Towards the end of 2017 I, like pretty much every one else, posted my favorite stuff from the year. In this case, it was my favorite VR stuff that year. It was a list I put together pretty late and quick. I've been very busy working one job and then in October deciding to open Digital Worlds took up most of my spare time. I sought to make a list that included some categories that not everyone would think of. Maybe this year I'll have more time to get even more creative. Like with any of these "Top" lists, there's some controversy, so I figured I would put together this post explaining my logic. I made the list to help people find those quality VR experiences, so this list gives the logic there.
Best Shooter went to Sairento VR. I pretty much knew Sairento would get this award within the first hour I played the game. From the start, they had the jumping mechanic, as well as the wall jumping and running. No one had done this and it was mind-blowing to think that, during a time when many devs are still scared to do anything beyond teleporting and even node-teleportation, that Sairento was letting me leap around and run along walls. Then they just kept adding more. Many aspects of Sairento are great, like the levels, enemies, visuals, loot system, character progression, shooting/melee mechanics, and more, but what stole the show was the movement.
Best RPG went to Fallout 4 VR and that really surprised me, since I didn't even rate FO4 all too high when I did my Top 10 Games Of 2015, though 5th ain't bad, I did later feel that I put it a bit too high, and maybe that's the case again. FO4 VR is so recently released towards the end of the year that maybe I am still in the honey moon phase. Oh well, it's still a fantastic RPG and getting to walk around the world now in VR is incredible. It's not perfect and the VR implementations could be better, but still, it's a big AAA dev/publisher taking a risk in a small, niche industry that will probably net them a loss. It got me really excited for when we will see an RPG that has that level of budget and polish going on that is natively built for VR and not a port. Spending dozens, or hundreds, of hours in the world and just getting lost in it all. Can't wait.
Best Platformer went to Climbey and this was one of the toughest to call. Sky Climbers is basically Climbey with a story and adventure going on that even includes some combat. Then To The Top is like Climbey but on a larger, faster scale. But, Climbey was the first out of them all and took some risks with the arm-swinger movement system (one of my favorites only beaten by running in place) that we're now seeing get more attention with Sprint Vector coming soon. Climbey also did the grapple/holding onto surfaces system really early on and it's so good. Finally, the implementation of Steam Workshop support is a massive perk. So much content!
Best Action/Sports/Got-You-Moving Game went to Bomb U! which was the first really controversial one on the list. Almost nobody has heard of Bomb U! and then when you do finally look it up on Steam and you see what it looks like, you become even more confused as to how anyone would pick this as a top of any category. I bought the game back when it was $2.99 and it was the best $3 I've probably ever spent. It uses full room-scale, no artificial locomotions of any kind. Against the AI, it's pretty fun, but against a friend (talking on Discord since the in-game VOIP isn't great quality) it is an absolute blast.
Speaking of using room-scale only, Bomb U! won the category for Best Use Of Room-Scale VR (A.K.A. The Best Reason We Need Wireless VR). This game has you moving around a whole lot and if you want to be competitive, you gotta move fast. People that know me know that I am not a sports fan, but I would love for Bomb U! to become a competitive sport with professional athletes. I could watch people play it all day long, but I'd rather play it. Easily one of the best ways ever to burn some calories.
Best Story Driven Game went to The Price Of Freedom which was slightly controversial due to the game being a free game. Many people hadn't heard of it, and those that had, many assumed it was not good due to it being free. That's understandable. While I will admit that it's short, it is a real case of quality over quantity. I can't say much about this as we get into spoiler territory if I try to provide reasons for it getting this award, but it's free, so if you have VR just go download it now.
Best Single Player Campaign Game went to Vertigo which wasn't too controversial as it did get a good bit of Reddit attention pre and during its release. It's pretty crazy to think that this was the first game made by the developer and he started out alone and I think there were just the two of them by its release (possibly a third), and he was self taught to use Unity by watching YouTube tutorials and such. As for the game itself, I just loved so many things about it. The setting was cool and the atmosphere to match. The whole time I played it, it reminded me of Half-Life and HL2, which is a very good thing. On top of that, the boss fights in Vertigo game me some massive Legend of Zelda flashbacks, which is also a very good thing. I again will not go into specifics to avoid spoilers, but I will say the boss with the liquids... holy crap... So good.
Best Multi-Player Game went to... not Bomb U!... but Loco Dojo and this one really angered a whole lot of posts. Yes, Rec Room is amazing, packed with so much content, and of course is free, but I really only care for the quests and 3D charades in it. Loco Dojo won because it's basically just Mario Party for VR. It's always a ton of fun to have three buddies join me over Discord and we go through it and yell and scream at each other in joyous rage. They beat out Bomb U! only because Bomb U! is limited to 1v1. If the day ever comes that it gets more players involved, then it will likely win and make even more people mad. Having said all of that, this category was super tough for me. As you can tell by the size of the list, I like a lot of games for their multiplayer. VR is such a great medium for social gaming.
