At PlayStation Experience this year, I had my first hands-on demo with virtual reality.
After months of hearing positive reactions about how revolutionary the tech that company’s like Sony and Oculus have been toiling away on for years, I had the opportunity to try out Until Dawn: Rush of Blood. I assumed that Rush of Blood would be a great starting point in VR for me, as Until Dawn was one of my favorite games so far this year, and trying out VR through the context of something I already loved would be an appropriate place to start.
However, instead of leaving the demo with a firm grasp of how VR could be utilized within something established, I found myself more confused and even distracted by Sony’s decision to so radically adapt Until Dawn into something unrecognizable from the source material.
For what it’s worth, Rush of Blood is a pretty solid tech demo for PlayStation VR. You, a currently unknown character, are placed in what is basically a roller coaster through the world of Until Dawn. The section I played featured environments I recognized from my time on Blackwood Mountain, as well as a few visual elements that referenced moments in Supermassive’s campy interactive teen horror film. As you pass through the course, you can move your head in order to dodge obstacles, look around the world, and shoot monsters using two PlayStation Move controllers.
While Rush of Blood wasn’t the life-changing experience I had been conditioned to expect from PlayStation VR, it did give me a few brief moments of clarity about even smallest things that having a VR helmet could do to enhance a shooter that is simply not possible to do as intuitively without one.. While I was shooting an enemy that was in front of me, I heard a shrieking sound to my left. In a standard shooter, I would have to cease shooting opponents I was facing in order to turn my character’s body entirely to the left so I could see what was approaching, potentially exposing myself to the onslaught of monsters I had previously been shooting at. With VR, I was able to turn my head to see what was approaching while still using the PlayStation Move wands to keep the monsters in front of me at bay.
Rush of Blood didn’t make me feel any more immersed in the experience than playing it on a television would, but it did offer me small glimpses into how a VR game could be less restricted by rigid movement not possible on a controller or mouse and keyboard.
Despite this, when it comes to the actual use of Until Dawn’s imagery and setting, I found what I saw of Rush of Blood to be more off-putting than exciting. Until Dawn is still fresh in my mind. I played through the game from start to finish in the middle of the night when it launched back in August, and I still remember the tense atmosphere, the hard choices, and the horrifying sight of Wendigos. But while Supermassive’s horror game had moments of cheese and camp that often came off as satirical and self aware, Rush of Blood’s references to the original game seem cheesy because Rush of Blood feels distinctly like an amusement park attraction than it does a genuine use of Until Dawn’s universe.
What I played of Rush of Blood went through several sections that felt referential to different parts of Until Dawn. From seeing the snowy mountainside of Blackwood Mountain to the mines that Mike wandered through and uncovered horrifying truths, Rush of Blood feels like a tribute to something that has yet to reach the point in its life that that kind of thing feels genuine and tributary rather than like striking when the iron is hot.
Until Dawn: Rush of Blood gave me very brief moments of clarity about the potential of VR, but it still feels like a slightly tacky tech demo as opposed to something substantial and fleshed out. PlayStation VR is still in its very early days, but what it’s doing with established franchises doesn’t do much for me to inspire confidence that resources for it are being put in the best places right now.