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