Still running Windows 7 or 8? Prepare for an Epic fail – Epic Games Store follows Steam and drops support for older operating systems

The Epic Games Store has followed in the footsteps of Steam in dropping support for Microsoft’s desktop operating systems which are older than Windows 10 – although this hasn’t happened quite yet.

Epic gave notice in an announcement that support for Windows 7 and Windows 8 (or 8.1) will cease from June 2024, so just over two months’ time. Note that Windows 10 32-bit will also be dropped, but not the 64-bit version of the OS that the vast majority of folks run. There's no 32-bit version of Windows 11, of course.

So, support from June will be limited to Windows 10 64-bit and Windows 11 – and for macOS, version 10.13 or newer of Apple’s OS.

As mentioned, Epic is a bit later than Valve in closing down support for these older operating systems, because Steam enacted this measure at the start of 2024. As you might expect, there weren’t many PC gamers that were affected, going by Valve’s stats – fewer than 1% of Steam users had Windows 7/8 installed at the time. And the same is likely true for the Epic Games Store.


Analysis: Time to upgrade?

For the small niche of gamers who will be hit by this move, this will obviously be somewhat disappointing. Mind you, when June rolls around, this doesn’t mean you won’t be able to use the Epic Games Store at all. It’ll still work, it just won’t get any updates going forward, or be supported in any way. This means that after a while, bits of functionality might fail and the launcher will eventually probably start to misfire or stop working entirely.

Naturally, without updates, you’ll also be open to any vulnerabilities in Epic’s client, but then if you’re still running Windows 7 or 8, that’ll be the least of your worries – the exploits open to leverage in those systems will be far more worrying in nature, of course.

And that’s exactly why you shouldn’t be running Windows 7 or 8 any longer, anyway. It’s time to upgrade, one way or another – by which we mean make the move to Windows 10 (or Windows 11, if your PC spec is up to it), or take the obvious alternate route, a Linux distro (there are some solid Windows-like choices out there, after all).

What about Windows 10 32-bit users? Well, Microsoft does still support them, but there are very few of these folks out there now (certainly in the gaming world – Steam’s hardware survey doesn’t even list Windows 10 32-bit anymore, and hasn’t for a long time).

Via Neowin

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Microsoft does DLSS? Look out world, AI-powered upscaling feature for PC games has been spotted in Windows 11

Windows 11’s big update for this year could come with an operating system-wide upscaling feature for PC games in the same vein as Nvidia DLSS or AMD FSR (or Intel XeSS).

The idea would be to get smoother frame rates by upscaling the game’s resolution. In other words, running at a lower resolution, and artificially ramping it up to a higher level of detail, but with a greater level of fluidity than running natively, all of which would be driven by AI.

The ‘Automatic Super Resolution’ option is currently hidden in test builds of Windows 11 (version 26052 to be precise). Leaker PhantomOfEarth enabled the feature and shared some screenshots of what it looks like in the Graphics panel in the Settings app.

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There’s a system-wide toggle for Microsoft’s own take on AI upscaling, and per-app settings if you wish to be a bit more judicious about how the tech is applied.

In theory, this will be ushered in with Windows 11 24H2 – which is now confirmed by Microsoft as the major update for its desktop OS this year. (There’ll be no Windows 12 in 2024, as older rumors had suggested was a possibility).

We don’t know that Automatic Super Resolution will be in 24H2 for sure, though, as it could be intended for a later release, or indeed it might be a concept that’s scrapped during the testing process.


A PC gamer looking happy

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Analysis: Microsoft’s angle

This is still in its very early stages, of course – and not even officially in testing yet – so there are a lot of questions about how it will work.

In theory, it should be a widely applicable upscaling feature for games that leverages the power of AI, either via a Neural Processing Unit – the NPUs now included in Intel’s new Meteor Lake CPUs, or AMD’s Ryzen 8000 silicon – or the GPU itself (employing Nvidia’s Tensor cores, for example, which are used to drive its own DLSS).

As noted, though, we can’t be sure exactly how this will be applied, though it’s certainly a game-targeted feature – the text accompanying it tells us that much – likely to be used for older PC games, or those not supported by Nvidia DLSS, AMD FSR, or Intel XeSS for that matter.

We don’t expect Microsoft will try and butt heads with Nvidia in terms of attempting to outdo Team Green’s own upscaling, but rather supply a more broadly supported alternative, one which won’t be as good. The trade-off is that wider level of support, much as already seen with AMD’s Radeon Super Resolution (RSR), which is, in all likelihood, what this Windows 11 feature will resemble the most.

