New PS5 VR horror game Switchback gets scarier every time you blink

 (Supermassive Games)
(Supermassive Games)

One of the neatest new features on the latest VR headsets from Sony and Meta is eye-tracking. The tech, which relies on infrared cameras to detect where you’re looking, is meant to create high-quality graphics by devoting computing power to the game scenes in your immediate view.

But, it can also be used to scare the wits out of players as a new game showcases.

An upcoming PS VR2 title called The Dark Pictures: Switchback VR uses eye-tracking to draw nightmarish enemies to you when you blink. According to Edge magazine, the hellish function kicks in when you enter a room full of blood-smeared mannequins in harlequin masks.

The demented dummies, with bodies twisted into “unnatural poses”, rearrange into new poses every time you flutter your eyelids.

“In the blink of an eye, more and more enemies are upon you as your pupils are being detected,” notes the game’s developer, Supermassive Games.

Switchback VR also takes advantage of haptic feedback and headset rumble to ensure you feel every bump in the dark and even blows to your head. Still, at least it won’t kill you in real life like the concept headset envisioned by the creator of Oculus VR, the company that Meta (then known as Facebook) acquired in 2014.

The new game is a VR spinoff of Supermassive’s The Dark Pictures Anthology series of episodic narrative titles.

It sounds similar to the studio’s Until Dawn: Rush of Blood for the original PS VR on PS4, itself a semi-sequel to 2015’s horror hit Until Dawn. Like that game, Switchback sees players boarding a devilish rollercoaster and shooting demons, vampires, witches, and the aforementioned mutating mannequins along the way.

The game is available to pre-order now exclusively on PS VR2 ahead of its release on March 16. Sony’s new VR headset for its PS5 console goes on sale on Wednesday, February 22, for £530.

Compared with the first-generation PSVR, the new headset is quite a step forward in terms of immersion.

Along with taking advantage of the PS5’s immense graphics and processing power, the biggest update is the tracking. While the original PSVR was tracked through a single camera placed on your TV, PSVR 2 has four outward-facing cameras on the headset to keep tabs on where you and your hands are in virtual space. That means that it should be able to track you around a whole room (known in VR circles as “room scale”).

Eye tracking, meanwhile, uses a technique called “foveated rendering” to boost graphics processing in the area you’re focusing on, instead of the environment in your peripheral view. The term refers to the fovea, a small pit in the centre of the retina that provides our absolute sharpest vision.

Eye-tracking was previously limited to VR headsets for professional users, but is now appearing on pricey consumer devices, too. Meta’s £1,500 Quest Pro also comes equipped with the feature, and Apple is reportedly harnessing it for its rumoured mixed-reality headset.