Simosity has plenty of brain-eating VR potential

Hands-on with Sydney’s free-roaming VR experience Simosity packs plenty of promise.

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Simosity has plenty of brain-eating VR potential

In a way, this is a preview. Little did I know at the time when I bought my tickets, Simosity is only in its soft-launch phase. For those unaware, Simosity is most easily described as Sydney’s answer to Melbourne’s Zero Latency VR experience.

At its core, Simosity is a VR experience. But instead of standing or sitting you move around in the real world and your avatar is tracked in real-time with unnoticeable latency. This is achieved by wearing a Ghostbusters-like backpack. While it’s not overly cumbersome, the weight of it combined with the headset and an assault rifle peripheral, as well as the 1km+ ground you cover in around half an hour of play time makes for a sweaty experience.

I’ve played it twice now, both times co-petitively. Y’see, while Simosity is fundamentally a cooperative experience, where you and a buddy work together to primarily kill zombies, there’s a co-petitive scoring system that incentivises being a jerk. This can be as simple as letting your partner die (zombies swarm from multiple locations sometimes and it’s tricky to keep track of ones behind you), rushing ahead to pop medicine bottles (basically free points), snaking weapon pick-ups, and/or blocking doorways to hoard zombie horde kills.

In fairness, this didn’t happen to me, but the opportunity to do it is there, particularly if you’re playing the Simosity experience more than once. It’s quite horror-lite in terms of the scares, but there were a couple of moments that had me jumping and/or yelping. Even the simple act of physically stepping out on a ledge is apparently daunting for my brain (I froze, even though I knew it wasn’t real). Ultimately, your mission is to save a scared child who’s foolishly running through the Simosity Hotel, pop zombie skulls, and solve basic escape room-type puzzles.

There were some minor randomised changes between my two play-throughs, most notably with the puzzles, but the zombie felling was the real draw card. Fragging zombies is frantic and fun at first, until you learn to game it. Waves become predictable in terms of where they come from, and it’s all too easy to appraise a room in terms of the best corners to make a beeline for so you can protect your back and fell incoming zombies.

It’s also much closer to an arcade experience than survival-horror. That’s definitely okay for a first-time run, but it’d be great to see the team add difficulty modifiers to ramp up the intensity. For instance, ammunition is unlimited on your default weapon and you never have to reload. Despite the vibrating assault rifle peripheral (which is very cool, mind you), the guns are laser-focused in terms of their accuracy and lack of recoil or spread.

This means your total kill count will likely be predominantly comprised of headshots. Because of the simplicity of the shooting, it means subsequent waves of zombies become easier instead of harder, especially considering one of the toughest fights is right at the start of the experience (also, death dying is a slap-on-the-wrist punishment).

Without giving too much away, the final fight is a nice mix of zombie adds and a tough boss. This is the one section of the experience where I felt I had to keep moving, instead of pitching a tent in a corner and picking off waves of zombies.

The movement is actually a bit problematic if you’ve got a big noggin like me. Both times I played, despite having a clear view at the start of the game, it didn’t take long for my body and head movements to blur the focus. Blurry view doesn’t impede zombie killing, but spotting hidden mission-critical items or even medicine bottles is definitely trickier.

Simosity is a VR experience I’m glad I played, and it’s friendly to both casual and hardcore gamers (based on my two play sessions). The best bit about the soft launch is there’s room for it to grow and change. Chatting with the team suggested this was absolutely the intention, with plans to up the player count to four in the next fortnight, then six beyond that. According to the Simosity website, the player count will eventually grow to eight, but while the space is generous for two and would likely comfortably work for four, the chokepoints in certain sections of the experience might not work beyond that.

The team already knows this, though, and talked about tweaking the experience further to accommodate a larger player count, as well as adding more games. This last point feels most important given the $77 asking price (per player), if the team wants players to come back more than once. Beyond this, difficulty modifiers and other randomised elements on familiar experiences would absolutely tempt me to take it for another spin.

In its current form, Simosity is far from the perfect free-roaming VR experience. But there’s enough potential in what’s on offer now to say it’s worth taking for a spin in the coming weeks and months. The team seemed genuinely interested in player feedback, so the chances are good that the later you leave it to play, the better the experience will be.

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