Being part of the Social Club committee at DiUS and only just returning to work, I wanted to organise something that would help engage and increase attendance to the DiUS social calendar. I thought hard about what would be ideal and after seeing the Sony VR booths at my local shopping centre an idea occurred to me - what about an activity involving VR.
The DiUS Social Club practicing with targets!
I didn’t have to search too hard to find two suitable candidates in Melbourne, and based on location and game content, I chose Zero Latency (a Zombie apocalypse) in North Melbourne.
The website boasted ‘Imagine a game that doesn’t feel like a game. Where your body is the controller. And your mind believes it’s real… When you move, the game moves with you.’
This piqued my interest further and I continued to organise this activity.
I had low expectations for Zero Latency, I had read a few reviews - some positive, some negative, and being the only VR game of it’s kind in Melbourne, I thought I’d go in without setting myself up for disappointment.
But to my surprise, Zero Latency delivered and more.
Zero Latency: The good
On the website you are exposed to images of the VR equipment - a backpack, headgear and a gun. I thought the headgear would be quite heavy and uncomfortable to wear - especially the VR goggles, but surprisingly the design distributes the weight of the goggles throughout your head and yes, if you do look down for too long you can get the heavy forehead feeling.
The imagery was extremely immersive
There were times you would walk over or around an obstacle without realising it wasn’t really there. It’s amazing how your brain cannot fight what you are seeing - you know you are in a flat surfaced warehouse, yet when you see a slim, rickety bridge with a bottomless pit on either side you are stricken with fear and believe what you are seeing.
The gun tracking was almost perfect
Despite reading reviews on how bad the gun position tracking was, I didn’t find this to be an issue whilst playing. I found the tracking pretty good, the addition of the laser guide to show you where you are firing made the experience almost perfect. In addition to this, having the position tracking meant you could shoot over your head whilst ducking, shoot sideways, behind you etc. without needing to move your body.
Zero Latency:The not-so-good
The gun reload was exhausting but..
You are given a limited set of bullets and are required to reload with a pause of few seconds before your bullets are replenished. While you are in the middle of a shooting rampage, the last thing you want is to wait few seconds for more bullets. You can use shotgun mode, but that quickly gets tiring for your arms too. Switching between gun mode is quite tricky, especially when you can’t see the physical gun but just a simulation.
However, on the plus side, this also created a more realistic experience. It was as if you had a real weapon in your hands and the wait for the reload somewhat simulated real-time load.
Walking too fast causes imagery to dither
There were times you wanted to get to a safe hiding spot quickly but walking too fast caused the imagery to dither and thus reminded you that you aren’t actually there - somewhat damaging the VR experience. There were also times that Zombies would walk right through you as if you weren’t there!
Virtual walls aren’t always real walls and vice versa
There were many times in the game that I would see an area to walk to but I would be notified that I am too close to a physical wall and to go back. Likewise there were many times I would be positioned in a location that is a wall in the virtual game, but not in real life. This created a little bit of disjoint from being completely immersed in the game.
So how does it rate overall?
I am not much of a gamer but the experience Zero Latency has created far surpasses any expectations I had. To be able to completely alter your perception of reality and keep you engaged for the full 45 minutes is credit worthy. There are some minor hiccups and as technology advances, together with appropriate feedback, I think Zero Latency can do some great things in the gaming space. Despite the negatives, I would participate in this game again and am eager to see if they can create a second, different game for repeat customers.
For all you gamers and zombie/walking dead fans, go ahead and give it a try, I promise it’s money well spent and one of the best 45 minutes of your gaming life.