Outside of gaming, Automatic Super Resolution may also be applicable to videos, and perhaps other apps – video chatting, maybe, at a guess – to provide some AI supercharging for the provided footage.

Again, there are already features from Nvidia and AMD (the latter is still incoming) that do video upscaling, but again Microsoft would offer broader coverage (as the name suggests, Nvidia’s RTX Video Super Resolution is only supported by RTX graphics cards, so other GPUs are left out in the cold).

We expect Automatic Super Resolution is something Microsoft will certainly be looking to implement, more likely than not, to complement other OS-wide technologies for PC gamers. That includes Auto HDR, which brings HDR (or an approximation of it) to SDR games. (And funnily enough, it looks like Nvidia is working on its own take on that ability, building on RTX Video HDR which is already here for video playback).

As you may have noticed at this point, there are a lot of this kind of performance-enhancing technologies around these days, which is telling in itself. Perhaps part of Microsoft’s angle is a simple system-level switch that confused users can just turn on for upscaling trickery across the board, and ‘it just works’ to quote another famous tech giant.

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Microsoft Store now lets you instantly try games without downloading them – and it might mean I finally use it

The Microsoft Store in Windows 11 is about to get a handy new feature that lets you try games without having to download and install them – but will this innovative feature make the unloved app store more popular?

The Microsoft Store has a pretty large library of games on offer, both for sale and to download for free. However, it’s been lacking the ability to preview a game before downloading and installing it. 

That’s about to change for some games as Microsoft is now giving users the chance to play certain titles instantly right in the Microsoft Store app in Windows 11 – no installation needed. These “Instant Games” are short, easy-to-play games that can be played casually and don’t require a ton of effort to master. They will be located in the ‘Collection’ section in the Microsoft Store, which can be found by clicking on the Gaming tab in the Microsoft Store (this is what it opens to when you open the app), and scrolling to the very bottom. Once you click Collections, you’ll be greeted with the Microsoft Store’s collections of games. 

There’s no explicit Instant Games yet, but they should start appearing under a collection named “Play free games with no downloads”. According to Windows Latest, Instant Games will be indicated with an orange lightning logo. This isn’t how the games show up for me, but this could change soon. It seems like the Instant Games feature is still possibly a work in progress as Microsoft Store version 22312.1401.4.0 has an icon in the left-hand vertical menu that should take you straight to the Instant Games collection, but in Microsoft Store version 22312.1401.5.0 (a later build) the icon has been removed.

Person working on laptop in kitchen

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Looking ahead and how you can play Instant Games

Windows Latest states that Microsoft partnered with a number of game developers to make Instant Games a reality, and that there are currently 69 games that users will be able to play instantly within the Microsoft Store app. Also, it looks like Microsoft is planning to expand the Instant Games selection and work with more game developers. It’ll be interesting to see if Microsoft will partner with game makers to create playable Instant Game demos of their games, as this could be a great addition to the Microsoft store that’ll help users make more informed decisions about what games they purchase and download.

Here’s how you can get Instant Games in your Microsoft Store for yourself (if they don’t show up already): 

1. Update your Microsoft Store app to the latest version. You can do this by going to your Library in the Microsoft Store in the left-hand menu, toward the bottom. If your apps don’t update automatically, here you can navigate and choose which apps to update. Also, make sure you are connected to the Internet.

2. Once updated, go to Gaming in your Microsoft Store left-hand menu (towards to top). 

3. Scroll all the way down to Collections and click on Collections (the word) to open this section.

4. Choose a game, hover over it and click the game artwork. This will take you to the game’s page and you can choose to either Play Now, or Get to download and install the game. If you click Play Now, this will launch a new window that will allow you to play the game.

A screenshot of an Instant Game, Boing FRVR, in the Microsoft Store

(Image credit: Future)

First impressions of Instant Games

When I tried it, it ran very smoothly, which makes sense as the games consume very little system resources. Perhaps inevitably, all of the games contain ads. Windows Latest suggests that you might encounter a 30-second ad when, for instance, you try to reattempt a level, but you can bypass this by simply going back to the main menu. If you close a game, your progress will be saved and you can pick up where you left up when you reopen the Microsoft Store. Microsoft’s Edge browser offers a similar instant gaming feature in its Sidebar.

