Before Your Eyes VR Review – Sublime Immersive Narrative For PSVR 2
Before Your Eyes is a sublime narrative experience for PlayStation VR2 that leverages eye tracking technology to tell an emotional story about life, death and everything in between. Here’s our full Before Your Eyes PSVR 2 review.
Before Your Eyes is a truly unique experience. At around 90 minutes long, it’s closer to an immersive movie than a fully-fledged game, but it packs a hell of a lot into a small package. Not only does it feature a gut-wrenching and poignant narrative, but it presents that narrative via an eye tracking mechanic that is completely unlike any other use of the technology.
You begin aboard a mythical ship in the afterlife, traveling alongside a ferryman who wants to learn about your life. You’re then transported back into the memories of the protagonist Benny, experiencing them from his first-person perspective as they happened. The catch is that you control the story entirely with your eyes – specifically, your blinks.
When you blink, the scenes will change and the story will advance forward from one moment in Benny’s life to the next. You’re literally experiencing his life flash before your eyes, one blink at a time. Sometimes you’ll jump forward a few minutes, other times a few years. Your blinks become a tool to shorten, lengthen and heighten the story being told around you, which deals with themes of life, death, ambition, creativity, family and so much more. It’s absolutely captivating to behold and completely original in its execution, bringing you closer to the characters and connected to the world in a such a visceral manner.
Before Your Eyes is played completely controller-free, making it an incredibly accessible and intuitive experience. There’s a small cursor tied to the centre of your field of view in each scene, which you can position over interaction points by moving your head and selecting with a blink. At set moments in each scene, a small ticking metronome appears, indicating that the next time you blink, you’ll open your eyes to a new scene. You can choose to blink straight away or try to prolong the inevitable.
The blink mechanic is compelling as a storytelling device because it forces you to constantly progress onwards and yet also makes you savor each moment as it happens. At the start when Benny is a child, you’ll often be happy to skip forward to the next scene, keen to see what’s next. As he gets older and the narrative progresses, you start to feel time slipping away. You’ve formed connections with the characters and would be happy to spend a bit longer in each scene, but you’re constantly battling against the marching pace of life. There’s only so long you can stave off a blink.
There were points where I blinked completely by accident, tragically cutting a beautiful moment short. There were points where I was crying, making it much harder not to blink. There were points where I just wanted to blink as soon as possible to skip through a difficult scene.
This intersection of cutting-edge technology and well-written immersive narrative results in an experience that is both beautiful and confronting at the same time. It’s hard to speak more in-depth about the narrative, because it’s best to go in blind – no pun intended – but suffice to say that it’s engaging, touching and tragic. It does deal with some heavy content matter surrounding death and illness, but also presents an experience that feels representative and parallel to how we remember our own lives.
Before Your Eyes originally released as a flatscreen experience for PC in 2021, using a connected webcam to track the player’s blinks. While I haven’t tried the original, there is nothing about the VR release that feels like a port of a flatscreen game. In fact, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was made for VR first, because it’s such a natural fit for an immersive platform. Regardless, the presence of the blink mechanic in the original PC release proves just how integral it is to the narrative. It isn’t just a novelty, but a mechanic that is essential and thematically connected to the story. It’s one of the most interesting uses of eye tracking technology we’ve seen to date, without a doubt.
Before Your Eyes Review – Final Verdict
Before Your Eyes is a narrative experience unlike any other. It’s a perfect example of how virtual reality can tell a story in ways that movies, games and other media can’t. It’s a visceral, emotional journey that is best enjoyed in one sitting and with a box of tissues nearby. The controller-free setup means that it’s accessible to an incredibly wide audience and the lack of artificial movement means it should be comfortable for most players.
There’s a wealth of blockbuster campaigns and arcade games for PSVR 2, but there’s nothing else quite like Before Your Eyes. This is an essential experience for the platform that leverages eye tracking technology to tell a compelling story that simply wouldn’t work without it.
UploadVR focuses on a label system for reviews, rather than a numeric score. Our reviews fall into one of four categories: Essential, Recommended, Avoid and reviews that we leave unlabeled. You can read more about our review guidelines here.