Sports Bar VR is one of those games that we weren’t sure would translate well to PlayStation VR.
Cherry Pop Games and Perilous Orbit’s social sports game, better known as Pool Nation VR to HTC Vive players, takes full advantage of SteamVR Tracking on PC, which the PS4 can’t hope to match with its lone camera. Phosphor Games had some ingenious tricks to get round issues related to the difference in tracking technology with The Brookhaven Experiment, though, and so does Sports Bar.
If you didn’t know, this is essentially a sandbox-style experience in which you can meet with up to six friends to play some pool, throw darts, challenge each other to air hockey and more. On the Vive, you’re encouraged to walk around, creating havoc picking up bottles and cans and smashing them into walls. You’re free to do what you want and, thanks to multiplayer support, it’s one of the most enjoyable games on the system.
With PS VR’s tracking technology, occlusion is a real issue; it’s all too easy to reach out beyond the camera’s limits with the Move controllers, or turn around and have them disappear completely. Fortunately, the console version of the experience hasn’t been anywhere near as stripped back as I expected it to be.
For starters, Sports Bar VR always shows you where you’re meant to be standing and what direction you’re meant to be facing. A pair of feet icons on the ground are present at all times so that, if you ever get a little mixed up, you can quickly correct yourself. You’ll want to make sure your play area has plenty of space before you do this; the icon is simply identifying where the camera will track you best, and it doesn’t care if there’s a couch or a cat in the way, or if it’s right next to a wall. It’s up to you to sort those issues.
Another important feature is the game’s ‘Hulk Mode’, which features in the Vive edition too. By holding down both Move buttons, you can essentially navigate through the world by pulling yourself through it with your hands. At first it’s a little nauseating; activating the mode without understanding how sensitive the controls are can throw you off in seconds. But once you adjust and work out how to twist around, it’s perfect for fine-tuning your direction. For larger movements, there’s also a teleport function accessed by simply pressing the square button, pointing where you want to go, and pressing it again.
You also don’t have to stand like a beanpole to keep tracking stable. Sports Bar is ever so slightly room-scale supported. I could take a few steps either side of the icon and still be tracked pretty easily. In fact, it was the limits of my small room that stopped me moving any further and not PS VR’s tracking limitations.
Of course, it helps that Sports Bar is a game that can be played at your own pace rather than demanding quick reflexes. Even when online with friends there’s no real rush to take your next shot, giving you plenty of time to comfortably transition to where you need to be. Some of these techniques probably wouldn’t hold up in more intensive situations, but for anyone designing more casual social games for the platform there are plenty of features to take note of here.
I soon found myself having a great time with Sports Bar VR. If you have a Vive then Pool Nation is easily still the better way to go, but PS VR owners shouldn’t feel short changed by the console edition. If all developers show this kind of attention to porting their room-scale projects to the less capable headset, then PS VR has got a very bright future ahead of it.