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Wilson's Heart hands-on: Oculus's new VR showcase mixes creepy hospitals and crazy teddy bears

It’s been precisely three years since I first tried EVE Valkyrie, known at the time as EVE VR. All week at E3 I’d been hearing that name whispered. “Did you try EVE VR yet? Did you try EVE VR?” Way back in ye’ olden times of 2013, the tech demo that eventually became Valkyrie presented a strong glimpse at VR’s potential.

Three years and hundreds of VR demos later, it takes a lot more to impress me. But as E3 wraps, another game is gathering word-of-mouth support. Numerous times now I’ve heard “Did you play Wilson’s Heart?”

I did, and it was amazing.

Hypochondriac

Wilson’s Heart stars the titular Wilson, an oldish man who awakens to find himself chained up in an abandoned 1940s hospital. After freeing his wrists, he begins wandering through the halls trying to figure out what’s going on. Where is everyone?

Well, maybe the blood stains on the polished tile floor will lead you to an answer.

Which is to say Wilson’s Heart is a horror game. Built from the ground up for the as-yet-unreleased Oculus Touch controllers, the game controls by way of a node system. You teleport Wilson from point to point, manipulating objects by grabbing, twisting, pushing, pulling, and throwing them with your hands, all via Touch.

Pick up a key, put it in the door, turn the key. Pick up a book, crack it open, flip the pages. Throw a clipboard into a display full of bottles. Punch a window. Swing a hammer. It’s simple and intuitive because Touch is simple and intuitive. Like the Vive, you already instinctively know how to use your hands.

But like Valkyrie before it, Wilson’s Heart is a game that proves the potential of an entire technology. It’s not that its ideas are particularly unique—The Gallery, for instance, uses a similarly-realistic approach to items and inventory and the Vive’s wand controllers are a decent stand-in for Touch.

There’s something about Wilson’s Heart though. Maybe it’s the game’s aesthetic, all black-and-white in the style of a classic horror film. Or maybe it’s the all-star voice cast, which apparently includes Peter Weller (as Wilson), Rosario Dawson, and Alfred Molina.

Or maybe it’s the game’s masterful use of human psychology, of exploiting sightlines and game tropes and the physicality of the VR medium to scare you. It even “got” me. I opened a medicine cabinet and a rat squealed and jumped towards my face. The obvious result? I smacked the Rift with both Touch controllers, in the process of trying to hide.

There’s also a stunning moment when you look in a mirror and see Wilson’s grizzled old face staring back at you. That’s a weird sensation.

Weird and impressive.

Twisted Pixel confirmed to me Wilson’s Heart is an Oculus exclusive, or rather an Oculus Touch exclusive. Sorry Vive owners. Look for the game to hit the Oculus Store...sometime after Oculus Touch launches, whenever that is. You’ve got plenty of time to find a spare pair of pants.

IDG Insider

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