Sony’s annual PlayStation Awards ceremony was held once more in Japan this week. This years PSVR winners contain a mix of both the expected and slightly surprising.
According to Sony Japan, the three titles handed the PlayStation VR Award “contributed to the excitement of the format of PlayStation VR.” That’s specifically aimed at the Asia region, including Japan.
Surprising no one, both Astro Bot: Rescue Mission and Beat Saber were both awarded prizes. Astro Bot released in late 2018 to critical praise. The VR platformer makes incredibly smart use of the PSVR headset. Beat Saber, meanwhile, needs no introduction. You know what it is, you know how popular it is. What you might not know is that Facebook now owns it, which makes the game’s future on PSVR a curious prospect. For now, we know Beat Games will continue to support it with DLC and updates.
Perhaps more eyebrow-raising is the third winner: Ace Combat 7. Released back in January, the latest entry in the flight combat series included an exclusive PSVR campaign on PS4, consisting of a handful of missions. We absolutely loved this mode; it’s one of the most polished, blockbuster experiences you can have in PSVR. Still, there’s only about an hour’s worth of content in there.
A little over two years ago now I wrote an article about a little game called Robot Rescue. It was a free demo included in Sony Japan’s Playroom VR launch compilation for PSVR. Its vision of a third-person platformer enhanced by player participation was so compelling I argued it needed a full game. Many others agreed.
Two years later we got Astro Bot, one of the best VR games out there.
But it’s time to rally our voices once more. There’s a new PSVR game on the scene which again offers a tantalizing taste of what should be a full experience. So powerful is this game that I can’t help but implore Sony to throw whatever mounds of cash it can spare towards its development team. I am of course talking about Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown.
Last week saw the long-running flight combat series return to consoles and PC. On PS4 it’s got a PSVR exclusive campaign. It’s all original content, but there are only 3 missions which anyone with any past experience could see it off in 30 minutes.
But, goodness me, what a 30 minutes they’ll be. Ace Combat 7’s VR support is a joyous celebration of near-misses, missile locks and machine gun fire. It’ll shake you where you sit, drop your jaw, hammer your pulse and maybe even turn you into a series fan. It has that same revitalizing power that makes Wipeout VR so special and makes you excited about the future of VR once more. This is all coming from someone that hadn’t played the Ace games since the 1995 original.
Now, here’s the thing. We don’t necessarily need a full new game here. I’d just as quickly welcome full VR support for the game’s main campaign. Heck, developer Project Aces could also revisit the many, many other past games in the series for inspiration. A compilation of missions from Ace Combat 6, Infinity and Ace Combat 7 would be more than enough. Just chuck out the bits that wouldn’t work in VR and let us loose in this wonderful aerial playground.
Of course, it took nearly four years for Ace Combat 7 to go from reveal to release. Expecting a full VR campaign in the next two years might be a little ambitious. With that in mind, might we suggest this as a blockbuster game for PSVR 2? PS4’s limited horsepower probably played some part in making this mode so limited. Any hypothetical VR follow-up appearing on any hypothetical console follow-up could relieve those constraints a little.
So, if you’re listening, Sony, please take heed. Get on the phone to Bandai Namco. Tell them all about PSVR 2 and why it’ll be great. Let’s make this a reality.
We’ll be playing Ace Combat 7 on PSVR using a DualShock 4 controller. We’re starting right around 1:30 PM PT and we’ll aim to last for about an hour or so. We’ll be livestreaming to the UploadVRTwitch page where you can interact with us directly and chat among yourselves. Now that we’re affiliates on Twitch you can subscribe to our channel, cheer us on with bits, and earn nifty loyalty badges. Soon, we’ll have custom emotes too. You can see the full stream once it’s live right here:
Quality always trumps quantity, and that’s very much the theme of this week. There’s not a lot of new releases, but what’s there is worth checking out. And, going a step further, Ace Combat 7 shows that even short VR experiences can still be must-plays!
This week’s biggest release has to be the VR mode for Ace Combat 7. Though it’s sadly not the full campaign, this PSVR-exclusive campaign is still a must-play. It lets you jump into the cockpit of an elite fighter jet and soar through the skies. It’s brief but the intensity of the action on display is unlike anything else we’ll see inside the headset. If you have an interest in the standard game too you should definitely pick this up.
