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Zone of the Enders 2 looks gorgeous in 4K, chaotic in VR

The PS2-era action game still holds up

Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner — Mars
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Konami brought a playable version of the recently announced Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner — Mars to Tokyo Game Show this week, showing off how surprisingly good the PlayStation 2 game looks after being remastered in 4K on PlayStation 4. The game was also playable on a PlayStation VR headset, and played like a good example of how the transition from a traditional 3D game to VR can often be rough.

Of course, Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner wasn’t originally developed with VR in mind, and the ability to play the full game from a new perspective is a welcome one. But given the fast-paced nature of the Zone of the Enders games and how lock-on targeting works, the experience of The Second Runner — Mars in VR can be a disorienting.

Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner looks spectacular in its Mars remaster, thanks to character and mechanical designer Yoji Shinkawa’s mecha and machines. The 3D models of Jehuty and the enemies you fight may look a bit primitive, given their low-polygon construction, but the ultra high-resolution of The Second Runner — Mars does those razor sharp mecha justice. This game still looks gorgeous, in its own way.

Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner — Mars

Playing the game in VR, however, exposes a few of Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner’s seams. It’s a quibble, but the flat explosion effects used to show a barrage of lasers causing damage stand out as an artifact in VR — normally, you’d only see them face-on, but with the freedom of a VR camera, they can be seen from any angle. The impressive laser array that Jehuty can fire at dozens of enemies also looks dull from a first-person perspective. It’s nothing game-breaking, it just takes some of the visual oomph out of Zone of the Enders’s style.

More bothersome, however, is how the 3D camera of Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner behaves in VR. When locked on to enemies, as Jehuty slices through them, the camera rapidly and violently changes angle. Surprisingly though, the effect didn’t make me feel motion sick (unlike the Mario Kart VR experience I tried earlier this week). So if you’re interested in seeing a Jehuty fight from the cockpit in VR, don’t feel too disheartened. Just don’t expect the VR experience to match the majesty of the original game’s presentation.

Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner — Mars is coming to PlayStation 4 and Windows PC in early 2018.

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