They’re a good way to pass a few minutes, but the games I tried became very repetitive and they’re not optimized for full screen play. They open up in portrait mode and don’t have the most sophisticated graphics. It’s maybe a more symbolic offering on Microsoft’s part, as many similar games can easily be found for mobile on multiple platforms anyway. We’ll have to see if anyone actually plays these games and if this will foster any good will among users. If it’s user goodwill that Microsoft wants, there are other user requests they can fulfill like scaling back its constant prodding of users to install the Edge browser.

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My jaw hit the floor when I watched an AI master one of the world’s toughest physical games in just six hours

An AI just mastered Labyrinth in six hours, and I am questioning my own existence.

I started playing Labyrinth in the 1970s. While it may look deceptively simple and is fully analog, Labyrinth is an incredibly difficult, nearly 60-year-old physical board game that challenges you to navigate a metal ball through a hole-riddled maze by changing the orientation of the game platform using only the twistable nobs on two adjacent sides of the game's box frame.

I still remember my father bringing Labyrinth home to our Queens apartment, and my near-total obsession with mastering it. If you've never played, then you have no idea how hard it is to keep a metal ball on a narrow path between two holes just waiting to devour it.

It's not like you get past a few holes and you're home free; there are 60 along the whole meandering path. One false move and the ball is swallowed, and you have to start again. It takes fine motor control, dexterity, and a lot of real-time problem-solving to make it through unscathed. I may have successfully navigated the treacherous route a few times.

It sometimes ignored the path and took shortcuts. That’s called cheating.

In the intervening years, I played sporadically (once memorably with a giant labyrinth at Google I/O), but mostly I forgot about the game, though I guess I never really forgot the challenge.

Perhaps that's why my mouth dropped open as I watched CyberRunner learn and beat the game in just six hours.

In a recently released video, programmers from the public research university ETH Zurich showed off their bare-bones AI robot, which uses a pair of actuators that act as the 'hands' to twist the Labyrinth nobs, an overhead camera to watch the action, and a computer running an AI algorithm to learn and, eventually, beat the game.

In the video, developers explain that “CyberRunner exploits recent advances in model-based reinforcement learning and its ability to make informed decisions about potentially successful behaviors by planning into the future.”

Initially, CyberRunner was no better than me or any other average human player. It dumped the metal ball into holes less than a tenth of the way through the path, and then less than a fifth of the way through. But with each attempt, CyberRunner got better – and not just a little better, but exponentially so.

In just six hours, according to the video, “CyberRunner's able to complete the maze faster than any previously recorded time.” 

The video is stunning. The two motors wiggle the board at a super-human rate, and manage to keep the ball so perfectly on track that it's never in danger of falling into any of the holes. CyberRunner's eventual fasted time was a jaw-dropping 14.8 seconds. I think my best time was… well, it could often take many minutes.

I vividly recall playing, and how I would sometimes park the ball in the maze, taking a break mid-challenge to prepare myself for the remainder of the still-arduous journey ahead. No so with CyberRunner. Its confidence is the kind that's only possible with an AI. It has no worries about dropping its metal ball into a hole; no fear of failure.

It also, initially, had no fear of getting caught cheating.

As CyberRunner was learning, it did what computers do and looked for the best and fastest path through the maze, which meant it sometimes ignored the path and took shortcuts. That's called cheating. Thankfully, the researchers caught CyberRunner, and reprogrammed it so it was forced to follow the full maze.

Of course, CyberRunner's accomplishment is not just about beating humans at a really difficult game. This is a demonstration of how an AI can solve physical-world problems based on vision, physical interaction, and machine learning. The only question is, what real-world problems will this open-source project solve next?

As for me, I need to go dig my Labyrinth out of my parent's closet.

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Microsoft Store update brings a useful way to more easily find Windows 11 apps and games you’ll enjoy

Windows 11 users are getting a rejig for the Microsoft Store to make it easier to find apps or games that might be relevant or interesting.

As posted on X (formerly Twitter) by Rudy Huyn, Principal Architect for the Microsoft Store, there’s a holiday update inbound for testers.

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This means that the store will no longer show apps and games installed on your device – or at least, it won’t show nearly as many – and will instead favor new apps and games that you might enjoy based on your past download history.

Hopefully, this adjustment won’t take long to arrive with a broader rollout to Windows 11 users who aren’t testers.

Note that the Microsoft Store did already show apps you might want to grab, it’s just that the balance has shifted more towards displaying these, rather than installed software.


