Do you ever watch a film and think, well, this is great, but I want to go there. I want to be in Westeros. I want to be aboard the USS Enterprise. No? Oh, fine. But I do, because reality is boring, and that’s one of the reasons I love VR.
Oculus Rift’s commercial release is a long way off, and we still have a while to wait for Valve’s offering, but there are already hundreds of demos, games, and experiments out there for anyone lucky enough to own a developer kit. And some of the best are the ones that let you explore famous locations from film and TV.
A lot of these were made by hobbyists, and as such the production values aren’t that hot, but it’s an enticing glimpse into a future where Hollywood studios and networks like HBO use VR to let people step into their worlds. Just imagine what some of the following examples would be like with a triple-A budget.
If you’re wondering why some of the screenshots are split into two, it’s because they were taken through the Oculus Rift headset.
Now you can literally play with the eerie Grady twins forever and ever and ever and ever. This demo, based on Kubrick’s horror masterpiece, sits you in the tricycle of young Danny as he pedals around the ominous corridors of the Overlook Hotel. Coming face to face with the girls is genuinely a bit unsettling.
Danny Boyle’s sci-fi about scientists attempting to reignite the dying Sun has some great sets, especially this observation deck, which you can now experience for yourself. In hindsight, calling your ship, whose mission is flying towards the Sun, ‘Icarus’ wasn’t the best idea. A relaxing VR experience.
This series of short demos lets you relive moments from The Matrix, including the scene where Morpheus reveals the truth to Neo after he chooses the red pill, and the fight on the rooftop where he dodges the bullets—which you actually do yourself. The production values aren’t great, but it’s still pretty fun.
This demo recreates Kamaji’s boiler room from Studio Ghibli animated film Spirited Away. Creator Nick Pittom did a remarkable job translating a 2D location into an explorable 3D space, and it’s really convincing, despite the stylised, hand-painted textures. I interviewed Pittom about its creation last year.
Game of Thrones
If you’ve ever wanted to piss from the top of The Wall like Tyrion Lannister, now’s your chance. Although you might get your carpet wet. This demo lets you explore an eerily quiet Castle Black before ascending Bran the Builder’s mighty ice wall. You have to crane your neck to see the top of the thing.
There are a lot of Star Trek VR demos, but this is my favourite of the lot. It recreates the Next Generation-era Enterprise’s main engineering bay, and it absolutely nails the atmosphere. The hum of the engines and the realistic lighting give you a convincing feeling of presence. I never wanted to leave.
My Neighbour Totoro
Another demo by Nick Pittom, this time based on Studio Ghibli classic My Neighbour Totoro. This demo lets you experience the famous rainy bus stop scene, and it’s all wonderfully animated. It’s only when you stand next to the friendly forest spirit and look up that you realise just how big he is.
As with Star Trek, there are a number of Star Wars-themed VR demos floating around the internet. But if you’re after a bit of excitement, this one lets you take part in the Battle for Endor. It’s no Elite: Dangerous, but it does a good job of capturing the feel of the scene. And the Death Star is bloody massive.
You wouldn’t think the paper cut-out town of South Park would make for a good VR experience, but this works pretty well. The streets are filled with characters from the show, including Saddam Hussein. I can safely say that this is the first time I’ve encountered the Iraqi dictator in a VR game.
Ever wondered what the wall behind the TV in Jerry’s apartment you never see looks like? Wonder no more. This 3D recreation of the comedian’s New York digs isn’t that pretty to look at, but the dimensions are spot-on. It’s genuinely surreal to explore such a familiar place in three dimensions.
This demo, called The Cave, isn’t officially a Batman thing, but it basically is. Look at it! It lets you explore the Batcave, and I love the moment when the holographic map of Gotham City, or wherever it’s supposed to be, floods the room. An impressive tech demo, but there’s no DK2 version yet, sadly.
And here’s another VR game that’s heavily inspired by a film, this time Rear Window, Alfred Hitchcock’s brilliant ‘50s thriller. Private Eye sees you playing as a housebound detective overlooking an apartment building, trying to piece together a crime through a pair of binoculars. Very clever concept.