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VICE Gaming at E3 2015: Day Four Roundup

Sony's Project Morpheus, Batman, and "Battlefront" bring the industry conference to a big-budget climax.
June 19, 2015, 3:05pm

Sony's Project Morpheus on display at E3 2015. All photos courtesy of the author

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

The final day of E3 offers time for reflection, breaks for naps, and the sight of many an attendee popping a cheeky Berocca. This is the day where we all do the most apathetic dash around the conference, mopping up the straggly games with anything bready. Or sugary, or with caffeine.

First up I head to Sony's smorgasbord of virtual reality titles running through their Project Morpheus kit. I'd heard from other journalists to try out something called Kitchen. It didn't take long for me to realize that it's not a VR Moben demo—rather, it's a deeply disturbing horror experience from Street Fighter creators Capcom.

The author trying out Project Morpheus

It begins a little like the start of the first Saw movie. You wake up in what's apparently a serial killer's kitchen, reminiscent of the Gluttony guy's apartment in Seven: rank, putrid, and with weird green mould all over the walls. Bit similar to my first-ever flat, really. (Which I made even worse for the next tenant as my snake escaped. Not even joking. Someone got a fright when installing new cupboards, that's for sure.)

You look down at your hands—which are moved by tipping the controller—and they're tied up. You can't move. You look down at your VR body, a surreal experience at the best of times, and become even more aware of the peril you've found yourself in. This is fairly well signposted by the dead man in a pool of blood in the corner of the room, and the video camera in front of you. Unless you've just come around from a weird sex game gone wrong, and this guy's merely suffering a moderate nosebleed that looks far worse than it is, you are truly fucked.

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I'd go into more detail, but I don't want to spoil it for you, as you really do need to play this. It's the most intimidating and engaging horror experience I have ever had. Kitchen makes you feel incredibly vulnerable. The real room that usually separates you from the horrors on your screen is gone—here, they're right in front of your eyes and you have no way of escaping them. It's the horror ante thoroughly upped, a video game equivalent to dressing Nosferatu's Count Orlok in a Jim'll Fix It T-shirt.

The next VR game I try is London Heist, which I went into expecting nothing special but came away from thinking it was one of the best titles that I played all E3. Not because it was groundbreaking in theme—you're a shotgun-riding passenger in a car chase, shooting assailants from your window, and there's nothing that fresh about that. It's how it's executed that makes it stand out.

London Heist uses Move controllers, which correspond to your gloved hands in the game. You can change the radio station, which is easy enough, or amuse yourself by doing big fish, little fish, cardboard box. You can turn on lights, open the glove compartment, and even open the car door and look behind you. It's all very Tech Demo until a swarm of identikit Jason Statham "lads" in cars and bikes show up and begin to turn your vehicle into an oversized colander courtesy of a hail of bullets.

Well, what else can you do? Pick up a fucking gun, you fucking numpty, and start firing back. Even now, writing this down, it really doesn't sound all that exciting. But to play it was to experience what I always dreamed of from something like GTA: me being a badass, shooting my way through NPCs like Ted Nugent plugged into Xbox Live by his balls. Using Move to aim and fire is what all games strive for but so many fall short of: that ability to control your character in an entirely intuitive way. The game controller as we know it was always a compromise, a necessary evil that's stuck around as technology's progressed—this is how we were meant to pop headshots.

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Now I can shoot out tires with a flick of my wrist, and be the gangster I've always wanted to be in a game. I find myself barking some messed-up shit to the NPCs who can't really hear me, and laughing like a tyrannical dictator. Thank god I've got the kit over my eyes, as I think the reaction of the staff nearby might have otherwise scarred me for life. But it's like that weird thing when you fart when wearing headphones—you only get half as embarrassed if you don't actually hear it.

I was actually quite shocked at just how visceral my reaction was to this game. Suddenly my eyes were open, and it all seemed so obvious. The more we can reduce the distance between us and the game, be that visual or physical, the more heightened our reaction will be. And London Heist on Morpheus has just taken it to the next level for me.

Approved

Suitably moved, I staggered over to the Warner Bros stand to get some hands-on time with Batman: Arkham Knight. Rocksteady Studios are back at the series helm after taking a break after the immense Arkham City of 2011, and hoping to bring you more Gotham City, more baddies and an immense slice of more Batman. This time out you're up against the sack-wearing, drugs-slinging Scarecrow, as he launches a gas attack on the city. You've got to wonder when he's going to quit failing at conquering Gotham, and switch his sights to a city that isn't home to a famous comic-book crime-fighter sporting a cape who always gets the better of him. If he dropped his "fear gas" on London during Notting Hill Carnival weekend, for instance, it'd be a full three days before anyone noticed something was wrong.

With a who's-who of villains on show, Arkham Knight is a Batfan's dream. And after getting some hands-on, I can say that it doesn't disappoint. The hefty, delicious yet cerebral, bone-crunchy combat is back, making you feel like an unstoppably dexterous tank. The world is bigger, and finally seeing it on screen was a delight. Gotham looks incredible, like a wet, medieval Tokyo, full of neon signs and dark corners for criminals to get bat-fucked in.

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Yes, it's largely following a formula that might breed fatigue, but ask yourself a question: can you ever really tire of being Batman? I mean, you're Batman. If you don't find that awesome, you must be dead inside.

Want more Batman? Check out our interview preview of Arkham Knight here, and come back next week for a clutch of comic-book-related content.

Whatever could this be about?

From one massive films-and-that-to-games crossover franchise to another, as it's time for some Star Wars: Battlefront. After all, it'd be a bit stupid of me to forget something that's has made more shorts-wearing schoolboys cream their pants over the years than all the world's pre-teen crushes combined. Yes, there have been previous games based on the legendary sci-fi movies, but it finally looks like we'll see a Star Wars game that lives up to all our childhood fantasies. The ones about being in Star Wars at least, not the other ones. Even E3 will look at you funny if you start acting those out in the middle of the LA Convention Center.

Battlefront is a love letter to the fans, folding in every possible quirk and tick from the movies and capturing the ridiculous scale of their battles. And this time you're absolutely balls-deep in them.

I'm not the biggest Star Wars fan you'll ever meet—I once saw George Lucas saying that The Phantom Menace was the best movie of the six main ones so far "as it made the most money." Fuck that attitude. In fact, fuck the Star Wars legacy, as it doesn't matter a damn when coming to Battlefront—you can appreciate this as an entirely standalone experience, even if you hate the filmed adventures of Luke and Hans and that hairy one that talks funny. And as that's the case, there's no doubt that EA's game has every chance of being The Shit in the eyes (and hands) of the hardcore faithful.

And then it's over. I pack up my bag and take a final walk through the gigantic hall that's served as a home for the next wave of video gaming brilliance. And it's really hard to feel negative about any of it. E3 2015 has been tremendous, and I leave it excited for the future of gaming. I've some post-event analysis to follow, which will be on these pages in due course. Meantime, here's all of VICE Gaming's E3 coverage so far—thanks for checking it out.

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