Analysis: Another (small) step forward

This is another useful move for the Microsoft Store, as it’s not much help to show the user what they’ve already got installed on their PC. While we’re not keen on Microsoft’s ‘suggestions’ throughout Windows, in the case of an app store, recommendations can be more useful to glance at than a list of what you already know about.

That said, this change alone is obviously not going to do much in terms of persuading folks to use the Microsoft Store if they don’t bother with it. The move is hardly a major selling point in itself.

Still, Microsoft has been doing a lot of work on the store of late, and those improvements are building momentum. The store now loads up way faster, and we’ve seen meatier chunks of work, too. Most notably the introduction of AI (it’s getting everywhere) in the form of a dedicated hub for AI software – and also AI-generated review summaries.

The latter could be pretty handy indeed, as wading through a bunch of reviews isn’t much fun, so it’s a useful task where AI can do the proverbial grunt work.

Via Windows Central

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Windows 11 23H2 reportedly has a nasty bug slowing down PC games – but there’s a fix

Windows 11 is having serious issues with PC games due to the latest 23H2 update, according to a cluster of recent reports.

Neowin flagged up the performance hitches purportedly caused by the annual upgrade for Windows 11, which seemingly affects PCs with AMD processors in the main.

Redditor BNSoul describes the issue in a post that has garnered some serious attention, and a lot of other users chiming in that they’re suffering similar gaming woes.

BNSoul writes: “Every CPU benchmark shows significantly reduced CPU performance after updating to Windows 11 23H2 from 22H2, even after a fresh/clean install.

“I could add an endless list of benchmark results here but just let’s say it’s always 23H2 5-8% slower in every single one be it single or multi-thread compared to 22H2.”

They add: “Games are also affected with random stuttering, all of this fixed by rolling back to 22H2.”

Another user on Microsoft’s Answers.com forum, Anant Acharya, makes a similar complaint backed up by others further in the thread: “After I had updated to the Windows 23H2 update. I have been noticing sudden stutters and drastic FPS drops in the above-mentioned games [Valorant, CS:GO, Grand Theft Auto 5, Forza Horizon 5].”

The stuttering encountered is pretty bad according to those experiencing the problem, so this is a nasty one. The good news is that Microsoft has supplied a solution to the Redditor who made the original post, which we’ll discuss next.


Analysis: Defendius Kedavra

That solution apparently provided by Microsoft customer support involves resetting Microsoft Defender, so the conclusion tentatively drawn is that the security app is involved in some way here.

At any rate, the downside is that the procedure outlined is not completely straightforward, sadly, and involves using PowerShell commands – that’s not the tricky bit, mind, but it’s the main meat of the solution.

So, to fire up PowerShell, just right-click the Start button (or press the Windows key + X) and click on ‘Windows PowerShell (admin).’ While it’s not clear that you need admin mode – you could just run the plain ‘Windows PowerShell’ option – it might not hurt to use it.

Once open, run the following two commands in PowerShell (type them in and press enter). Firstly:

Set-ExecutionPolicy Unrestricted

And then:

Get-AppxPackage Microsoft.SecHealthUI -AllUsers | Reset-AppxPackage

That second command resets Defender, and you then reboot your PC.

The instructions then say when rebooting you should head to your BIOS and ensure that CPU Virtualization is enabled. Rummaging in the BIOS is the slightly trickier bit – as BIOSes are all differently laid out and have their own interfaces and quirks (consult relevant help resources from your motherboard vendor) – but many PCs may already have this turned on anyway, so you might not need to do it.

Finally, when back at the Windows 11 desktop, fire up Windows Security (type that in the search box, and open the app that pops up), select ‘Device Security’ in the left-hand panel, and in Core Isolation settings you should turn on Memory Integrity. Again, you’ll need to reboot your PC.

Then you’re done, and according to BNSoul and others, this process gives you the same level of gaming performance for 23H2 as seen with 22H2.

If the above procedure sounds like a hassle, or doesn’t work for you, then you can always revert to 22H2 and wait for Microsoft to investigate and hopefully fix this issue. Or if you haven’t upgraded yet and you’re concerned about these reports, you can always hold off on the 23H2 upgrade for the time being.

We’ve dropped a line to Microsoft to try and find out what’s going on here, and whether a fix is underway. We’ll update this story if we hear anything back.

