GDC 2016: Terrifying VR horror arrives with Paranormal Activity
Fear comes in many forms
Virtual reality is set to take players into different worlds like never before. But what happens when no matter where you turn, that world is filled with terror and horror?
Well, as part of GDC 2016 I was given the opportunity to play the world premiere demo of VRWREX’s Paranormal Activity on the HTC Vive.
Now before I begin, I want to say that I consider myself a massive video game horror aficionado. However, I certainly was not ready for what was to come once I placed that headset on.
Based in the same mythology as the famous film franchise of the same name, Paranormal Activity doesn’t follow any of the film plots, but rather introduces a new story.
Set inside a fully interactive 12,000 square foot house, you, and this time that literally means you, are challenged with uncovering the horrors that lie within. Although, given that this is a Paranormal Activity tie in, it does concern me that the odds of surviving may not actually be that strong.
Nevertheless, in terms of the gameplay the game takes the form of a traditional survival horror. As such, you’ll be tasked with finding batteries to keep your torch going, locating keys, and generally exploring the haunted house the game is set in.
Interestingly, the game doesn’t utilise a teleport system for movement like many VR games are currently using. This is something VRWREX are extremely passionate about, believing it makes for a more atmospheric experience.
Instead, moving requires the player to utilise the touchpad on the HTC Vive controller in order to move forward, backwards and sideways whist orientating yourself with your head.
All in all, being in complete control of your movements certainly intensified the feeling of uneasiness, and definitely made for a more engrossing experience. What’s more, with an eerie soundtrack alongside a lack of external sound, the audio was also definitely doing its part in getting my heart racing.
In terms of what I played, the actual demo itself did an excellent job of showcasing what the final build will bring with it, and from the beginning I was instantly made to feel uneasy.
After plucking up the courage to place the headset on, I was instantly transported into the middle of the haunted house and left to choose my own path. To be honest, putting the headset on was bad enough, let alone deciding where to go.
For example, one of the earliest choices I was given was to head towards either a completely dark closest, a barely lit reception room, or the bathroom with the flickering lights.
For the record, I’ve played Resident Evil too many times to step into a bathroom with flickering light, that one was too much for me. Yet, all of the choices and possible consequences, had already set my mind and heart racing in an extremely powerful way.
Regardless of the decisions you take, it isn’t long before things start to unravel, and some extremely unsettling things begin to occur.
Doors slam closed on you, a little girl eerily warns you from upstairs that "she’s coming", cult symbols appear on the walls, oh and in my case the batteries on the flashlight light literally ran out at the worst time before the big final scare. Honestly you couldn’t make it up!
I wouldn’t want to ruin any of the big scare moments for you. However let’s just say, hearing something creeping up on you from behind when you’re trapped in a corner knowing all you can do is turn around, is one of the scariest moments i’ve ever experienced within a game. In fact, it left me cowering in the corner whilst everyone watched.
It wasn’t just me either, there was more than one who literally screamed out in fear whilst playing the demo, raising the question can VR horror go too far? There was certainly times when my brain was telling my body that the fear was real!
Ether way, after speaking with VRWREX’s Virtual Reality Production & Marketing Manager Bradan Dotson, it’s clear that they want to test that theory to it’s absolute limits with Paranormal Activity. The aim is simply to make the game as scary as it can possibly be.
Horror seems like the perfect fit for VR, offering up an immersive and engaging experience that literally cannot be matched outside of VR, and whilst this is obviously just a glimpse, Paranormal Activity is certainly looking set to deliver on that promise.
So, if you’re a fan of Horror games or films, then this is definitely one that you'll want to experience for yourself. Just don’t blame me if it leaves you cowering in the corner like me.
Paranormal Activity will be available on the HTC Vive this Summer utilising the twin controllers, and will follow on the Oculus Rift soon after alongside support for traditional controllers.