E3 2014 is all about games. For the most part.
While E3 2013 was reserved for hardware announcements in the form of Xbox One and PlayStation 4, E3 2014 has been about showcasing the games that will take us into the next generation.
Then there’s Project Morpheus. Also poised to take us into the next-generation, Sony’s latest pet project is an Oculus-challenging virtual reality monster. But will it have the power to take on Oculus proper? Read on to find out.
In line to try out Project Morpheus, we’re ushered into a dark hallway of people with odd white headsets on, paired with a set of Sony headphones, moving around hesitantly in one spot. We’re handed a DualShock 4, and given our own headset which is placed on for us, tightened appropriately, and made complete with our own set of Sony cans.
The headset itself is remarkably comfortable for something that floats about four inches over the edge of your face. There’s a cushioned pad resting on the forehead that carries most of the weight, and while the unit is big, it balances perfectly.
Strapping into the experience, we began an underwater demo that, for lack of a better phrase, scared the shit out of us.
Beginning in a scuba cage about fifty feet below the surface of the water, we’re instructed to look around. We scan the area and everything becomes apparent: we’re not just in that dark hallway anymore. This is real life.
Forgetting everything we know about the outside world, the world is beautifully rendered. The graphics aren’t PlayStation 4-quality, as far as we can tell, but it’s about the immersion here, not about the fidelity. Looking around, we see the edges of the cage, our feet, a shark in the distance (more on him later), and a reef above, as well as the sun shining through the surface of the water.
Looking down at our feet proved the most challenging part of the VR experience. The game’s character would move his feet every so often, but since looking down registered in our brain that we were looking at our feet, and our feet were actually stationary, our mind couldn’t really process that what we were looking at wasn’t our own legs. Needless to say, we almost fell over.
That shark we saw earlier? He begins attacking the cage, and we’re to use our only weapon-a flare gun- to keep him at bay, even though it does precisely nothing to that effect. The shark bites at the cage as we furiously fire flares and try to activate the winch on the dive cage. The experience violently shakes, and it’s hard to maintain your balance as your brain miscomputes the movement of video as what your body is expecting.
After five or six minutes of the shark ruthlessly attacking the cage and it eventually breaking open, we’re winched to the surface of the water, the screen fades to black, and the experience concludes.
Taking off the headset, we’re told by the demonstrator that we were smiling from ear to ear the entire time, muttering things like “this is ridiculous” and “the coolest thing ever”. Project Morpheus is extremely cool, and it works as you’d expect, with virtually zero latency when moving your head, and even less when using the controller to interact with objects and characters on screen.
Project Morpheus is going to be a huge addition to Sony’s PlayStation 4 hardware whenever it launches, and assuming they get the price right, could make it very difficult for Xbox One to compete in the innovative games space; remember how many Kinect games we saw on stage at Microsoft’s E3 presentation? Neither do we.