The release of PSVR marks the beginning of something truly magical: the introduction of Virtual Reality to the masses. Sure, the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift are both readily available, but the number of people who own computers capable of running those headsets pales significantly compared to PlayStation 4 owners.
For anyone who has played one of the aforementioned headsets, you will likely know how spectacular VR can be. For those who haven’t, like many of you, I was dismissive of the ‘fad’ three months ago, believing it to be more a novelty rather than a real gaming experience. However, after playing all three major systems, there’s no doubt about Virtual Reality being future of gaming, and Sony is leading the pack.
While the PSVR has neither the equivalent screen resolution of the Vive and Oculus, nor quite the same graphical power due to the Playstation 4’s limits, there’s something entirely charming about the device.
First of all, it’s far easier to set up, merely requiring the easily usable Playstation Camera rather than various ‘lighthouses’ needed for the Vive. Once the initial processor unit is set up, it’s purely plug in and play. Very simple.
The PSVR is also the most comfortable headset, needing few adjustments to sit well upon your head. Comfort may not be a technical specification but is hugely important when it comes to VR; players will be wearing these devices for hours on end, the last thing anyone wants is to constantly be taking the headset off to adjust, something the PSVR requires little of.
That’s not to say the headset will fit perfectly. Players will need to mess around with tightness for a while, but - thanks to the extending plastic bar - this is relatively easy, especially when compared to the annoying velcro straps of the Oculus and Vive.
There’s also the sweat-inducing sponge used on the other headsets to shield eyes from the outside world not present on the PSVR; instead, rubbery plastic is used. Unfortunately, the PSVR is by far the least effective at blocking light. When looking directly down you’ll likely be able to see the floor, which - at times - can make for a less immersive experience. These moments are infrequent and barely noticeable the majority of the time but can be slightly annoying. A note for people who wear glasses; the PSVR is by far the most accommodating headset.
When the headset is set up, there’s little in the way of introduction. Once calibrated, the PlayStation 4’s menu floats in front, awaiting you start a VR game. The included demo features brief playthroughs of many launch games, including segments of PlayStation VR Worlds, RIGS, and Battlezone, which will keep you engaged for some time but offers only tasters.
Overall, these PSVR games look great. While some are cartoonish on purpose, the likes of VR Worlds looks fantastically real, particularly the London Heist game (not included) and the Shark Dive (included). RIGS is another example of the PSVR’s capabilities, but also marks the only game to give me motion sickness during first playthrough. Perhaps I had spent too long playing PSVR that day (as it hasn’t happened since) but that particular day it hit quite hard. No other game has led to me feeling that way, but for those who are regular sufferers of motion sickness, the PSVR - and all VR headsets - will take some getting used to.
Other issues include the camera sometimes failing to recognise the headset, leading to jittery playing at times. Luckily, PSVR has a simple re-calibration system; hold down start on the PlayStation controller and everything is recentered. If you’re out of the camera’s view, it will encourage you to enter once more.
While discussing the controller, it should be noted that many games utilise the PS4's controller’s motion sensors, something that works relatively inefficiently, especially when compared to the Move Controllers which should really be included with the device. While the Move controllers are not a necessity, when playing games such as Batman Arkham VR they make for a significantly more immersive experience.
When it comes to leeway in moving around, the camera effectively picks up movement, but the distance is limited, especially when compared to the Vive which uses the entire room. Still, it’s a noble effort and significantly cheaper.
Price is the major factor with VR. You get what you pay for; the Vive is a superior device but costs a whole lot more. Meanwhile, the Oculus is fractionally better than the PSVR but doesn’t have the catalogue of games already available on Sony's device, one of it's major selling points. For an introductory level VR headset, the PSVR is a fantastic device and an even better introduction to the world of Virtual Reality.
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