It takes a special breed of human to conquer Mount Everest. The 29,029-foot mountain is the highest point on the planet Earth. And while some people see it as a humbling monument to the planet’s four (plus) billion year existence, others look at it and say, “Yeah, I gotta climb that.” Requiring years of preparation and training, climbing Everest is not for everyone. The risk of death and injury, be it from aberrant weather or oxygen deprivation, has claimed the lives of those looking to conquer the elements in a climb of a lifetime. I will never know the experience of tackling the mountain but with the PlayStation VR, I can appreciate the grandeur of the expedition without jeopardizing my sedentary lifestyle.
Everest VR is divided into two parts. The first, accessible after launching the game, is a first-person climb up the mountain accompanied by a disembodied narrator that explains, in great detail, the different stages of the climb that people must endure in order to make it to the top. Some of the areas you experience are enough to make you wonder why anyone would risk their lives this way. The journey begins with an introduction designed to share a time-honored ritual all climbers perform before they begin the trek. What follows, is a boring and largely uneventful series of playable excursions that are usually over before they start. For an experience designed to show off the majestic views that accompany the ascent, there are little opportunities for the interactive moments to really take stock of the area. Eventually, you’ll reach the top of Everest and plant a somewhat tacky Everest VR flag and listen as the narrator waxes poetically about Man’s ability to persevere.
At the conclusion of the guided experience, the game puts you into “god mode” where you’re given free reign to explore Everest and the numerous passages people have used over the years to reach the peak. This is certainly the most interesting section because it ditches the script in favor of museum-like displays featuring photographs and documentation from those who came before. In this mode, you can increase or decrease the scale, giving you views of the mountain at any angle of your choosing. And that’s pretty much all there is to this “god mode.” There aren’t any special objectives or opportunities to replay the “story” mode, making the experience feel pretty empty.
A lot of VR games do a great job presenting a sense of scale. Batman: Arkham VR and Eagle Flight are good examples that made me think twice about leaning over the edge of a building or swooping down for street-level flight. Everest VR, despite taking place on the tallest mountain in the world, doesn’t do anything for me. The graphics, I think, are to blame as they loudly broadcast the visual limitations of the most affordable VR headset on the market today. I’ve been able to look past the lower resolution and fuzzy images of the PSVR because the games and experiences are fun enough despite such issues. Everest VR, for the most part, looks like a mid- to late-stage PlayStation 3 game. Were I playing this on the Vive or Oculus Rift, I bet the experience would be more evocative in detail.
While this is the sort of thing VR was made for, it’s hard to see Everest VR as anything more than decent piece of “experience it once” edutainment. The interactive sections of the game fail to generate much excitement as you very slowly climb up the mountain, listening to the breathy laments of your fellow climbers (and even see one of them die, which is treated rather flippantly). In the end, there’s not much here that’ll hold someone’s attention for longer than an hour, if that. An experience like this is a great idea--get players to explore places they may never have a chance to see in person--but it doesn’t do enough to really draw you into a strong sense of place.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.