By chapter 3 of Land’s End, Ustwo Games’ remarkable first-person exploration title for Gear VR, you begin to suspect you may have seen it all. In the first 15 minutes you’ve already covered the first two chapters, set on remote islands that are stunning to take in, resting atop an endless ocean that threatens to swallow the peaks. When you step through level 2’s portal and into the third area, you’re greeted to a similar sight, only in a decidedly more Saharan environment. As you begin to gently bounce from rock to rock, solving puzzles with head-tracking, you might start to wonder if there are any more surprises left in store.
Then the ocean disappears.
After solving a trio of challenges, you watch a central mechanism start to rotate. You stand for a few moments, wondering what, if anything, this has achieved. Then, all of a sudden, the vast body of water that you’ve grown accustomed to starts to drain. It’s a moment of pure VR awe, and one of the most impressive sights on Gear VR with ease. You may not have even thought a technical achievement such as this possible on a mobile platform, but Ustwo Games pull it off with style.
What you’re left with is an enormous canyon. If VR was ever going to give you vertigo, it would be here; staring down a series of sheer drops. You begin to make your descent, bounding between cliffs and towers, arrested by the brilliant oranges of the sun-baked rocks. Perhaps the most remarkable sight comes as the end of the level, when you reach the bottom of the canyon floor. Here, you turn around and gaze up in wonder at the top of the mountain you were standing on top of just moments ago, now intimidated by its scale.
This is a perfect mix of what VR can do so very right; you’re given the same feeling you might have on a real walk, in which you turn around and study the landscape you’ve just traversed, remembering moments along the way. It’s over in a flash, but it’s no less powerful.
Not every moment of VR wonder has to teach you something about yourself or the potential for this technology. Some moments are great to just revel in. The third chapter of Land’s End is one such instance; an astonishing display of the sense of place you can discover inside an HMD. It’s reasons such as this that make the title one of Gear VR’s best.