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Preview: World War Toons on Project Morpheus

Reload Studios cracked that nut. For nearly two years there’s been an outcry in the virtual reality (VR) community that first-person shooters (FPS) just won’t work on a head-mounted display (HMD). Reload Studios proved them wrong. With careful design, unique controls and a light-hearted approach to violence, World War Toons looks set to become a stepping stone to a whole new world of possibilities in VR.

Originally revealed at VRLA, Los Angeles, back in March of this year, World War Toons is a cartoon depiction of war designed for twitch-based online multiplayer. VRFocus got hands-on with an early PC build prior to the announcement, stating that ‘anticipation for World War Toons is high’. Since then, at this month’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Los Angeles, World War Toons made it’s PlayStation 4 debut on Project Morpheus, coupled with the PlayStation Move controller.

World War Toons

Here on PlayStation 4, World War Toons retains the same zany FPS gameplay of the PC version. High-speed gameplay, expansive maps featuring ramps that send you soaring, instant class-switching and the ability to transform into a tank at the press of a button. World War Toons is a wonderfully explosive action experience; the kind that many thought wouldn’t be possible in VR for quite some time. However, when played with PlayStation Move, something is missing.

The default control pad set-up for World War Toons is obtuse on paper, but in practice it works wonderfully. Using the face buttons to move back and forward, the player turns their head in a small spectrum to aim their weapon and a larger head turn to change the angle of their momentum. Here on Project Morpheus with the PlayStation Move controller, the ‘move’ button is used for forward movement and the large head turn remains the same, however aiming your weapon has been decoupled and is now performed by moving the controller itself.

This would seem like a natural evolution. Of course you’d want to use the additional benefit of motion-control in the hand to emulate a real-world property, wouldn’t you? Sadly, in the few minutes that VRFocus had with World War Toons, it wasn’t as intuitive as you might think. Perhaps with more time the nuances of using the dual motion options will become natural and an asset for lengthy gameplay sessions, but when coupled with the diminutive PlayStation Move face buttons for reloading and that all-important tank transformation, World War Toons arguably works better on a control pad.

World War Toons

Control schemes aside, World War Toons on PlayStation 4 is every bit the exciting FPS experience that it is on PC. VRFocus‘ first playtest with the title took place against a large number of Reload Studios’ own development team, yet here at E3 it was a single-player experience against AI bots. The difference was obvious, but still World War Toons remains enjoyable. Whether or not Reload Studios intend to launch World War Toons with bot support is not yet known, though the standard of AI performance even at this early stage is certainly commendable.

The map played on both occasions has clearly evolved. A number of new nooks and crannies, access points and refined power-up placement allowed for some interesting tactical advantages to be planned and executed in mere minutes. The visual quality of the map showed no signs of improvement however, though this is more likely to be due to the lack of time to observe rather than a hardware limitation or any fault on behalf of Reload Studios.

Aiming to launch alongside the Project Morpheus and Oculus Rift HMDs in the first half of next year, World War Toons still has plenty of time to evolve it’s formula and expand it’s content offering. Despite some misgivings about the current PlayStation Move control system, VRFocus is confident that this will be the subject of significant renovation over the remaining development period and, in any case, will just be one of many input solutions offered with the final product. As was the case back in March, World War Toons remains one of the most interesting prospects for traditional videogame fans in VR, and VRFocus simply can’t wait for the opportunity to engage in it’s multiplayer mayhem once more.