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PlayStation VR preview

PlayStation VR release date: October 13, 2016

PlayStation VR price: £349 / $399

When it comes to PlayStation VR, folk fall into one of two camps. There are those who are super-excited by the prospect of “affordable” virtual reality that’s playable on a console, while others look down their nose at its inferior specs when compared to the PC-based alternatives. I’m very much in the former, and having played PSVR on numerous occasions, not only do I feel that my enthusiasm is justified, but I’ve actually found myself more drawn towards console-driven VR than Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. I believe Sony is onto a winner here and has the potential to become the dominant market force.

I’ve already discussed my excitement for PlayStation VR, especially when compared to the Rift and Vive, in another article, so let’s instead focus here on Sony’s headset itself.

I say it’s “affordable” because when compared to its VR rivals, it is indeed the cheapest; in real terms, however, it’s still an expensive piece of kit. The headset itself costs as much as a console at £350 – and if, like most people, you traded in your Move controllers and PlayStation Camera as soon as you realised Sports Champions was a bit pants, you’ll have to shell out another £100-plus for the full experience.

Related: PS Neo latest news and rumours

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But for those who can afford the expense, you’re in for an absolute treat.

PlayStation VR – Design and Comfort

As a piece of tech, the PlayStation VR is a beauty. Looking like it’s come straight out of the Tron movie, the headset looks space-age and futuristic. With blue lighting decorating the edging, and a nice matte black/white finish, it’s a headset in which you’ll still feel goofy waving your hands about, but maybe slightly less so compared to wearing the Rift and Vive.

However, the PSVR lacks a built-in pair of headphones, meaning you’ll have to plug in your own, unless you’re willing to have your VR experiences in total silence.

The one big difference between the PSVR and its PC rivals is how it fits onto your head. While the Vive and Rift attach around your head using Velcro straps, Sony’s headset sits atop your head, with soft padding seeing it rest on your forehead and level on the back of your head.

Pressing a button at the back of the headset enables you to increase the circumference, with the headset automatically scaling to your head size. Rather than clicking into place the headset will form around your bonce, and it’s an incredibly comfortable fit. It never feels too tight or loose, and looking around whichever virtual world I’m in, I’ve never once felt like the headset is slipping off – even when I’m in an utterly sweaty state from whichever real-world hotbox I’m in at the time.

Related: PlayStation Neo vs PS4

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A second button beneath the actual display allows you to adjust the view of the screen; you tilt the front until the picture becomes clear. The one downside of this fit is that, with some games, in order to avoid blurry images or double-vision, I’ve had to place the monitor at a distance where I can see the outside world, which can be distracting and break the immersion.

To counter this, there are two rubber flaps that sit on either side of your nose, which can help cut out some of the light. But again, if the fit isn’t snug then it can be all too easy to look down and become distracted by your feet.

Once you start playing a game, however, any minor distractions will fall by the wayside, and you’ll be completely sucked into the great experiences on offer.

PlayStation VR – Display

Much like the Rift and Vive, before a game actually begins you’ll notice the “screen door” effect that comes with VR gaming, although it’s more pronounced in PSVR due to the inferior screen quality. When you’re not focusing on any particular action or item in a game, you’ll be paying particular attention to the general blurriness of text. Or, when looking at a character’s face, you’ll be alerted to the soft haze that covers their face, failing to focus on particular details thanks to this pronounced issue. It isn’t a deal-breaker, but it does bring to light the differences in display quality between console and PC virtual reality.

However, once you’re actually in a game, such issues fade away, and gameplay becomes king. I’ve played Batman Arkham VR, PlayStation VR Worlds, Robinson: The Journey, Farpoint, DriveClub VR, Rez Infinite and Resident Evil 7 in PlayStation VR and each has run like a dream. Many doubted the PS4’s ability to produce quality virtual-reality experiences, but not only does it deliver, I’ve actually found the experiences far more comfortable than on the Rift.

PlayStation VR – Games and Software

Refresh rates have proved incredibly smooth, meaning motion sickness has hardly been an issue. The only time it was a problem was in Resident Evil 7, where the right analogue stick controlled head movement along with actually turning your head. On the whole, however, the comfort of playing these games has meant that I’ve never once felt the need to stop playing.

Related: Best VR Games

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No frame-rate dips have been apparent in any game that I’ve played, which is incredibly encouraging. Of course, with these being vertical slices of the full experience, we need to wait until we get to play the finished product for a definitive verdict. Nevertheless, the initial signs are great, and with PS4 Neo on the horizon, things could get even better – and perhaps produce better-looking VR experiences too.

The majority of games work with the DualShock controller, and work very well. However, the true standouts are the titles that take advantage of the Move wands. Being able, with no latency, to throw batarangs as the Caped Crusader – or fire an Uzi out of the front of a van while a cockney gangster screams obscenities – is a thing of beauty. One surprise of the bunch is the PlayStation VR Aim controller, a bespoke device that works primarily with Farpoint right now, but could be a game changer for first-person shooters. Having a peripheral with which you can actually aim down sights, even having to close one eye to improve your shot, is excellent.

PlayStation VR – First Impressions

While PlayStation VR may not be considered the “premier” virtual-reality experience on the market, I personally consider it to be by far the most comfortable and most enjoyable. Every demo I’ve tried has been a joy to play, offering zero latency, smooth frame rates and very enjoyable experiences.

