Preview: Zone Of The Enders: The 2nd Runner – M∀RS

Or: How to commit the cardinal sins of VR - and get away with it.

Konami’s virtual reality (VR) efforts have been somewhat muted thus far. Rumours of experimentation with various franchises and unofficial third-party adaptations of the likes of P.T. do not inspire confidence in the medium. So then, it’s fallen to the unlikely candidate of Zone of the Enders to properly take Konami into the world of VR for the first time.

Zone of the Enders The 2nd Runner-MARS YEBIS image 2Thankfully, Zone Of The Enders: The 2nd Runner – MRS (upside-down A included) sets the bar remarkably high for the publisher. While the retail package offers a 4K remastering of Zone Of The Enders: The 2nd Runner, it also includes a completely new way to play the videogame. And this doesn’t just mean with a head-controlled camera or motion-control implementation, as some developers would let you believe warrants the label ‘VR’; in Zone Of The Enders: The 2nd Runner – MRS this is genuinely playing the videogame from a brand new perspective.

While the original Zone Of The Enders: The 2nd Runner is a third-person experience, MRS adapts the videogame for VR by placing the player inside of the giant mech JEHUTY’s cockpit. For the first time, Zone of the Enders can be played in first-person, and it’s one hell of a ride.

Played with a standard control pad (VRFocus experienced the title on both PlayStation VR and HTC Vive) the input and information relay is modelled closely to that of EVE Valkyrie. The player can manoeuvre the mech they are enclosed within with both ease and grace, with a visual representation in the form of a 3D model on-screen at all times thus offering constant feedback as to the player’s orientation. Changes in speed, height and front-facing direction can be sudden and disorientating at first, but it’s only a few minutes of practice before players will be boosting and shooting their way through hordes of robotic enemies.

One of the greatest complications in adapting Zone Of The Enders: The 2nd Runner to VR undoubtedly comes in the form of the melee combat. The transition from third- to first-person would be difficult alone, but throwing VR into the mix adds a challenge of the nth degree. Surprisingly, the title manages to break all of the rules of VR design by throwing the player about an environment at high speeds with reckless abandon and – perhaps even more shocking – commits the cardinal sin of forcefully taking control of the player’s viewpoint. Yet somehow, with a cunning use of blinkers and visual cues, Zone Of The Enders: The 2nd Runner – MRS manages to remain a comfortable VR experience.

Due for release on PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Windows Mixed Reality head-mounted displays (HMDs) next month, Zone Of The Enders: The 2nd Runner – MRS is promising to deliver a deep VR experience unlike anything else currently available for the medium. It’s fast-paced, challenging videogame where failure is always just a miss-timed dodge away; in that it’s exciting to see that Konami’s first attempt at a commercial VR product is a daring one.

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