This is Microsoft’s contribution to the 3D creation space. Maquette is a tool designed to make scenes and experiences. It allows you to quickly prototype ideas for interfaces and more, giving it a very different angle to the likes of Tilt Brush and Medium. It’s only in beta for now but we’ll be excited to see how this grows in time.
Trickster’s full version is finally here. There wasn’t a big song and dance made about the game’s departure from Early Access. Still, this is one of VR’s best dungeon crawlers so it’s worth a note. Slice and dice your way through procedurally generated dungeons and grab loot to take on more powerful enemies. Need we say more?
On the front of the PS4 edition’s physical case it clearly states: “Play VR Missions first on PS4” and then below that in super tiny print also states: “VR Missions exclusive to PS4 until 1/18/20” which implies the VR content could make its way over to PC VR headsets like Rift and Vive on or after that date.
We saw the same thing with games like Rez Infinite and Batman: Arkham VR, although Resident Evil 7 still hasn’t had its VR support ported so the exclusivity period is anything but a guarantee. Borderlands 2 VR uses similar language in one of its trailers as well, perhaps alluding to additional platforms later on.
This is really good news for fans of the game. Even though there are only three very short VR missions, if people show enough support for the content it could mean more VR support for this game or even a fully-fledged Ace Combat VR game in the future (fingers crossed). It’s really a shame the support is so short-lived because of just how excellent it is.
Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is out now. Let us know what you think of this disclaimer down in the comments below!
I still feel like I’m soaring. Not just literally; Ace Combat 7’s VR support has left me grinning from ear-to-ear. This is nothing short of a revelation; a deadly ballet of barrel rolls and missiles. It’s a successful fusion of cinematic excitement and utterly arresting immersion, the likes of which VR has rarely seen. It made my heart pound and my jaw drop with dizzying regularity.
And then it ended.
And that’s the elephant in the room. For all its high-flying spectacle, Ace Combat 7 is criminally short on VR content. Just three missions await you, and experienced players will beat each in 10 minutes or less. Series newcomers (such as myself) will probably take longer; multiple deaths on the tough-but-firm normal mode stretched it out to about two hours. To offer this captivating a taste of aerial combat, realized with such polish, and then to take it away just as you’re getting settled is nothing short of cruel.
But it is what it is and, more importantly, what remains is unforgettably good. From immersion through to control, Ace Combat 7 is top gun (sorry). The cockpit, for starters, is detailed down to every switch and button with an impressive degree of perceived authenticity. Landscapes stretch out for miles around you and, although they’re obviously a little blurry up close, they’re surprisingly convincing when zooming past at 100 mph. Fly into clouds and the weather will start to beat down on your windshield. In one dramatic opening, an airfield becomes a battle zone and debris is rained down upon you with alarming force. Don’t let its length fool you; this is a blockbuster VR experience.
You have to use the Expert control scheme instead of the more accessible option. For some, it will undoubtedly cause nausea, but it otherwise feels like the most natural way to go. It virtually fuzes your right thumb to the pilot’s flight stick. Combat is initially daunting but, once mastered, an effortless thrill.
A flight simulator this is not; the controls may have their intricacies but ultimately Ace Combat 7 is all about the grandiose. It’s in the moments you skim past an enemy fighter and wince at the proximity or the last-second kills that have you piercing through a fiery explosion. It comes just as you untangle from a hopscotch of missile dodges only to find yourself pulling up before you crash into the ocean. In these instances I couldn’t help but cheer and woot like a cowboy, occasionally leaping out of my seat (bad idea) and becoming the very person I’ve rolled my eyes at thousands of times in films. It really is that powerful.
The movie magic is woven into the inevitable games of cat and mouse too. As the skies become peppered with enemies you’ll start throwing your head back and forth in desperate search of new targets and threats. It’s that head movement that really adds a dimension not previously seen in other Ace games. One slight hiccup is the developer’s decision to fade the world out when you approach the glass; I often wrestled with this as I searched for targets above my head with no real indication of how close I was to the outside.