With a stronger line-up of software, a cheaper price point and incredible potential, Sony’s venture into virtual reality has me super-excited for what October and beyond will bring.

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Max Smith

March 15, 2016, 3:44 pm

Regarding the poll, Hololens is not aVR headset. It's an AR.

LarZen

March 15, 2016, 4:36 pm

Beside the PSVR. The next one I'm interested in is the SulonQ and mobile VR. Everything else is high-end and enthusiast VR. And irrelevant for the masses.And me. And therefor most likely irrelevant for the further path of VR. Just as a high-end PC is for games as consoles still hold it back and dictate how developers can go ahead with development. Sure it will look better on a high-end PC. But the cost makes it irrelevant in the big picture.

Jason Mounce

March 15, 2016, 6:52 pm

I'm curious about Vive more than I am about PSVR. I have zero interest in Oculus, their original 'image' of catering to the gamers seemed to have mostly died. Back in 2012(?) 2013, there were many youtubers playing with Oculus and the hype was real. However, that was when everyone knew and were told by the team that the price was going to stay at $250-$299. They said it'd be that cheap and consumer-friendly. Now? Nope.

So, if I'm going to hop on the gravy train of VR, I'd want the one with the best tech, and Vive so far is that one, and the most expensive, and since Valves' behind it - I'd wanna see what they make for it themselves. Especially if it's a big AAA game that has Vive as a huge focus.

andyvan

March 15, 2016, 8:45 pm

Yeah, you're right of course, but it's 'in the mix' as it were as part of the whole VR vs AR deal.

Jeremiah

March 16, 2016, 2:51 am

No doubt the Vive will be offering the closest thing to the Holodeck yet, so I'm obviously most looking forward to that.

RetroPlayers

March 16, 2016, 5:14 pm

With its October launch date announced, the pricing seems to be cheaper than the competitor units and requires less hardware to power it, so providing some good games are launched I think this will get my backing.

Tom Green

March 17, 2016, 1:11 pm

Does anyone know how prominent the screen door effect is? I'd heard that whilst the resolution was lower than the competitors, the screen door was actually less pronounced.

HaCkEr_Fc

March 17, 2016, 7:51 pm

Can't wait for Oculus Rift

Willie Rose

March 18, 2016, 11:23 pm

Thats because it has an oled screen, instead of a led... better blacks and image, I would go with the lower res oled then higher res led any day. if you look at a 4k 55" and the 1080p oled, its night and day difference on how much better the oled it.

Tom Green

March 19, 2016, 1:24 pm

Beware wall of text:

No it's not that, Samsung make the screens for the gear vr (obviously) as well as for the oculus and they're both OLED screens. The screen technology has nothing to do with screen door effect, that just influences image quality (deeper blacks, colour reproduction as you mentioned). I've been doing a bit of research and the reason the playstation vr looks so good is the way the pixels themselves are arranged. Samsung panels tend to use pentile arrangements, which will never look as good as true RGB per pixel when viewed up close. As an aside: LED screens are still LCD, the LED just references the method of back lighting to try and improve contrast and black levels.

kanadaj

June 7, 2016, 10:23 am

Except it isn't. AR has a completely different use and target market. Whereas VR targets mostly gamers (and generally the entertainment industry), AR's target is mostly business related. There is no "VR vs AR", it's a different market segment.

브렌다

June 30, 2016, 9:09 am

When you're playing ps vr will it still show up on the tv screen so others can see what we're playing??

Moonshine

July 5, 2016, 7:30 pm

After using my friend's Vive at his house, it's definitely the headset that gives you the most bang for your buck.

polysix

August 23, 2016, 11:41 am

lol. It's pentile vs RGB you clutz. Both are OLED.

polysix

August 23, 2016, 11:46 am

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polysix

August 23, 2016, 11:46 am

I had a Vive and Rift DK2. I sold the Vive because the blacks are poor, just like on Rift CV1. Also both suffer from awful immersion breaking god rays. outside of that the vive is the ultimate system at the moment, roomscale and proper FAST tracked controllers are amazing, but the HMD lets it down. Also it's heavy and fussy. Rift is a bit better but has its own flaws.

PSVR, while technically inferior in some specs, is actually BETTER in other ways. It uses standard lenses not fresnel (fresnel used in Rift CV1 and Vive) so you don't get god rays with PSVR (or DK2). ALso it has RGB screen vs Pentile (both oled) and if Sony haven't messed up they may have solid blacks (like the OLED on DK2) while on Rift/Vive they have made them dark grey to combat another (less vital) problem, bad move by HTC and Oculus imo.

So sony stands to have the most comfy, most 'easy' and fun HMD with the clearest display, even with lower res. However it will be severely outclassed come 2017, by Gen 2 pc HMDs that will leapfrog gen 1 massively, res, fov, eye tracking, foveated rendering. Also PSVR will really need NEO to get the best from it by next year (and even that'll still not compete eventually).

So for now PSVR is the wise choice if you are a gamer who doesn't have tons of cash. Because PC VR isn't quite ready yet (for the stupid prices it costs) so you may as well get PSVR now for a year or two then upgrade to Gen 2 (PS5/Xbox Scorpio or PC HMD in 2018!).

Tom Green

September 7, 2016, 9:40 am

Thanks that's exactly the answer I've been looking for!

Bibowski

September 20, 2016, 2:39 am

Yes it does.

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