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Lenovo Explorer and Windows Mixed Reality Review

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Experience – Gaming:

This is the section I have been most looking forward to, but it had to come after covering the software that can get you to the games. There is no need for a special order to the games, so I will just go alphabetically, meaning GORN is up first.

As I said in the introduction, GORN is an arena combat simulator. You are thrown into an arena and have to dispatch your enemies before a crowd, like a cartoonish gladiatorial match. I say cartoonish because the art style kind of is, and it is definitely an accurate description of the body physics. The product page says it is a room-scale experience, and it is, but it is also possible to play while standing still or even seated in a chair. It is clear why the room-scale setup is encouraged for this game, as it allows you to freely move about the arena, including turning to face any enemies behind you. If you do not have the space for room-scale, I recommend going with a seated position, not standing. I lack the space for room-scale where my desktop is and standing is too dangerous for the various things in my room. (Fortunately the scratches I have put into my TV are only on the top layer of the screen and not too visible, so unless the light is just right, you cannot even notice they are there.)

Moving around might be awkward when seated, but then moving in GORN is awkward to begin with. The default movement option involves clicking a touchpad to basically grab the virtual world, and then dragging it around you, resulting in almost a rowing motion. It works, and you get used to it after a bit. I even found I preferred it to using the trackpad for movement, but that might be the result of a psychological trick. I do not get motion sick, but was starting to feel a bit nauseous after using the touchpad movement for a while, but the GORN option has not affected me this way. My guess is that the physical movement of my arms is enough to justify the movement I see on the screen to my brain. That or I just got used to it at the same time I changed back. Either way, the GORN option is still worth giving a chance, because while it is awkward, it gives you a good amount of control.

Looking just at the game, it is fun, but can also be frustrating, primarily because of how health is handled. Sometimes you can one-hit an enemy, and sometimes it takes multiple. Sometimes you can take more than one hit, and sometimes you cannot. That is a bit too many sometimes for me, especially because once you start dying you need to kill an enemy to survive, so headshots sometimes killing and sometimes not becomes rather annoying. Also hitting an enemy in the head can cause it to fly across the arena, still alive, making your survival far less likely. I really feel recovering should come from killing an enemy or knocking them out, which seems a little more reliable.

Still, GORN can be a lot of fun with the silliness it allows. We decided to pull the cars out of the garage to give plenty of room for a room-scale experience, and let everyone in the family have a chance with the Explorer. At one point my brother asked, after I demonstrated the enemy bodies can be torn apart, if you could use enemy bodies as weapons. A couple matches later I accidentally started a match without selecting a weapon, so all I had were my fists. My solution was to punch the first enemy to death, rip his arm off, and then use it as a shield while I took on another enemy, so I could take his weapon. Perhaps ironically, the arm worked better as a shield than the shields in the game.

 

Scanner Sombre is quite a different game and experience from GORN, and its VR support is actually in beta. The title originally released as a 2D game, but having played it, multiple times in fact, it lends itself very well to a MR/VR experience. For one thing, part of the premise of the game is your character wearing a head-mounted-display, and in this case it is connected to a hand-held LIDAR system. Except for the very end of the game, it is all set in deep caves where there is no light, so the LIDAR system is needed to map your surroundings, and these measurements are drawn and tracked on the display. I found it to be an enjoyable game with how you explore the history of the cave system and learn your own story, and this is even more true with its VR version. Being able to look around and handle the LIDAR system like it were in your hand makes the experience much more immersive and engaging. The only two criticisms I can make are the short distance you can teleport and that the player must turn around to turn the character around, which is annoying when you have a cable running from your head to the floor. Of course having your head movement set orientation makes sense, but the position of 'center' for the headset is held constant throughout the game, and some ability to shift this would be nice. This would allow me to avoid long stretches where I am physically spun around with a cable wrapped around my chair.

 

 

 

 

Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope is also an experience you can enjoy sitting down, but it does not require much turning. In essence it is a shooting gallery, and it is a lot of fun too. I have spent twice as much time in it as in GORN, and not just because my possessions are safer when I am in this game. It is just fun to equip a minigun in one hand, a rocket launcher in another, and to freely aim at my enemies, wherever they might be. Curiously, Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope does not show models of the WMR controllers but instead the Vive controllers, but it still works, so it is hardly a problem.

The only thing I want to make a point of with Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope is that quality settings do matter some. At lower settings it becomes much harder to recognize enemies in the distance, but they can still recognize and shoot at you. Turn up those settings if you can, and keep an eye out if you cannot. (Also, the bow is hard to use. Seriously, holding an arm out straight and swinging it around to aim wears out my shoulders. Plus aiming it is not easy. That is why Sam has assault rifles!)

 

 

 

I have tried some more MR/VR titles than this, but these three are the ones I have focused on for this review. Thankfully they are all fun and offer different styles and experiences. GORN is best-played room-scale, if you have the room for it, while Scanner Sombre and Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope can be enjoyed sitting in a chair, though the chair does need to be free to swivel. In all three the Explorer and controllers behaved very well. Sometimes the controller tracking might not have been the best, but it was rarely wrong (in GORN it tended to be funny when the tracking bugged out briefly) and this is something software updates can probably address as well. At most you might just need to make sure the controllers are where the headset's motion-tracking cameras can see them, but this seemed to also depend on the game.



  1. Lenovo Explorer & Windows Mixed Reality Review - Introduction
  2. Lenovo Explorer & Windows Mixed Reality Review - Hardware
  3. Lenovo Explorer & Windows Mixed Reality Review - Experience - Windows Mixed Reality Portal
  4. Lenovo Explorer & Windows Mixed Reality Review - Experience - SteamVR
  5. Lenovo Explorer & Windows Mixed Reality Review - Experience - Gaming
  6. Lenovo Explorer & Windows Mixed Reality Review - Room-scale vs. Sitting/Standing Experience
  7. Lenovo Explorer & Windows Mixed Reality Review - Conclusion
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