Hitman 3’s PC VR support is finally out. Unfortunately, though, the game seems to need a fair bit more work.
If you’re not familiar with Hitman’s VR history then let us fill you in. When the game was originally released last year it had full support for Sony’s PSVR headset on PS4. You could play the entire campaign with the headset and also import levels from Hitman 1 and 2 to play them in VR too. Crucially, though, you could only play with the DualShock 4 controller. There were some limited motion controls via the lightbar tracking, but the support mainly still relied on button inputs, with no Move controller support at all. It was still really fun, but it definitely only felt like a taste of what a true VR Hitman game could be.
Hitman 3 PC VR Hands-On
We had hoped that developer IO Interactive would give the long-anticipated PC VR support a much-needed overhaul given that this version would support two-handed motion controllers. But that’s not quite the case. Check out over nine minutes of gameplay above, which features many of the issues we’re about to talk about.
Though you can finally move Agent 47’s hands freely, Hitman 3’s PC VR support very much uses the DualShock 4 controls and PSVR tracking as a foundation, and the control scheme remains largely the same. That means you can’t hold two items at once, for example, and the game’s not designed to encourage you to physically rotate yourself to move around environments. You can still turn around yourself, but whenever the camera cuts to a virtual screen, it’ll be wherever you first started looking (though recentering the camera is just a button press away).
47’s body, meanwhile, seems to twist and contort to where you face unless you use stick turning, and his avatar, in general, can be very distracting. Playing with Oculus Touch controllers, his hands also seemed to be lower than where I was holding them and this made aiming weapons really tough. The two-handed support also only means that your off-hand will grip larger weapons in a sort of magnetic fashion, automatically sticking to the grip when you move it near, which feels strange.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the VR right now, though, are the bugs. Specifically, I was unable to hold some items like a camera or knife in my hand without it going completely berserk. My hand would either completely disappear or shoot in and out of view, making some items impossible to use. The same happens to NPCs when you strangle them – they essentially start to zap in and out of existence from random angles before vanishing into thin air. There were also times the item menu button didn’t appear to work, leaving me stranded in a tight spot.
I suppose some of these issues were to be expected. It was, perhaps, a little too hopeful to think IOI might go back and completely revamp the game’s VR support to work naturally with PC VR hardware given its PSVR origins (seen in the video review above). But VR design has come a long way in the past two or three years and Hitman 3’s PC VR support has the air of a 2016 title still wrestling with how to best implement motion controls. We can, at least, hope those disastrous bugs will be ironed out in the future.
And then there’s the persistent issues from the PSVR version. It’d be great, for example, to have a body-based UI so you don’t have to dive into menus to select things, and there’s still no support for physical crouching.
Ultimately Hitman 3 on PC VR still feels designed for a gamepad. The addition of motion controllers should give the game a new level of interaction and intuitiveness but it actually ends up going the other way. A lot of these issues could be patched – IOI is clearly committed to delivering the best experience it can in every area of Hitman, and the developer could stand to learn from games like Sniper Elite VR or even the excellent port of Resident Evil 4 VR for ways to make the game feel much more native to the platform.
Perhaps the game’s 2D roots run too deep to really overhaul the experience in that way but, unless that happens, you should probably stick to the traditional Hitman experience or — and I can’t quite believe I’m saying this — seek out the PSVR version. At least that was contextualized to a controller that let you competently play the game.
Anshar Wars first existed as a Samsung Gear title, before moving on to other platforms. This sequel iteration first released back in 2015 and it was a very different beast to what we see today. The previous version featured a completely different control scheme, using head movement to guide the spacecraft while a gamepad picked up weapons systems and targeting. Upon first loading up Anshar Wars 2: Hyperdrive on the Meta Quest 2, it seems as if the entire game has been overhauled.
There are few scenes better than a space landscape in virtual reality; that feeling of being able to traverse the stars. Even Anshar Wars’ cartoon visuals have a terrific impact on first viewing, as long spacecraft yawn into the distance while our nimble craft dips and swerves among asteroids. It’s an exhilarating feeling just being in motion, though my first mission was a disaster as I tried to literally find my feet in a frenetic battle.