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Meta Quest 3 owners check the phone app as 12 free games might be waiting for you

If you own a Meta Quest 3 you should check your Meta Quest smartphone app as you might have a six-month free trial of Meta Quest Plus waiting for you.

Previously this offer was an exclusive order incentive for people who bought the 512GB Meta Quest 3 model, but Quest 3 owners on Reddit have noticed that the 6-month trial is available to them even if they bought the 128GB version. This means rather than saving only $ 7.99 / £7.99 from a one-month trial everyone can get $ 47.94 / £47.94 worth of subscription value for no cost.

Meta Quest Plus is like a Netflix for Quest VR games. Each month you’ll get 2 free VR titles that you can add to your Quest library, and for as long as you are subscribed you can play them. If you unsubscribe, you’ll lose access to your free games until you rejoin Meta Quest Plus.  So with this trial that’s 12 free games, which is a pretty excellent deal that rivals this year’s best Black Friday deals.

To see if you can get this free six-month trial you’ll need to open open the Meta Quest app on your smartphone. Use Search to look for Meta Quest Plus, then on the Quest Plus store page tap the blue button at the bottom of your screen that says “Start your six-month trial.”

Meta Quest Plus advert showing Pistol Whip and Pixel Ripper 1995

(Image credit: Meta)

This offer doesn’t appear to be exclusive to new subscribers either. Comments on the original Reddit post suggest that people can get the six-month trial if they’ve tried the one-month trial before, and even if they’re subscribed – with the six free months being added on top of the subscription they already have.

It also appears to be available in every region, though some users have reported they can only see the one-month trial; that said it’s not clear if they’re Meta Quest 3 or Oculus Quest 2 owners.

If you’re looking to expand your VR library then Meta Quest Plus is a good way to do it, as the two games you get are worth more than the monthly $ 7.99 / £7.99 fee. However, you don’t get to pick which games you get so you might prefer to spend more but get the games you actually want.

The two free titles at the time of writing are NFL Pro Era and Angry Birds: Isle of Pigs. We've not tried either but both titles have been fairly well received with a four and four-and-a-half star rating, respectively, on the Quest Store.

If you don’t have a Meta Quest 3, or an Oculus Quest 2, then you can check out our Black Friday Oculus Quest 2 deals guide to see the latest and greatest offers. If it’s still available you might want to go after Amazon’s incredible Quest 2 deal as it gets you $ 50 / £50 off the headset and free $ 50 / £50 Amazon credit too.

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Nvidia explains how its ACE software will bring ChatGPT-like AI to non-player characters in games

Earlier this year at Computex 2023, Nvidia revealed a new technology during its keynote presentation: Nvidia ACE, a ‘custom AI model foundry’ that promised to inject chatbot-esque intelligence into non-player characters in games.

Now, Nvidia has more to say about ACE: namely, NVIDIA NeMo SteerLM, a new technique that will make it easier than ever before for game developers to make characters that act and sound more realistic and organic.

We’ve heard about NeMo before, back when Nvidia revealed its ‘NeMo Guardrails’ software for making sure that large language model (LLM) chatbots such as the ever-present ChatGPT are more “accurate, appropriate, on topic and secure”. NeMo Steer LM acts in a similar but more creative way, allowing game devs to ‘steer’ AI behavior in certain directions with simple sliders; for example, making a character more humorous, or more aggressive and rude.

I was a bit critical of NeMo Guardrails back when it was originally unveiled, since it raises the question of exactly who programs acceptable behaviors into AI models. In publicly accessible real-world chatbot tools, programmer bias could lead to AI-generated responses that offend some while appearing innocuous to others. But for fictional characters, I’m willing to believe that NeMo has huge potential. Imagine a gameworld where every character can truly react dynamically and organically to the player’s words and actions – the possibilities are endless!

The problems with LLMs in games

Of course, it’s not quite as simple as that. While SteerLM does promise to make the process of implementing AI-powered NPCs a lot more straightforward, there are still issues surrounding the use of LLMs in games in general. Early access title Vaudeville shows that AI-driven narrative games have a long way to go, and that’s not even the whole picture.

LLM chatbots such as ChatGPT and Bing AI have proven in the past that they’re not infallible when it comes to remaining on-topic and appropriate. Indeed, when I embarked on a quest to break ChatGPT, I was able to make it say things my editor sadly informed me were not fit for publication. While tools such as Nvidia’s Guardrails can help, they’re not perfect – and as AI models continue to evolve and advance, it may become harder than ever to keep them playing nice.