Best Game That Got VR Through A Mod went to DOOM 3 BFG Edition. While DOOM 3 diverted from the traditional DOOM formula, I still really enjoyed it and consider it one of my favorite horror games of all time. The visuals in the BFG Edition still hold up well enough today and look solid in VR, especially with some addition visual mods. Some people even consider it to be a better DOOM VR game than DOOM VFR. It's implementation of motion controls and how the UI is translated are all pretty solid.
Best VR Gameplay Mechanic/Concept went to Freedom Locomotion VR's running in place system. I had been doing VR for over a year with both Rift and Vive, I am impressed by VR games each time I try them out by the things they do, but when I tried Freedom Locomotion's system it blew my mind almost as much as the day I got VR. It's so darn fluid and spot on and there's so much customization to it... which is sadly why no devs would use it in their game. It will scare off a lot of people. Still, it just feels so natural. I just hope that it catches on.
Best Visuals (Technical) went to Batman: Arkham VR which I don't think it too highly debated. The Arkham games are all known for their high quality visuals and attention to detail. The VR version continued that trend and kept it well optimized so that there was very little reprojection.
Best Visuals (Artistic) went to Dimension Hunter and this is of course a much more subjective category than the Technical one. Dimension Hunter takes inspiration from comic books, just like the Sin City films, in that the game is primarily in black and white with accents of color here and there. I really liked seeing that in VR and it just never got old. One moment in the game that I loved, and I'm sort of getting into spoiler territory, is in a level that takes place in almost complete darkness, you have no flashlight, and so your only sort of light is the muzzle flash of your weapons. It was super intense and the visual style made it easy for you to see the world around you and know what you were looking at just with the very short glimpses that you had when shooting.
Best Official Port Of A Non-VR Game went to Dead Effect 2 VR which was a little off since it got 3rd in the RPG category which FO4 won, yet FO4 got 3rd in the port category. How is that you may ask. Well, because FO4 is just a better RPG for me but it could have taken better advantage of VR and what it offers, and Dead Effect 2 does that. To make things even more impressive is that it is not a flat console/PC port like FO4 is but a port from the mobile scene. Yeah, like Android and iOS. Many developers just struggle to port console games to PC or visa versa, but these guys managed to port a mobile game over to PC for VR. Tons of settings and options to change, it looks good, runs good, and the way you interact with the world using motion controls are great. Props devs.
Best Developer goes to Croteam, even though none of their games won any of these awards, they are still easily one of my favorite VR devs right now. A lot of people got mad at me for putting Ubisoft on the list, but they have done a lot for VR. They're one of the largest devs out there and jumped in pretty early creating new games for not just the Vive, not just the Rift, not just the PSVR, but all three and even included cross-platform support for their titles. Croteam gets the win though because they also jumped in really early and managed to port all three Serious Sam games and The Talos Principal to VR, which is no easy task. They gave great discounts to those who already owned the flat versions on Steam which they didn't have to do. But then one of the real reasons they got this win, the customization and settings. Holy crap, you can change almost everything, and not just graphics but also the movement options. And as the icing on the cake, they allowed cross-platform play to the extreme so that VR and non-VR players can play along side each other in co-op and PvP and even use the same mods. Awesome work guys and I cannot wait to see Serious Sam 4 in VR.
Finally, the big one that was the most controversial, the third appearance of Bomb U! on the list as it won 1st place again but this time for Best Overall Game. Again, some never heard of, goofy looking game, that was only $3 at launch and now at $6... how does that beat GORN, Rec Room, Raw Data, Sairento VR, Arizona Sunshine, Google Earth VR, DOOM VFR, Fallout 4 VR, The Gallery - Episode 2, Racket: NX, SUPERHOT VR, and all the other really incredible games for VR at the time? All those super polished games with a ton of content... well, for me this category came down to fun and of all the games I've played in VR I have by far had the most fun doing Bomb U!. All these other titles have seriously wowed me and I love all of them, but Bomb U! was just something that captured exactly what I want in VR. Most of those other games, I can see them getting ported over to non-VR (at least getting mouse and keyboard/gamepad support) and retaining a lot of what makes them great, but I just can't see that happening with Bomb U!. Running around your room, having your platforms slowly destroyed causing you to now take your time as you cautiously try to reach for that bomb across your destroyed panel and then seeing your opponent fall to their doom, it's just something you cannot get anywhere other than VR.
So that's my explanations. I would have loved to give more details to the 2nd and 3rd place winners and all of the other runner ups, but I just can't spend that much time on the list. I am trying to open a business and I sadly have to get back to the work side of things.
A while back I put THIS list together which is a fairly comprehensive list of my favorite VR games and the list will be growing and updated over time as I play many, many VR titles. So bookmark that page if you haven't already if you own your own VR or you just want to know which titles to try out when you use our services at Digital Worlds.
p.s. Bomb U! developers did not pay me any money or give me anything for these awards that they won. In fact, the situation is almost a complete opposite. I love their game so much and want to offer it as a title available to customers at Digital Worlds, however I can't even get a hold of them or their publisher to work out a commercial licensing deal. If anyone knows of a way to reach them, please let me know.