Before I detail how awesome my experience was I have to make something clear: I am not a virtual reality virgin. I’ve used the Oculus Rift a few times at gaming conventions but never PlayStation VR. I wasn’t in time for the tickets they handed out to guarantee a spot for that. But finally I got a chance to experience PlayStation’s newest baby before its release. Since I had played a few titles that required a controller already, I felt for once I should just sit back, relax, and enjoy a show that required no input on my end. Little did I know that there would be no unwinding.
Once I made my selection from a handful of available demo’s the operator strapped me in. The headset was a lot more comfortable than I thought. I was expecting it to be a nuisance in some capacity but it was far from. There was a little outside light coming through at the bottom corner of each eye but it was only noticeable when there was nothing on the screen. When the main menu popped up I lost all presence of my surroundings and was fully immersed. The only time I was out of immersion was the very beginning of my experience. I realized that I could tell where the screen was in the headset in relation to the gameplay. However, this wore off and I attributed the problem more to myself first drifting into the moment.
I had chosen Ocean Descent as apart of PlayStation Worlds. Basically you play a diver in a cage slowly descending into parts of an ocean. I heard a disembodied, female voice over a radio tell me that there were a lot of activity readings and I was in for a good show. This was the last I heard from her, which struck me as odd but would become eerily apparent later. To start, I hovered in shallow water taking in beautiful sights. There were colorful coral reefs, schools of fish, and a turtle swimming around me in all three hundred and sixty degrees. The graphics and feeling of it all was so life-like that I couldn’t help but smile. Even my run of the mill cage was masterfully constructed.
What came next caused me to flinch, physically move away,
and convince myself that “this wasn’t real” over and over again.
The next area was a slightly deeper part of my private ocean. There were underwater chasms in front of me and open ocean behind me. A couple of manta rays made an appearance but they were lazily swimming along, minding their own business. A few of them circled my cage but I felt it was more out of curiosity than anything. The next lower level was a lot darker and my brain registered underwater caverns everywhere. Soon after, a ton of jellyfish came from below, made their way around me, and put on quite a show. It was beautiful. Rest assured that this feeling would not last.
What came next caused me to flinch, physically move away, and convince myself that “this wasn’t real” over and over again. The area I arrived at featured dilapidated ruins of some sort. If I had to guess I would say the wreckage of a sunken ship. That’s when the monster showed up. A great white shark started swimming around my cage ominously. There was no immediate fear as I was in a protective contraption but I was all too aware what danger this animal posed. I decided to look around a bit more to see if I could spot anything else. Big mistake. The shark charged and clasped on to a spare oxygen tank on top of the cage. It shook the entire enclosure before biting off the tank and slowly swimming away from view.
OK… That was jarring but I was still in the cage. Lovely safe, metal, solid cage. Surely we’re moving onto the next area now. Nope! The shark returned and again slowly swam around me. This time I didn’t take my eyes off it. It still didn’t help. The beast charged my cage again and tore a hole in the bottom left of it. My reflexes took over and I cowered into the far back right corner of my now broken safeguard. It’s giant teeth just inches away from me. Quickly it retreated backwards but rammed forward again before I could catch my breath. The shark’s body flopped against the remaining, front part of the cage and you could see one of its black, beady, killer eyes. Without warning it sprung around and went after the light on my cage. With a quick pull the light easily tore off…as well as the entire front of the cage.
At this point I was muttering this is just a game. It wasn’t real and I had to force myself to sit up straight. That’s when the shark banged into the left side of the cage. I immediately put my hands up in retaliation thinking it would protect me. There was still nothing in between the front of me and the shark. Sure enough it struck again. Luckily, the bottom of its mouth hit some part of the cage and failed to acquire its meal. The close call was enough to make my hands flail out in front me. By this time the fear and tension were so great that I entertained the idea of just taking PlayStation VR off and being done with it. Suddenly, the cage began to rise through the depths and I let out a breath of relief knowing that I was getting out of the hungry shark’s teeth. Oh, actually…
The shark was having none of it. It crashed into the cage once again causing it to shake something fierce. Without missing a beat, the killer swam under my still rising cage and rocketed towards my unprotected self. At the last moment a falling piece of debris hit the shark on the head and the demo ended. I was unstrapped and had to stand up slowly. I was shaking slightly for which I am not ashamed. The entire time I thought the shark would rush forward and the screen would cut to black as I was in its mouth. The fact that Ocean Descent was drawn out like that made it even scarier.
Mind you, all of this happened without a controller. I was just there as a bystander. Still the experience had my heart racing and my legs full of adrenaline. I had to force myself not to run in any direction to escape the virtual man-eater. My flight response almost won but luckily my wife was there to bring me back to reality. Hours later the moment was still with me. If a peripheral can bring this type of experience to PlayStation 4, I’m all for it. I can’t wait to see what PlayStation VR is like with a controller in hand.
If you’re interested in seeing this visually, click here.