When telling my friends and colleagues that VR is mankind's most impressive invention since the wheel, I keep hearing that many will consider buying a VR headset when great games arrive. I can then tell them about the many awesome VR games, but the problem arises when I have to show some reviews of such great VR games. Often there're no reviews or the authors of VR game reviews seem keen to do their very best bashing most VR games for not being good enough - quite contrary to my experiences.
I know Oculus took great pride getting a top-ranked VR game on Metacritic, and they succeeded with Lone Echo last year. But where do we stand this summer? - Here's today's list of the best PC games, including VR games, from Metacritic (and my friends read such lists):
According to that list there are no games you can't play without a VR headset. The only game on the list you can play in VR is The Forest, but it works in 2D too. If the list is expanded to show all current games, Gunheart also receives 83 points like The Forest, and again you don't need a VR headset to play Gunheart. My friends easily conclude that since there're no VR-only high-ranking games on the Metacritic list, it's because current VR games are of poor quality and VR is something no one truly needs.
I can't blame them for drawing such conclusions, and even showing 2D trailers don't help much, because you can't communicate the greatness of VR games using a 2D video.
I think it's a great problem that new and awesome VR games don't get good reviews or do not get reviewed at all. Let's take Moss - it's a VR-only game arriving a few months ago:Moss Metacritic Score for PC: No score due to insufficient number of reviews.Moss User Score in the Oculus Store: About 96% average.
There're just 3 Moss reviews for PC VR on Metacritic, scoring the game at 79, 80 or 90 % - which in no way reflects user experiences. And often I see a similar trend.
The reason behind the few Moss PC reviews are probably that many reviewers reviewed the PS4 version and then didn't want to do another review for PC VR. Thus compared to the 3 reviews for the Rift/Vive version, there're 62 reviews of the PS4 version! Interestingly many reviewers have no problem reviewing different game versions for PS4, XBox One and PC - like Battlefield 1, Fifa 18 and Rise of the Tomb Rader just to name a few titles. Why didn't Moss PC VR get a similar treatment?
This is a great problem - Moss for the Rift and Vive is not the same as the PS4 version; PS4 has no controllers matching the Rift or Vive, and the PS4 has much lower resolution (also when using high levels of super-sampling on the Rift and Vive). But the greatness of Moss PC VR was never communicated to the masses, because there're almost no published reviews of one of the greatest VR games so far - and certainly the best one thus far in 2018!
Another problem of mixing VR and 2D games on Metacritic is to compare apples and oranges, or probably more to compare grapes and watermelons ;-)
To illustrate: Is Subnautica 2D the same as Subnautica VR? Is Elite Dangerous 2D the same as Elite Dangerous VR? I'd personally consider Subnautica VR about 10 times better than Subnautica 2D, even if the VR version does have some problems. So should we rate Subnautica 2D at 10 % and the VR version at 100 % ? Of course this would not be fair, but I'd have no problem rating Subnautica 2D at 65 % and the VR version at 95 %, if we really want to compare apples and oranges - and want to rate both on the same scale.
I believe that many reviewers rate VR games just as if the games were in 2D. Comparing 2D and VR games, I'd have a hard time rating a 2D game more than 70 % - and that would be for the very best AAA 2D games, while I'd have a hard time rating any high-quality VR game below 90 %. This is due to the fact that VR games are so incredibly more visually impressive and immersive than any 2D game can be - and Touch controllers add a lot to provide a truly unique VR experience. For example I'd have no problem rating a 2D version of Marvel Powers United at maybe 60 %, and to rate the VR version at 90 %, because the immersion - the feeling of being present in the game world - is so much better in VR.
If reviewers fail to clearly communicate how much better VR games are compared to 2D games, how are persons - who know very little about VR - going to know how much better VR games are compared to 2D games? The current bashing of Marvel Powers United is a great example of this - and it's a great destructive force limiting VR adoption when VR game reviewers constantly criticize gameplay as if a VR game wasn't different from a 2D game. A new VR game which is the best within it's genre - compared to other VR games in the same genre - is per definition the new reference and should carry a rating reflecting that position. - And such a VR game should not carry a rating that reflects a reviewers preference for 2D games in the genre.
I think it would be great if Oculus representatives could ask Metacritic not to mix 2D and VR games; there are plenty of VR games to support having their own category.
We need to stop comparing apples and oranges.
Finally we could take a look on the current top three PC games on Metacritic, namely these:
Into the Breach - rated 89 %
Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire - rated 88 %
Final Fantasy XV - Windows - rated at 85 %
I do think that some of these games look impressive, but are these games way better than the latest and greatest Rift games? Personally I'd consider the following games so much better; compared to 2D games I'd happily rate Moss at 97 %, Seeking Dawn at 93 % and Marvel Powers United VR at 90 %
Intel i7 7700K (4.5 GHz); MSI GeForce GTX 1080 8GB Gaming X (oc 2100 MHz boost, 11 Ghz ram); 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 3200 MHz; MSI Z270I Gaming Pro Carbon AC (VR-Ready) mainboard; Samsung 960 Evo M.2 SSD + Toshiba P300 HD; Windows 10 OS; Oculus Rift CV1 - nearly always using super sampling 2.0.
"Ask not what VR can do for you – ask what you can do for VR" ;-)