Since its initial Kickstarter campaign back in 2012 wowed the internet, virtual reality has steadily increased its success with gamers and developers alike. It wasn’t an easy path. With such a drastic change in how we play our games, developers had to rethink and reinvent some of the most fundamental aspects of gaming assumed for many years now.
One of the biggest issues here is movement. How can you run around a massive virtual world when your physical legs can only take you a few feet around your living room?
So it’s no surprise the initial wave of VR titles were glorified demos or “experiences,” and fully-fledged triple-A titles were nowhere to be seen. VR games seemed to be more at home in a “cockpit” environment, such as starships, mechwarriors, or racecars, whereas FPS games seemed to naturally conflict. These shorter/cheaper games had a benefit though — put simply, developers had to find out what works in VR and run with it.
It’s amazing though, how quickly things can change over a few short years. Confident in the technology, VR evangelism has spread through the games industry and we’re now seeing many big developers pick up the new tech and release full length, triple-A games like Skyrim, Doom, and Resident Evil 7, with Borderlands 2 being the latest game to throw its hat in the ring.
I Like the Way You Move
One of the major hurdles with the move to VR was movement. Problems with limited space and motion sickness meant gamers were either going to be tripping over every obstacle in their living room or throwing up on the carpet.
Developers worked out two successful methods for combating these issues. The first is letting the player free-walk with the left thumbstick, and the other is allowing them to highlight a selected area and teleport to that location. So which option does Borderlands 2 VR allow you to do? Both!
Any and all methods are available to you. In the options you can select a large number of different control schemes that enable and disable various methods for movement, from locking down jump, disabling free walk, or even teleporting. Gearbox Software has cast a wide net here, and in doing so they’ve included gamers who don’t suffer from limitations, but also provided an avenue for those who do.
To solve the problem of turning around, simply pressing left or right on your right thumb stick will pivot your character 20 degrees or so. This eliminates the issue of standing up and turning around as well as tying your cords up in knots. The final – and most important – mechanic to address is aiming your weapons, which is done by simply looking where you want your crosshairs to be.
Combine all of these things together and what you’ve got is a solid set of gameplay dynamics that legitimately feels both comfortable and natural. If you had to compare this to the more traditional control mechanisms of a control pad, this PSVR setup wins hands down.
And Now For the Bad
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though. The teleport function, whilst good, sometimes fails to even acknowledge that you’re pressing a button. It’s almost as if there’s a limitation on when you can and cannot use it, but only lets you know this by making an unexplained sound alert that’s synonymous with an error.
Which in the middle of a boss battle or heated firefight, can be fairly stressful and annoying! The game supports Move controllers and although the teleport function seems to work better with this, every other aspect seems less intuitive. Button placements feel out of place, and aiming feels jerkier than using your headset.
A known problem with VR hardware is the “screen door” effect. This is due to resolutions never being quite high enough on the lens screens. A common issue that comes with this is having some parts of the game hard to read or make out. In the case of Borderlands 2 VR, your minimap, health bar, and ammo HUD are all fairly hard to make out. It would also appear that a few minor bugs, such as enemies that get stuck or teleport around a bit, have made it into this version.
Is Borderlands 2 VR Good?
It’s important to understand exactly what you’re getting with this release. To cut a long story short, Borderlands 2 VR is essentially the same game. If you played this wonderful title six years ago, you’ll find everything is exactly where you left it, but now in VR.
We realise this sounds like we’re downplaying this title, but we’ll be clear here, VR isn’t like a HD Remake/Remaster. VR is putting the player in the game itself. You’re no longer looking at Sanctuary on a 2D screen, you’re in Sanctuary, full immersed in all its post-apocalyptic glory. The transition to VR has been highly complimentary to this title. Diving back in with a new perspective has felt like an entirely new game.
With resolving the issues surrounding space, motion sickness, game menus, and cost, the barriers preventing people from experiencing this for themselves start to break down. Borderlands 2 VR is the latest in what’s becoming a nice list of virtual reality games that everyone should be playing.