To kick off 2024 I’ve been on some wild VR adventures with my Meta Quest 3. I traveled to Mars with Wallace and Gromit, went on a gory rampage in Bulletstorm VR, and attended my first-ever K-pop concert in Horizon Worlds.
I’ve also been playing a lot of the games I discussed in my December 2023 Meta Quest 3 games and apps column – Asgard’s Wrath 2 is a pretty big game, and Walkabout Mini Golf continues to be a great way to relax after work.
If you’re looking for more VR software recommendations, you could go back and check out the Meta Quest 3 games and apps I played in November 2023, or take a gander at the best VR games list over on our sister gaming site TRG.
Wallace and Gromit in The Grand Getaway
As a Wallace and Gromit story, The Grand Getaway is a resounding success. The plot – in which the duo decides to fly south in their rocket because they’re running late for a golf getaway before things go predictably awry and they wind up on Mars – feels like it has been ripped from a never-before-seen short film staring the English icons.
This VR adventure is brimming with classic Wallace and Gromit humor that had me giggling throughout – the Tee’s-Up 3000 golfball dispenser was a particular favorite of mine.
The newer faces – Beryl (voiced by Miriam Margolyes) who returns from The Big Fix Up, and Auto-Caddy who’s the player character for most of this adventure – are fitting additions to the Wallace and Gromit mythos. Auto-Caddy is a delight to control with some appropriately ridiculous mechanics; you don’t simply throw objects you put them in your mouth and launch them at their destination.
On top of all this, the stop motion-inspired animation really makes you feel like you’re part of one of those original Wallace and Gromit adventures.
Unfortunately, as a VR experience, Wallace and Gromit in The Grand Getaway needs a little work.
The controls are quite clunky – even just picking up simple objects can be a challenge – and I noticed a handful of glitches during my playthrough. Some were just visual, such as seeing Wallace T-pose briefly between animation cycles, but others were a bit more game-breaking. I had to close and reopen the app when the shooting gallery minigame failed to load properly midway through.
What’s more, The Grand Getaway’s puzzles, while distinct, aren’t all that difficult. If you’re looking for challenging VR brainteasers this ain’t what you’re after.
If you’re a Wallace and Gromit fan looking to go on one more adventure with the duo, or you’re after a fun VR experience that’ll entertain a younger player for around two hours, then The Grand Getaway is a must-play. Otherwise, you might prefer something like The Last Clockwinder, or one of the other VR puzzle games on the Quest platform.
BLACKPINK: A VR Encore
I was aware of the K-pop sensation that is Blackpink but I couldn’t pick their songs out in a lineup. So this month I thought I’d rectify my ignorance by attending the girl group’s free VR concert in Meta Horizon Worlds – and despite some flaws, I had a great time.
The issues weren’t on the Blackpink side of things. The 70-minute long performance – a recording from the quartet’s World Tour, specifically the final show at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul – was a blast to watch, with dazzling light shows and pyrotechnics, impeccable choreography, and songs that I’ve added to my playlist for 2024.
The recording seamlessly jumped to different perspectives to give you the best view of the show. Sometimes you were up close with a front-row view just meters from Blackpink, other times you were at a distance to take in the performance of the large ensemble of dancers that joined the group onstage, or up above everything to experience the light show spectacle and take in the scale of the crowd who watched it live.
On the Horizon Worlds platform side of things, my experience was a little more mixed.
If you don’t want your concert to be interrupted by strangers and instead want to host a private function in Music Valley, you can do just that by clicking the three dots on the world’s menu page and selecting Launch a Closed Session.
This is a really neat tool if you want to enjoy the music with just people you know (or on your own), though I was surprised that even as the host of the closed session, I had no obvious control over the Blackpink concert’s playback. The Livestream looped on its own timer.
I expect this is some kind of licensing thing, but the ability to play and pause the concert would be a super useful feature. You could make sure everyone in your group arrives before the performance begins, and if people need to take a break, you could pause between tracks and hit play when everyone is ready again. As it was, I just had to tune in somewhere in the middle and watch until it looped back to where I began, which didn’t feel like the best way to experience Blackpink’s majesty.
The video feed also dropped in quality sometimes and even paused to buffer every so often. I thought this might be an issue with my internet, but other concertgoers kept moving while the video was stopped, and when it started up again, the concert picked up where it left off rather than jumping forward – which is what you’d expect it to do if my internet was to blame.
Lastly, I found Music Valley – the Horizon Worlds map you visit to watch concerts – to be a bit too distracting. I think the gamified elements should stay, but I wish there was a great spot where you could watch the concert without flying saucers or rocky outcrops obstructing your view. That said, the issues were far from experience-ruining.
Will Horizon Worlds replace going to real concerts? Heck no. The Quest 3 – or any VR headset for that matter – can’t possibly match the atmosphere or chest-thumping sound generated by a live gig. But as a free alternative, I had a fantastic time, and I expect this won’t be the last VR concert I watch in 2024.
Bulletstorm is the quintessential opposite of the other two entries in this round-up – an uber-macho arcade shooter full of non-stop carnage ripped from the Doritos and Mountain Dew CoD era of the early 2010s.
A VR remake makes a lot of sense for this title originally released on the Xbox 360 and PS3. The visceral first-person combat is at home in VR. There’s an undeniable primal satisfaction when you use your energy lash to whip an enemy towards you, launch them away with a powerful kick, and watch them fly head-first into some environmental hazard that skewers, electrocutes, or blows them to smithereens – or you could simply pop their head like a balloon with a shot from your rifle.
The more convoluted your massacre methods, the more points you earn. You could simply rinse through enemies with your seemingly unending supply of ammo, but to be able to afford gear improvements, you’ll need to combine your weapons, skills, and environment in unique ways.
And you can take a lot of risks with your trick shots as you’re a total bullet sponge. It’s unrealistic for sure, but Bulletstorm is a power fantasy through and through; we don’t have time to duck behind cover and take a pause while you heal up.
In the same vein, Bulletstorm doesn’t have time to get bogged down in anything more than a paper-thin plot. If you’re after Shakespeare, look elsewhere – this isn’t even Shakespeare’s 7th cousin. As a way to string the set pieces together in a semi-coherent way, Bulletstorm’s story succeeds, but, as the game warns you when you boot it up, some of the unchanged dialogue is of its time – think a slightly toned-down Call of Duty lobby.
Annoyingly, despite the emphasis on frenetic action, Bulletsorm’s cutscenes slow down the opening act to a snail’s pace. They happen every few minutes and pull you out of the action to watch the video on a large screen in a black void – and usually have a loading screen you have to sit through, too. I wish the opening had been changed so you can get into the meat of the fighting quickly. As it currently stands, Bulletstorm's start is uncharacteristically boring.
I also noticed a fair amount of glitches, plus the visuals aren’t pretty on Quest. Hopefully, a patch will launch soon that fixes the issues I experienced – such as frequently clipping into the floor and getting stuck when using teleport movement, and not being able to slide under structures to progress. We also might see the team release a Quest 3 update that takes advantage of the new headset’s technical upgrades – but we’ll have to wait and see what is announced.
Overall, Bulletstorm VR isn’t my cup of tea, but I can see the appeal. If you like other bloodbath-filled VR sandboxes or the original title, then this might be one for you to check out.