Perhaps the most anticipated and questioned aspect of virtual reality has been the incorporation and immersions of the headset and its relationship to future horror titles. So far the first “full” length horror title to hit PlayStation VR is Here They Lie. Full is in quotation marks due to the relative nature of the term in video games. Looking over most story-centric virtual reality titles, coming in just over an hour long is about full length for the time being. Developed by Tangentlemen and SIE Santa Monica Studio and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment, Here They Lie is a surrealist’s psychologically daunting dream.
A STRANGE CITY IN VR
Physically playing Here They Lie is by far one of the most challenging and nauseating PlayStation VR experiences from this initial run of titles. This is not to mean that Here They Lie is difficult game at all, but instead that the controls are more than a little off and cumbersome. The PlayStation Move controllers are the recommended course for any and all virtual reality games so far, but do not waste time trying to set them up since Here They Lie is geared towards use of a DualShock 4. Here in lies some of the strangest design choices. And the worst at that.
Using a DualShock 4, while still wearing the VR headset, you use the left analog stick to control movement and the right to control camera angle; like just about any other game you can imagine. However, the right analog stick does not shift your view around, but instead jerks around from different vantage points following a path around your character. Think of it less like controlling the angle of a camera and more like switching cameras completely. In these individual spaces, head tracking is useful but limited. It is these sudden jumps in view point separated by the split second of black coupled with off centered viewpoints caused by awkward angling and head tracking that make lengthy playthroughs difficult and mild nausea and motion sickness, regardless of your propensity, all too likely.
SURREALIST PSYCHOLOGICAL HORROR
Once you get past the problems with controlling and playing the game, you can then focus more on the horrific world of an overly peculiar and hauntingly strange city engulfing you from the start. The very train ride into the city feels like a cross between psychostimulants and nightmare fuel wrapped into one memorably daunting story.
Coated in a thin layer and dismal gray, the city acts to reflect that oddities and mundanity of your life prior to entrance of this strange place. Exploring the city, things grow darker in both a visual and tonal sense. Through strange communications and scattered collectibles, you begin to piece the strange story together for yourself, still leaving just a little space in the cracks for interpretation and self-made horrors. Compound all of this with nightmarish humanoid creatures, splatters of vibrant blood, and the seldom yet effective jump scare, and you have a an unexpectedly effective introduction to virtual reality horror on the PlayStation VR.
After an odd introduction and send off onto a mysterious train, be wary of the woman in the yellow dress. Here They Lie set you, as the player, into a daunting city of abstract nightmares, immersing you in the world, as you piece the tale together. With an unexpectedly captivating story and memorable setting, Here They Lie would be a nearly fantastic introduction to console based virtual reality. Sadly, due to the overpowering snags with visual controls and the more than problematic and often nauseating transitions, Here They Lie will more than likely prove difficult to tackle for nearly any player. Making sure to take the game on in shorter, smaller bites may prove extremely useful; not to mention, synchronized blinking and angle transition seem to work as well. After walking away, I thought I was over the game, but I have to admit that I desperately feel a need to go through the experience at least once more.