Playing while standing feels wobbly and wrong, I soon pulled in my swivel office chair and got comfortable. Mission two was much more successful as I turned my chair to focus on the action around me. Where the first game steered the craft using head movement, this sequel relies on tilting the controllers and physically rotating your body. This leaves your head free to move and glance around the scene – ideal for finding enemies.
The Quest controllers do a lovely job of banking the spacecraft, while also being used to aim the ship’s weapon systems – one hand aims the primary weapon while the other takes the secondary. Guiding the ship using a combo of hands and body, while aiming and launching missiles or lasers feels remarkably intuitive making the excitement of the dogfights feel ever more joyous.
Unfortunately, while this is a great base for action, Anshar Wars 2 delivers a rather generic story. It’s a classic space opera of humans versus an alien race, each wanting to wipe out the other. You’ve seen it all before and the lack of any interactions with 3D models of the ensemble removes all sense of emotion. Story beats and dialogue are delivered via static 2D portraits hanging in space, which feels a little lazy given how glorious the ship models are.
The title screen gratuitously thrusts the spacecraft in your face showing off the sharp angles and sleek panels. You’ll cycle through several spaceships while playing the thirteen story missions, and each of them is a beauty. It’s clear to see where the inspiration comes from – the Star Wars X-Wing is a sexy craft, if we’re all honest – but these still feel unique to Anshar.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of Anshar Wars 2, is the more difficult combat. While I couldn’t test the multiplayer, there was an option to play against bots who provide a greater challenge than those in the campaign. These dogfights are much tougher due to the sheer speed with which the opponents move and change direction. Reacting to these enemies means swiftly rotating your body and head – half the time I was glad to be sat down otherwise I think I would have fallen down.
Thankfully, buried in the menu there’s an option to decrease the dogfight intensity, along with other accessibility choices to make the experience a lot smoother. For example, you can choose which controller is used for increasing speed, plus you can choose snap and smooth turning rather than moving your head and body.
It’s a shame that I couldn’t have a bash at the multiplayer, because what is shown through bot matches looks like bags of fun, with the game including a team deathmatch mode and a battle royale, the latter of which could prove to shake up the format, particularly because of the fragility of the spacecraft; it’s simple to heal via pick-ups when in a dogfight, but get too close to an asteroid and you’re space fodder.
On the whole, Anshar Wars 2 does a great deal to stand out. Where the game could get bogged down by repetition, the developers have gone to great lengths to keep the missions unique, mixing up objectives or giving you different ships with other abilities to use. Several moments during missions had me grinning like a loon as I piloted the ship through tight ravines or zoomed through closing doors, creating cinematic memories. It’s a shame the story isn’t as cinematic and does little to set itself apart from other space adventures to make this a must-have.
The Web as we know it today is the product of decades of innovation, spanning two distinct eras. With Web 1.0, the world experienced a period of rapid internet adoption, piquing the interest of companies which then rapidly ballooned in value on the back of new-fangled business models. It wasn’t until Web 2.0, however, that the modern internet as we know it today began to take shape, one built on user data and dominated by a relatively small number of giant tech companies.
Now we stand on the precipice of Web3, a new model still in the process of being built, emphasizing decentralization and user ownership. So how did we get here, and just what will Web3 offer that the previous web generation didn’t?
Web 1.0: In the Beginning
First, let’s define our terms. Web 1.0 is a more recently coined term referring to the Web as it originally emerged. It’s important to note that the Web, or World Wide Web to give it its full name, and the internet are not synonymous, despite common usage. The Web is the system by which information is accessed over the internet, the underlying raft of interconnected computer networks.
Invented in the late eighties by scientists Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau, the Web was initially intended for mostly academic purposes. Soon enough the emergence of web browsers with graphical user interfaces made the previously daunting task of browsing the web far simpler for the average person.
And as the Web garnered interest from the general public, so too did it begin to attract attention from businesses. Despite the then generally static nature of Web pages, so-called “dot-com” companies were able to pioneer new business models which are now commonplace, such as e-commerce, building their services largely on open protocols which they did not themselves control. That resulted in a global internet population of 412.8 million people in the year 2000.
