Synapse is the shooter the PS VR 2 desperately needs right now
We recently got to strap into a PS VR2 headset and jump into the new shooter Synapse. Coming from VR maestros nDreams, is this the game the headset needs to excite its user base?
VR has always been a passion of mine. I was there as an early adopter of the ludicrously expensive HTC Vive (though thankfully it was nowhere near as expensive as Apple’s mind-boggling Vision Pro). However, as anyone who owns VR knows, headsets can lack substantial core games. VR still feels like it’s in an experimental phase. Translating the technology into a fully-fledged AAA experience has remained elusive.
That’s double-y true of the first-person shooter – and it’s a genre that fits the form of VR so well. Still, most offerings are just a couple of shooting galleries with a minimal story attached. Well, that’s if you put Half-Life: Alyx to the side, as that game remains an exception in many ways. Even with Valve’s excellent effort considered, it feels about time we got another great FPS in VR.
That’s where Synapse comes in – or where it’s attempting to come in. The PS VR2 game is being made by VR savants nDreams, who I got to visit recently to check out their upcoming VR offerings. You likely remember Synapse from PlayStation’s recent showcase, and it’s hard to forget due to its striking visual style.
When you don the headset, Synapse’s style will be the first thing that jumps out. Developer nDreams has found an excellent visual language, with a mostly black-and-white palette. However, it’s elevated with flashes of red and multicolor magic. It’s a striking hook to get you into this world.
That world is one of mind-bending mental espionage too. You’re tasked with entering the mind of an old Colonel and retrieving information from him. This is very much in the vein of Inception. You will be interrogating a character, who is voiced by Solid Snake voice actor, David Hayter, while being directed by an unseen voice, played by Mass Effect’s Jennifer Hale.
It’s an impressive duo of voice actors to build this story around. They both appear to be having a lot of fun as they direct and taunt you as you go deeper into the mental defenses of the subject. However, this isn’t LA Noire, by way of Christopher Nolan. Instead, you’re going to have to blast your way through this mind gauntlet with firearms and nifty telekinesis.
The marriage of concept and technology is not lost on Synapse. You’re entering an artificial representation of the mind. This only helps contextualize the PS VR2 you’ve strapped to your head. It works surprisingly well to sell the reality the game is building.
That reality is a space filled with gunfire and superpowers, a pretty potent mix when paired with the Sense controllers. A level, at least from the handful we played, works like this: You enter an arena, and you’re then tasked with taking out all the enemies in that space. As you progress you unlock more weaponry, as well as psychic upgrades. Guns go in one hand, whereas the other allows you to grab objects to reshape the battlefield in your favor. The rest is up to you to figure out.
In my instance, I found myself taking fire from my front but was getting impatient sitting behind cover. So, I grabbed a box next to me and held it up in front of me as a makeshift shield. To my surprise, it worked. I then held it between me and one enemy, while shooting another. Once I’d dispatched one, I then flicked my wrist sending the box flying at the man shooting me. It crashed into him sending him crashing to the floor. I merely stood over him and put a bullet into his head to finish him off. Being given these tools for destruction can lead to some hilarious if not brutal outcomes. The poor defenders of this man’s mind are thrown around and crushed by flying objects you hoist at them.
A treat for PS VR2 users
That experience was indicative of the creative, physics-based puzzle-solving Synapse offers up. You’re given a sandbox of destruction, the tools execute your diabolical plans and sent you on your merry way. It’s a pretty freeing VR experience.
That telekinesis, combined with the game’s visual flair, is what sells Synapses as a VR game to have your eye on. NDreams have done a great job of selling that ‘superpower’ feeling with this form of telekinesis. This is really in the details too. For example, if you pick up an explosive barrel, and pull the trigger until you meet haptic resistance, you can carry it around. However, if you push past that resistance, it explodes. It creates the awesome tactile feeling of closing your fist to crush the barrel. If Synapse can find more of these moments throughout its playthrough, especially through the extensive unlock system, there’s something unique here.
It couldn’t be coming at a better time either. Synapse is set to launch on July 4. The PS VR2 has felt a little lost since its release earlier this year, and it needs games like Synapse to drag it back into relevance. I’m not yet convinced that it will be the killer app the console headset needs to convince more people to buy, but it’s shaping up to be an action-packed treat for early adopters of the tech. If you have a PS VR2, this could end up being the best thing released on it to date.