Sony Interactive Entertainment’s contribution to the virtual reality race is one that has brought much derision. It’s not nearly as complex or as impressive as the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift; yet, it shows that Sony is very aware of what people want from this sort of thing. In other words, the PlayStation VR actually has games that are worth playing.
The PS VR uses a slightly different approach to the entire face mounted display idea. The headset is instead comprised of two distinct portions: the headband and the actual display. This redistributes the weight a little, changing the balance of how the entire setup feels as compared to the competition. Allowing the display visor to hover in front of the user’s face has proven to be the more comfortable option. Especially as the PS VR feels lighter than its PC based counterparts; despite actually being heavier than both the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.
A hanging visor also helps with those who wear glasses, as the device doesn’t end up pressing down on the face. SIE’s design also allows the wearer to adjust the distance of the visor from his eyes by sliding it forward and back. It’s a simple solution, but one that is effective and easy to use. However, this also creates a potentially problematic point of failure, as the weight of the display hangs off a single armature.
Setup for the PS VR also shows signs of incredible awareness for the average consumer. Each cable is clearly numbered, making it easier to figure out what goes where. Even the connectors for the additional processing units are marked to smoothen the process. In other words, it takes no time to get the hardware sorted out.
Interestingly, the boxes that contain the various components of the PS VR package also bear similar markings. In theory, this should make the process idiot proof; but we all know that there is always a better idiot. Still, SIE has put an admirable amount of work into helping people get started.
If there was one thing to worry about is the length of the PS VR’s cable. It feels like it may be a little short for being used in the living room. Although, we’re pretty sure most Malaysians will do the right thing and sit on the floor to get closer to the console.
At the same time, we also like the fact that the power button for the PS VR is right there on the cable instead of the external processing unit. Grouped together with volume buttons, and positioned quite close to the headset, this means that these buttons can be easily reached by users. Not to mention that the 3.5mm audio jack allows users to utilise their own audio headset.
SIE knows what counts when trying to sell a new piece of hardware: games. At least it’s learnt that lesson since the lacklustre introduction of the PlayStation Camera and Move. The PS VR demo disc which comes with every PS VR purchase contains a taste of what VR gaming should be like, and demonstrates that the studios working with Sony have the right idea about virtual reality.
We’ve had experience with PS VR games before, with titles like Eagle Flight, RIGS: Mechanised Combat League, and Drive Club VR. Thankfully, the demos on the disc continue the trend of excellent experiences as there is a decent spread of games on the demo disc, most of which demonstrate different potential aspects of the PS VR.
For instance, RIGS is a high speed arena shooter; Drive Club VR shows the potential for racing games; and Headmaster showcases the PSVR’s head tracking capabilities. Although, there was a lot of debate in our office on whether VR is wasted on Thumper. That being said, Thumper is receiving very good reviews without VR – which tells us that there is no harm in including the demo.
Outside of the demo disc, we would recommend PlayRoom VR as well which is available for free on PSN and it shows off just how much fun the PS VR can be for parties or family gatherings. However, the best PSVR experience that we’ve tested so far has to be from Batman Arkham VR – although it is not a free title.
Made by the same people behind the Batman Arkham series of games, the Arkham VR demonstrates the immersive storytelling capabilities of virtual reality. Players see everything from the perspective of the Caped Crusader and use the PlayStation Move (sold separately) controllers to examine crime scenes and interact with the environment.
The prologue of suiting up as Batman alone makes the PS VR experience worth it. The ending of the game, on the other hand, is one of the most effective uses of VR thus far; and some of us couldn’t quite handle how real the ending of the game was. There will be no spoilers here, but it’s worth checking out.
In terms of movement tracking capabilities, the PS VR is quite accurate although it might be a bit off for games that require a high level of precision. As for motion sickness on users, this pretty much depends on one’s level of tolerance to VR and the games themselves. Some titles such as Drive Club VR and Resident Evil 7 are notorious for triggering nausea among many gamers (ourselves included). Your mileage will vary, as some of us who tried it felt a little giddy after a short while, while others could go close to an hour.
Outside of VR, the headset can also be used as a personal viewer. Basically, users are able to view any non-VR games and content such as Netflix or YouTube; although the experience is generally equivalent to watching a gigantic floating TV screen in a very dark room. However, the head tracking continues to be active under this mode which means even a slight movement of you head will cause everything to shift.
On a side note, the PS VR doesn’t actually need a TV to work. It works fine as the sole display and the role of the TV is just so that other people can actually see what are you experiencing inside the headset. That being said, some games in the Play Room VR actually use the TV for multiplayer.
There was originally some concern about the price of the PS VR; which isn’t exactly cheap at RM 1,849 for the stand-alone unit and RM 2,029 for PS Camera bundle. Nevertheless, those prices are a lot lower than that of PC-based headsets; especially if the cost of setting up a VR-capable PC is taken into account.
Sure, the image quality of the PS VR cannot match that found on the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift; but console graphics have always lagged behind those on the PC. That doesn’t make the PS VR an inferior product. There is a sense of focus and purpose behind the games available for the PS VR, which is very unlike those found on the PC. This may change as game developers figure out what they want to use the new technology for; but for now, PSVR is where the experience is.
PC-based VR technology is clearly more powerful, with more potential. But for those who just want some fun games to play and have a good experience, this is the most cost effective choice. You don’t even technically need to own a TV to use the PSVR.
Let’s not forget that the PS VR is officially available in Malaysia, while the same cannot be said for PC based VR headsets (with the exception of Razer’s OS VR). In other words, PS VR is the most accessible VR platform in our market at the moment – next to those on mobile phones.
*Chapree contributed to this review. Thanks to our models who were too immersed to realise we were taking pictures of them too.