Though missions are short they do at least feel varied and pretty representative of what you’ll find in the wider campaign. There’s a more gentle introduction mission before a level with plenty of ground units and then a spectacular finale involving all-out warfare. It’s only the middle mission that puts a foot wrong, with timed-objectives that feel far too strict, as if to artificially pad the length with difficulty. You can be a star pilot but it’s really enemy position and luck that will win you the day.
Once you’re done you can return to those missions in a new plane with a new cockpit, and there’s a free flight mode as well as appreciated if novel air show display to see too. I suspect the real longevity here will simply be in showing other people, though. The game has real potential to be an essential VR showcase for those with iron stomachs.
Final Score: 8.5/10 – Great
A conundrum, then. Ace Combat 7’s VR support makes for one of the most convincing, bombastic games you’ll see in a headset. It’s a powerhouse display of roaring engines and teeth-grinding tension that’s never anything less than relentlessly enjoyable. And yet it’s painfully short, over before you can even pinch yourself to see if you’re dreaming. But, to hell with it, it’s left me with a heightened pulse rate, sweaty palms and the biggest grin VR has yet put on my face. If I can’t praise that, then what’s the point? Now let’s start the campaign for more of it.
Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is available now for $59.99. The PS4 version has an exclusive PSVR mode.Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrived at this score.
It’s nearly time to jump into the cockpit of elite jets with the new Ace Combat 7 PSVR support. Before you do that, though, check out this behind the scenes video of its development.
This six-minute clip takes an in-depth look at the new game’s VR campaign, which is exclusive to PSVR. In it, Brand Director Kazutoki Kono and VR Producer Jun Tamaoki talk about the history of the project. Ace Combat 7 was first announced all the way back at the 2015 edition of the PlayStation Experience. Even then it had VR support but, as Tamaoki explains, an early version was scrapped for feeling ‘tacked on’.
Instead, the team moved to make a native VR campaign exclusive to the headset. It’s undoubtedly much shorter than the campaign in the main game but it offers a more immersive experience. We’ve gone hands-on with this mode a handful of times and we think it’s nothing less than a blockbuster game with production values rarely seen in VR
It’s pretty interesting to see the work that went into making this experience tick. A VR flight combat game seems like a no-brainer but, clearly, making it a reality was no easy task. That might go some way to explaining why there isn’t more of it. The video also gives you a detailed look at an Air Show mode, which allows you to enjoy other pilots doing fancy tricks.
Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown launches this Friday, January 18th. We’ll have a full review of the game’s PSVR campaign around that time.
Bandai Namco has been ramping up the promotional material for Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown this week, ahead of the videogame’s official launch on Friday. The latest comes by way of the PlayStation Blog, with a new behind the scenes video discussing the virtual reality (VR) mode for PlayStation VR.
Ace Combat brand director Kazutoki Kono reveals in the video that the team had always wanted to do an Ace Combat videogame in VR, with its implementation becoming a natural part of the process for the current instalment. One thing Kono-san wanted to ensure however was that every part of the title experience by VR players was viewed from the eye of the pilot – so no third-person sequences – which is possibly why there’s a VR mode, rather than the entire title being VR compatible as in other PlayStation VR experiences.
For the first time, it has now been revealed what the VR mode will entail, with the PlayStation Blog explaining: “The PS VR campaign features a dedicated single player mode that’s totally different from the main story campaign. Your mission starts in the year 2014, five years prior to the events of Ace Combat 7. You play as the legendary Mobius 1 fighting against the insurgency of Free Erusea. To say anymore would be spoiling things, but expect some callbacks to Ace Combat 4.”
The standard Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown story is about a conflict between the Kingdom of Erusea and the Osean Federation, which has escalated after the Osean Federation builds a giant space elevator in Erusea.
If you’ve been keeping up with the Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown coverage a few days ago PlayStation Underground released a video showcasing the VR mode in action, while last week saw the reveal of a PvP multiplayer mode which will pit up to eight players together in a battle for the skies. Unfortunately multiplayer won’t support PlayStation VR.
Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown will be available from 18th January, 2019 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One and 1st February for PC. Check out the new behind the scenes video below, and for any further updates ahead of launch, keep reading VRFocus.
Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is headed to PlayStation 4 January 18th, and while it’s true Bandai Namco isn’t letting players experience the entire campaign in VR, instead creating bespoke VR-only missions, at very least it appears to translate a bit of the flatscreen game’s charm to PSVR headsets in a new demo from Sony’s ‘PlayStation Underground’ team.
The PSVR-specific demo comes right at the five-minute mark in the video (linked above and below).
While understandably less visually detailed than its PS4 counterpart, the PSVR missions aim to ramp up the game with greater immersion. Flying through clouds creates condensation on the canopy and destroying an enemy from behind results in a rain of fiery shrapnel that looks pretty convincing.
When asked why the the studio didn’t put the whole game into VR, Bandai Namco’s Kazutoki Kono said in a 2016 interview with Monster Vine that VR development “turned [out] to be a little tricky than we thought. So we’re actually in a way developing the Ace Combat and the VR experience independently.”
Despite some clear advantages to player immersion, in our time demoing Ace Combat 7 we foresaw a few other potential hitches that might have made the time investment less worthwhile.
In our hands-on at E3 2017, we noticed that despite its high speed and twisty turns, the game was ultimately a comfortable experience thanks to the cockpit, which is considered a tried-and-true method of keeping VR users grounded. At face value it was also pretty visually impressive, but once you get into the meat of the game, the fluffy clouds and gleaming oceans are less important to the task of keeping an eye on enemies:
Spoiling some of the fun, enemies seemed like an eternal jumble of tiny pixels in front of me, fuzzing into a blueish background. This issue can be blamed on two main factors: PSVR’s limited resolution, and the unavoidable problem of being literal miles away from enemy fighters. You can’t really knock Ace Combat for being Ace Combat in that department, as you almost always rely on the plane’s targeting system to keep an eye on distant baddies, VR headset or traditional monitor. While lower perceived resolution doesn’t effect the gameplay at all, highlighting a singular, low-resolution object that you’re constantly straining to see is a bit of turn-off visually.
Although pure speculation at this point, level difficulty might also be a limiting factor here as well. The flatscreen version of the game offers both third and first-person views, the former giving users an impossibly large field of view to make keeping an eye on enemies an easier task.
Naturally, you’d have to keep your head on swivel in VR to keep every bad guy in your sights, and it may just be something that didn’t playtest well enough for the company to confidently market the game as a ‘PSVR compatible’, instead giving it the subtitle ‘PSVR mode’.
While the VR mode alone probably won’t justify the $60 price tag (it’s still not clear how extensive it is), if you’ve been sitting on your hands waiting for Ace Combat 7 since before the PSVR was even available, you can at least rest easy knowing the day is almost here.
There are only a few days to go until Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown finally launches for PlayStation 4 with its additional support for PlayStation VR. If your excitement has reached fever pitch, whether you’ve pre-ordered or are just awaiting launch day to pick up your copy, PlayStation Underground has just released a new video where you can see some virtual reality (VR) footage in action.
As most PlayStation VR players should be all too aware of by now, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown isn’t a fully fledged VR title. Bandai Namco has instead gone for an add-on approach, where the main campaign can only be played on a regular screen, with specific, custom made missions are available for VR players.
That might be a little disappointing, but from what VRFocus has seen so far those missions are going to look impressive. And that certainly seems to be the response of PlayStation Underground judging by the video. It’s not all PlayStation VR footage so you’ll need to jump to around 5:10 to see the headset in action.
Last week Bandai Namco announced that Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown will include a multiplayer mode, not just a single-player campaign. Up to eight players can go head-to-head in a free for all Deathmatch mode, a Team Deathmatch mode. Unfortunately, this mode seems to be only TV friendly, with VR gamers unable to take part.
VRFocus has been looking forward to Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown for a while now, having previously previewed it in 2017, saying: “In its present state Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown promises high octane flying action for PlayStation VR players that’s sure to encourage legions of fans to try the VR compatibility. As long as Bandai Namco manage to provide enough content to satisfy then PlayStation VR is likely to have another killer exclusive title.”