This is the most terrifying thing you'll ever play: Alien: Isolation on Oculus Rift
When we played through a decent chunk of the forthcoming new Alien-licensed game from Sega, we already proclaimed it one of the scariest experiences we've had in gaming. But playing Alien: Isolation on an Xbox One in a darkened (overheated) room is like skipping merrily through the Night Garden with Iggle Piggle and Upsy Daisy in comparison to the Oculus Rift prototype build we've put ourselves through.
It is, quite simply, the most terrifying thing we've done voluntarily. And we've wing walked on aeroplanes.
Pocket-lint missed playing Alien: Isolation on Oculus Rift at E3 as we, sadly, just didn't have the time. We did manage to spend some time with Elite-: Dangerous on a Development Kit 1 and thought that was the pinnacle of immersive experiences available so far. We were wrong.
As good as Elite: Dangerous is on the virtual reality platform - and believe us, it is very very good indeed - it didn't quite take our breath away. Alien: Isolation did. Literally.
For a moment or two, we actually stopped breathing. Too panicked and terrified to do what the human body does naturally, less we make a sound. Yes, it really is that good.
The demo created especially to show off what is possible when the Oculus Rift headset (in this case, the DevKit 2) when combined with the survival horror nature of Sega's forthcoming game lasts only three minutes, but that's enough to both have us gibbering like fools and see enough potential to encourage the developer, The Creative Assembly, to further explore VR game modes.
It dispenses with the puzzle and stealth elements of the main game - which is one of those we have slated as one to watch when it releases in October - and simply has you play cat and mouse in a tight environment with the alien. You are the mouse, by the way.
Basically, you have nothing to hand save for a motion tracker, which you must use to see which direction the one enemy is coming from. You cannot kill the alien. You cannot outrun the alien. All you can do is hide whenever it is near and, in this particular slice of action, it will be often.
The idea is simply to escape, which is achievable in the set three minutes. You absolutely must not die, which is achievable in far less than three minutes.
We did neither. We managed to elude the creature for the whole three minutes in which case the demo ended. We were asked if we wanted to have another go, but genuinely felt too shaken up to go back inside the rig again. At least for a while.
The reason, you see, is that the DevKit 2 that Sega uses has extra motion control than former Oculus headsets. You can peek over and around objects by simply raising yourself in your chair a little more, or by leaning to one side.
Also, the surroundings, while graphically stunning, are close and claustrophobic. They trick your mind into thinking you genuinely are in a small, confined space - one that a gleaming space monster with a want to munch on faces is sharing. Smoke seeps from ducts, fire blasts from holes in the floor and the noise alone is enough to make you jump at every "whoomph" or "hssssss".
It is so intense that your brain is instantly fooled into thinking that you're already right there, moments after the gameplay kicks off. The enhanced Full HD resolution of the second OR DevKit helps, but the game seems perfectly suited to the platform. If there's anything to convince the naysayers who claim Oculus Rift is just a gimmick it is this brief but emotional Alien: Isolation virtual reality demo. We thoroughly recommend that, if you ever get a chance to try it out at a public games show or Sega tour event, you give it a whirl. Just don't forget a spare pair of underpants. Or to breathe.
Alien: Isolation will be available sans Oculus Rift for PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360 and PC from 7 October. Plans to expand the experience for virtual reality headsets when they become commercially available are unclear at present as the developer is currently just gauging interest.