Even beyond the potential dangers of introducing actual AI models into games – let alone ones with SteerLM’s ‘toxicity’ slider, which on paper sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen – a major stumbling block to implementing tools like this could actually be hardware-related.

Screenshot of 'Jin the ramen shop owner', an AI-generated non-player character.

Nvidia’s Computex demo of ‘Jin the ramen shop owner’ was technologically impressive but raises a lot of questions about AI in games. (Image credit: Nvidia)

If a game uses local hardware acceleration to power its SteerLM-enhanced NPCs, the performance could be affected by how powerful your computer is when it comes to running AI-based workloads. This introduces an entirely new headache for both game devs and gamers: inconsistency in game quality dependent not on anything the developers can control, but on the hardware used by the player.

According to the Steam Hardware Survey, the majority of PC gamers are still using RTX 2000 or older GPUs. Hell, the current top spot is occupied by the budget GTX 1650, a graphics card that lacks the Tensor cores used by RTX GPUs to carry out high-end machine-learning processes. The 1650 isn’t incapable of running AI-related tasks, but it’s never going to keep up with the likes of the mighty RTX 4090.

I’m picturing a horrible future for PC gaming, where your graphics card determines not just the visual fidelity of the games you play, but the quality of the game itself. For those lucky enough to own, say, an RTX 5000 GPU, incredibly lifelike NPC dialogue and behavior could be at your fingertips. Smarter enemies, more helpful companions, dynamic and compelling villains. For the rest of us, get used to dumb and dumber character AI as game devs begin to rely more heavily on LLM-managed NPCs.

Perhaps this will never happen. I certainly hope so, anyway. There’s also the possibility of tools like SteerLM being implemented in a way that doesn’t require local hardware acceleration; that would be great! Gamers should never have to shell out for the very best graphics cards just to get the full experience from a game – but I’ll be honest, my trust in the industry has been sufficiently battered over the last few years that I’m braced for the worst.

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A Song of Ice and Fire and Bowling: the VR games and apps I played in June 2023

This month I’ve used VR to become an action movie star in Pistol Whip, explore the new Polus Point map in Among Us, and entered a VR bowling tournament in ForeVR Bowl.

June has been a jam-packed month for VR – what with Apple announcing its brand new Apple Vision Pro at WWDC 2023 just days after Meta officially announced the Meta Quest 3. But when I’m not writing news and features about the hardware reveals, I’ve found time to enjoy several VR games and apps using my Oculus Quest 2 and Meta Quest Pro headsets, and I want to highlight three of them below.

For our picks of the all-time greatest VR games you can play right now check out our best VR games list, but read on to find out about the VR games and apps I’ve been playing in June 2023.

Among Us VR: Polus Point

Ahead of its release on July 27, I got to try out Polus Point the new map headed to Among Us VR for free for all players.

Polus is my favorite Among Us map, so I was initially disappointed to hear that Polus Point is merely a tribute to it rather than a complete remake in VR. Having tried the map out for myself though I’ve seen that it’s an excellent stage in its own right – while still honoring the original that I love.

Despite it being intimidating to newer players, I stand firm that Polus is Among Us' best map. Mira can feel a tad claustrophobic with lots of Crewmates running around, The Airship can feel too massive once a few players have been bumped off, and while I like Skeld it’s a bit too easy for people familiar with the map’s room and vent layout to sus out Impostors. 

Polus sits between these options; it’s big while not feeling overwhelmingly large, and its more complex layout allows players to take multiple different paths between the same points. This means that Crewmates can still have their suspicions about who might be responsible for a dead body, but Impostors can retain some plausible deniability over the route they traveled allowing them to potentially survive a few meetings even if they’re caught out.

Polus Point isn’t an exact replica of Polus but it retains its spirit. The sprawling map is something of a labyrinth, with a few branching paths to take you between different sections. This layout allows Impostors to get away with murders they might not on the Skeld 2 (Among Us VR's other stage).

The new Polus Point map also borrows the aesthetics of the original with Polus’ iconic decorations like the bridge to nowhere over a pool of lava, Crewmate snowmen (snow-beans?), and the docked Drop Ship. There are also new locales to explore too, like a crystal mine that features a new claw-machine-like visual task – meaning other players can watch you complete it and know you’re not an Impostor.

