Detached Review – PlayStation VR

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If there is one genre of game perfectly suited to VR it has to be the zero-g space exploration adventure. Don’t take my word for it; just try to count the number of games that fit into this growing niche. The zero-g pool is so prolific that I was 20-30 minutes into the PSVR version of Detached before I realized I had already played this game over a year ago, back when it was on PC. Sadly, the game is as generically forgettable today as it was back then, plus virtual astronauts must now contend with the deficiencies of the PS4.

Any type of game that integrates a helmet or mask, like a space game or scuba game instantly gets a nudge of realism simply by the fact you are wearing a mask similar to your in-game avatar. This explains your limited field of view and any potential discomfort from wearing a VR headset over long periods of time. Detached makes the most of this phenomenon while also provided numerous comfort options to keep you from blowing space chunks in a convincing inertia-free environment.   I was playing on a PS4 Pro which is able to accommodate the more immersive difficulties and settings.

By default the game favors arcade versus simulation and gets super-restrictive for FOV comfort settings to the point of making the game nearly unplayable. Any rotation or lateral movement shrinks your view to limit your FOV and hopefully any motion sickness, but it also restricts what you can actually see in the game, and this is a game that requires a bit of observation and discovery. Imagine hunting for your car keys in your house while looking through a paper towel tube. There is a nice little tutorial in the game – don’t do it separately as it is required when you start the Story mode and you’ll have to do it all over again – that will let you figure out the best settings for your system and the limits of your inner ear. I immediately switched to Simulation and stripped away all the FOV safeties and for the most part had a pleasing experience –again, running on a PS4 Pro.

There is no oversampling and apparently no anti-aliasing in effect here, as the tutorial level is swimming with jaggies. Things get a bit better once you’re in space and straight edges are limited, but going in and out of other indoor areas offers up a variety of swimmy textures and stair-stepped edges.   Aside from these issues that are not present in the PC version of the game, Detached is quite beautiful at times, especially when drifting through space trying to reach your next objective before running out of fuel or oxygen. The lighting and shadows are ultra-realistic and even the interior of your helmet falls into light and shadow. The draw distance is also impressive.

The Story mode sets you up pretty much like all the other games in this growing genre. You awaken on a broken down space station and are tasked with making multiple repairs on multiple sections of the station that is scattered about a cluster of asteroids.   The helmet view makes things appropriately claustrophobic and the slowly draining bars for O2 and thruster fuel maintains a certain level of tension. Detached is mostly about discovery; locating certain panels and hitting a button to reactivate systems, and while there are a few scripted threats thrown in to spice things up the greatest deterrence to your success is simply not knowing where to go. There were several mission objectives that gave me a task but no clue as to where to go to do it, and with limited O2 and fuel resources you can’t afford too much random exploration. And if/when you die the checkpoints are so scattered and few that you will often have to replay much of a level leading back up to the point where you died.

Clearly the game is visually better on a powerful PC, but the PSVR does an admirable job of capturing the essence of zero-g adventure and delivering it to a console audience. The Story mode should take roughly 3-4 hours to finish and there is a competent multiplayer mode that offers a 1v1 experience in a cool Race mode as well as a CTF-style Package Extraction mode. There are two maps for each mode and the potential for great fun, but even several weeks since release it’s nearly impossible to find a random match on-demand, so make sure you have a VR-equipped friend if you are getting this for the multiplayer.

Detached is pretty fun and does a great job of simulating zero-g exploration in space, but I can only recommend it to those VR players with the strongest of stomachs. While there are comfort settings available, they sap all the enjoyment and immersion from the game, but turning them off does seem to require a PS4 Pro to keep the framerate fluid. $25 is also a bit high for a 3-4 hour game with a currently non-existent multiplayer community, so you might want to wait for a sale or PS Plus discount and hopefully that community will grow.