clear, direct prequel, it does fill in lore details that all take place prior to the events of the first game. Take a look at this creepy, atmospheric trailer to get an idea for the tone:

Back at E3 we got the chance to go hands-on with the game in what amounted to an interrogation scene and a few moments of walking around a dark, twisted hallway. At PSX the demo was greatly expaned to roughly 20 minutes in length and did away with the interrogation scene entirely. This time I saw a mixture of scenes that took place in my character’s asylum room, along with more walking down dark, twisted hallways.

My experience with The Inpatient this weekend was highlighted by two key features: the voice-recognition powered dialog system and wonky locomotion. For the dialog system every time a character spoke to me I’d have two potential responses appear in the air, floating next to their head. The one on the left represented a positive affirmation-type response, while the one on the right was always more negative, skeptical, or sarcastic.

For example, if a character asks what I’m doing in the asylum, options might say something like “I don’t remember,” or “I’m on vacation.” Clearly the first one is more genuine, whereas the second one is cracking a sarcastic joke. Instead of picking my choice with by pressing a button on a controller I had to literally speak it out loud. As in, using my actual real life mouth and voice.

It’s a relatively minor thing, but when combined with the immersive power of VR, it makes me never want to pick a dialog option in another VR game ever again. Games like Skyrim VR have silent protagonists, but countless VR titles like Arizona Sunshine feature voiced characters that can be jarring for the player to hear. If I’m led to believe that I’m embodying a character inside a VR game and then another voice comes out of my face, it breaks the immersion. The Inpatient circumvents that issue by asking you to speak the words instead.

What makes it even better is that other than a few times when I admittedly mumbled, it all worked great. Plus, the team told me they’d have support for several different languages at launch.

The other main feature worth mentioning is how movement works. My demo was played using two PlayStation Move controllers, although a standard DualShck 4 is an option as well. To move forward you just press the left Move button and your character starts to move forward in whichever direction your head is pointing. To rotate your view you aim the right controller left or right and press the Move button to rotate. You can also point the right Move controller behind you and press the Move button to do a full 180 rotation.

In all honesty it feels awkward. It never ended up clicking with me over the course of the whole demo. With this movement system I not only can’t walk backwards, but I can’t side step or strafe either. I can’t even look around while moving since movement is based on where my head is facing. The best smooth movement I’ve seen on PSVR using the PS Move controllers is probably Skyrim VR’s point to move solution and even that takes a lot of practice to get used to as well.

From what we’ve seen The Inpatient is shaping up to be one of PSVR’s most terrifying games to date. The sense of slow-building dread is palpable and the character performances are some of the best we’ve seen on the platform with excellent voice acting. By asking players to speak the words themselves also poses some interesting roleplaying possibilities not yet explored in the medium we can’t wait to see evolved further.

The Inpatient is coming exclusively to PSVR sometime next year in 2018. Tell us what you think of the game so far down in the comments below!

Tagged with: ,

What's your reaction?