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The Final Fantasy 15 VR Experience doesn't make a great first impression

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Final Fantasy 15's appearance at Sony's E3 2016 press conference carried a surprise ending, revealing a "VR Experience" in which players control Prompto, a gun-toting member of protagonist Noctis' posse. At a PlayStation VR demo event, I got to try my hand at the battle seen during that video, which did not leave me feeling terribly optimistic about Final Fantasy 15's potential as a VR success story.

To put a very fine point on it: What you saw in the VR Experience's trailer is exactly what you get. Holding a PlayStation Move controller, I was able to point and shoot Prompto's gun at an encroaching Behemoth while compatriots Noctis, Gladiolus and Ignis attacked with melee weapons. The shooting was not especially satisfying or complex. Each bullet chiseled off a few hundred HP from the Behemoth's enormous reserve, until after about five straight minutes of trigger-mashing, the boss gave up the ghost.

You're able to warp around the battlefield to avoid the Behemoth's attacks, or to put yourself in striking distance of its head, although the process felt really sluggish. Occasionally, the targeting reticle for warping wouldn't show up at all, which was a disorienting way to travel around the level — made more disorienting by the fact that the direction you're facing post-warp auto-corrects to face the boss you're fighting, and not the way you were facing when you warped. It felt like a total crapshoot, which is a rough way to traverse a VR environment.

prompto

Occasionally, Prompto's rate of fire would increase dramatically as he entered "Chance" status, which I have no idea how I triggered. It seemed to be connected to toppling the Behemoth, which would interrupt its series of charging attacks, which also didn't seem to pose any inherent danger — neither me or my posse possessed discernible HP meters, and we were quickly able to recover from being completely gored. Not warping out of the way of an attack simply meant a few seconds where I wasn't able to chip away at the Behemoth's health.

After dropping the Behemoth, the demo switched to a scene where you're riding shotgun across the Eos countryside, giving you nothing to do but look around the car, the scenery outside or at Cindy, Final Fantasy 15's mechanic and driver of your VR ride. A significant number of the demo participants ahead of me spent a significant amount of time scoping out the latter.

The PlayStation VR event was full of upcoming games that are using the hardware to execute some very cool ideas, but the Final Fantasy 15 VR Experience simply wasn't one of them. It was unflinchingly single-faceted, and its single facet wasn't particularly fun. This demo was specifically created for E3 attendees, while the full Final Fantasy 15 VR Experience will be released as DLC after the game launches — here's hoping it can turn into something more substantial in the coming months, because right now, that experience is a mess.