It all ended in tears, however, with the dot-com bubble bursting in the same year. The big beasts of the Web 1.0 era pre-dot-com bubble are largely forgotten today. Companies such as Pets.com, Webvan, and eToys.com all went bust, while the likes of Amazon were severely wounded. It was out of the ashes of Web 1.0 that a new idea for the internet coalesced, emphasising interactivity and participation – Web 2.0.
Web 2.0: The Platform Era
The basic agreement we sign up to as users of Web 2.0 is that our personal data grants us “free” access to a wealth of services via the cloud. As part of that agreement, businesses are free to change the rules (such as the percentage of advertising revenue given to creators) whenever they feel like it. That approach has undoubtedly been a success in terms of uptake – with 4.66 billion active internet users across the globe at the start of 2021, representing 59.5% of the world’s population. There are signs the contract is wearing thin, however.
The latter period of Web 2.0 has involved a backlash against the dominance of centralized platforms and the perceived societal ills they have created. An increase in political tensions between groups algorithmically fed content that aligns with their biases and the rise in disinformation and fake news have focused the attention of governments on the ways businesses might be abusing their place on the Web. The stage is set for another paradigm shift in the way the Web operates: Web3.
The single concept most important to bear in mind when comparing Web 2.0 with Web3 is decentralization. The maturation of blockchain and cryptocurrency technology has made a move away from centralized platforms possible by ensuring open access and offering in-built traceability. Indeed, it’s little surprise the concept of Web3 is intimately entwined with blockchain technology, with the term itself coined by the co-founder of the Ethereum blockchain. In many ways, this move towards decentralized digital networks actually represents a return to the aforementioned open and community-led protocols common during Web 1.0.
Marry that with ever more intelligent machine learning algorithms and increasingly affordable and popular routes into augmented and virtual reality, and some are forecasting a new type of collaboration, unmediated by gatekeepers and taking place in new virtual worlds: the Metaverse. Indeed, much of the excitement about Web3 is less about the underlying technologies and more about the new experiences that will be able to be built on top (for instance virtual land ownership). And motivating the creation of these experiences is the existence of a new decentralized creator economy, one that means users can be the prime beneficiaries of their creations, rather than the platforms which host them.
Of course, don’t expect everything in Web3 to be a totally unfamiliar new world. Web 2.0 has brought new levels of convenience to many of our daily activities such as mobile banking or shopping online, and existing Web 2.0 methods of accessing those services are unlikely to be transformed purely for the sake of it. But Web3 has the potential to allow more direct forms of interaction between entities, be they individuals, businesses, collectives or machines, by cutting out the middlemen and deriving its authority from the blockchain.
The eventual form of Web3 is yet to be fully understood, as the tools that power it are in their infancy. As adoption grows and users migrate over, however, there is every opportunity that the Web’s latest incarnation will be its most transformative, bringing a new era of openness, personal ownership and mutual collaboration. As it stands, Web3 is pure potential – it is the users who will ultimately help decide what shape it takes.
It sounds like PlayStation creator Ken Kutaragi isn’t very fond of immersive headsets.
In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Kutaragi branded such devices — which presumably includes those made by his former employer — as “simply annoying.”
“Headsets would isolate you from the real world, and I can’t agree with that,” he said. “Headsets are simply annoying.”
Kutaragi’s comments have been echoed by others in the past, though his standing within the industry certainly gives his words some weight. He spearheaded Sony’s leap into gaming in the early 90’s with the creation of the original PlayStation, eventually going on to become CEO of that division of the business, then known as Sony Computer Entertainment. He departed Sony in 2007, however, shortly before the company would first begin experimenting with the technology that would lead to the eventual release of PSVR in late 2016. He now heads up Japanese Robotics firm, Ascent Robotics.
Kutaragi was also skeptical of the concept of the metaverse, saying: “Being in the real world is very important, but the metaverse is about making quasi-real in the virtual world, and I can’t see the point of doing it. You would rather be a polished avatar instead of your real self? That’s essentially no different from anonymous messageboard sites.”
Clearly, the current PlayStation division, now called Sony Interactive Entertainment, doesn’t share its founder’s concerns – a second PSVR headset is officially on the way. It will connect to the PS5 console via a wire, and we’re hoping for a possible release later this year.
Do you agree with Kutaragi’s comments? Let us know in the comments below!