I had an absolute blast exploring Polus Point, and if you want to try it out early there’s a beta going on right now, from June 29, 1pm ET to July 3, 1pm ET (5pm GMT on June 29 / 3am on June 30 to 5pm GMT on July 3 / 3am on July 4)

To get involved Meta Quest players need to head to the Among Us VR game’s store page on a web browser and look at the Version section. In the dropdown menu change the version from Live to Beta and your game should update and take you to the new map – though you may need to uninstall and reinstall the game on your device to get this to work.

As for Steam players, you’ll want to right-click Among Us VR in your Library and select Properties. In the Betas tab change the dropdown menu option from None to Beta, and then boot up the game. If this doesn’t work you may need to exit Steam (close it completely rather than just minimize it) and then reopen Steam for the Among Us VR update to happen.

ForeVR Bowl

This month I was also invited to take part in a bowling tournament hosted by developer ForeVR Games, with its game ForeVR Bowl being the battleground for the event.

ForeVR Bowl feels like a bowling game made for everyone. Pros looking for an accurate bowling sim with realistic physics and different ball stats will appreciate the depth that the title can offer, while more casual players like myself can dial back the realism and enjoy an experience that’ll take you back to the good ol’ days of Wii Sports bowling, albeit with some solid upgrades. 

One of my favorite improvements is the game environments that have you bowling in more typical joints – like a 90s-era alley and a club that could have been ripped straight out of Brooklyn – as well as alleys deep under the sea and in space. Much like Walkabout Mini Golf’s courses, these are places you and your friends will want to hang out, and if you go exploring your crew might be able to find hidden ball designs dotted around each location to add to your collection.

My first-round match in the tournament was against UploadVR’s Henry Stockdale; a fellow Brit who has previously freelanced for a number of sites including this one to share his thoughts on VR and it was great to finally meet him in person (well, virtually).

The match started off close, but after a few balls I could see victory slipping away from me. I was doing well, but when I would leave some pins standing Henry would be able to score a few extra points, or even secure a spare or a strike.

I was trailing, and as I stepped up to take my fourth turn I was convinced that the first round of the competition would be my last. With it feeling like my back was against the wall I grabbed the virtual bowling ball, made a quick prayer to the bowling gods, then did what I do best – I lobbed the ball as hard as I could and hoped it would go well.

For what felt like an age I watched the ball roll its way to its destination, convinced that I’d only score another six points or so. It appears the bowling gods had other plans, as I saw every single pin tumble; I had earned my first strike.

Henry was still ahead, but the gap had shrunk, so with my newfound confidence I tried the tactic again, and again, and again getting two more strikes in a row. I only managed to win a spare in my 7th round, but that was fine – my burst of skill (read: luck) had helped me pull comfortably ahead of my competition. A few more good throws later and I had won, with 171 points to Henry’s 130. 

At the time of writing, I’m organizing my second-round match. Hopefully, I’ll be able to report next month that I’ve progressed further in the competition – maybe even madethe finals – but we’ll have to wait and see how well I do.

Pistol Whip

If you love action movies and wish you could star in one then you’ll love Pistol Whip. I regularly play Pistol Whip, and with it being one of the first two titles on Meta’s new Meta Quest Plus subscription this is the perfect time to write about it.

Pistol Whip is an on-rails shooter that has you race through levels armed with a firearm – there’s the classic single or dual-wielded pistol, but also a range of different weapons. You earn points by blasting the enemies that come your way, and you can earn bonus points by shooting your foes in time with the beat (like a well-choreographed fight scene in a film) and by pistol-whipping them (hitting them with your gun rather than shooting them).

@hamishhector

♬ original sound – Hamish Hector

This title sounds fairly simple, but particularly on higher difficulties it can become an intense VR workout. You’ll have to contort your body a fair amount in order to dodge the rain of bullets that the baddies will be firing at you.

Each level has a unique music track, and there’s a huge range of stages inspired by different action movies. You’ll find classic Westerns and cyberpunk sci-fi stages, as well as levels that take clear inspiration from franchises like John Wick and Mad Max.

If you want to try out Pistol Whip you can pick it up for $ / £22.99 / AU$ or you can sign up for Meta’s Quest Plus service for $ 7.99 / £7.99 per month ($ 59.99 / £59.99 per year) and download it for free (Meta hasn’t released details yet about the service’s availability in Australia). Once it's downloaded you’ll have access to Pistol Whip until you stop paying for Quest Plus – unless you buy the game separately.


Not liking the look of anything on this list? Check out the VR games and apps I played in May 2023.

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