This week saw the release of 2 highly anticipated videogame titles, with both Mad Max and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain arriving at retail stores throughout North America and Europe. Both titles have the weight of expectation upon them, and both have managed to entice and antagonise series fans in a variety of ways. But if they were to come to virtual reality (VR) would it have been a different story?
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is the first title in the history of the franchise to offer open world gameplay. While many previous titles have presented very open areas they had been linked by corridors or cutscenes that often managed to cleverly disguise loading delays. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, after a fairly protracted prologue mission, drops you into a world with clear objectives and destinations, but doesn’t force you to tackle them immediately. Mad Max is built on the principle of open world gameplay providing opportunities for exploration. While both the worlds that these videogames present would currently be very difficult to recreate in VR, there are no titles that offer any semblance of freedom at present. It would make for an interesting – albeit difficult from a developer’s standpoint – act of progression for a developer to approach the challenge in the same way as either of these titles.
Getting around these huge landmasses demands more than just your two (virtual) legs. Mad Max has made a big deal about this, with its customisable vehicles as a key component of its gameplay loop. In Mad Max, the opportunity to rip apart vehicles is delivered by way of a menu system, however within this fully 3D models of the vehicle and it’s potential upgrades are available to view from all angles. Of course, this would make a very interesting mini-game in VR with a bit of adaptation. Being able to bore down to the core of the vehicle and adjust components both mechanically and visually would simply be astounding. The customisation of the vehicles featured in Mad Max would likely be a selling point all of its own, but sadly Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain isn’t quite as in-depth. There are numerous vehicles you can commandeer and driving them throughout the vast and varied landscape that Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain offers would no doubt be entertaining, but the lack of customisation options would defer to Mad Max in this case.
Both titles rely fairly heavily on deep combat systems. Mad Max uses static armed gameplay and vicious high-speed close combat, while conversely Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain offers twitchy trigger-fingers and calm, collected takedowns. Borrowing from each of these alternatives would be perfect for VR: Mad Max‘s refusal to allow players to move while shooting would lend itself perfectly to the slower pace of gameplay seen in VR at present, while creeping up on an opponent unawares would be a very tense experience. Then, of course, you have Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain‘s mounted gunships, which in VR would bring a whole new level of adrenaline as you take out numerous foes from your lofty cradle.
In terms of perspective, we are now beyond the argument that third-person cameras won’t work in VR. They do. There’s enough evidence of that now, from Lucky’s Tale to Chronos and Edge of Nowhere. Neither Mad Max nor Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain would suffer in this regard, yet both feature a heavy reliance on optical zooms: the former for exploration and the latter for tagging enemies. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain‘s scouting edges it here; being able to actively pan an environment with head movement while counting the soon would be victims of your planned assault would most certainly be an appealing precursor to the action.
There are many reasons why neither of these franchises have been confirmed for VR adaptation (though Metal Gear has dabbled with it in the past), and not just because of the lack of an existing consumer audience. Adaptation would be challenging at present, however once the market penetration of VR hardware has begun there’s no reason why the action of Mad Max and the stealth combat of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain couldn’t make their mark on the industry. It’s a waiting game, still, but the potential for both these titles to make the jump – or at least the mechanics that bind them – is undeniably high.