Review Price to be confirmed
E3 2015 Preview - Brand new demos, same headset
Compatible with PS4
Project Morpheus release date: Q1 2016
Following our earlier experience with Project Morpheus, I stopped by to see the PS4 virtual reality headset at E3 2015 where Sony had a few new demos to show off.
Although we finally have a (loose) early 2016 release date for Project Morpheus, Sony didn’t have an updated version of the Project Morpheus. That’s probably because the near-final version of the headset was announced back at GDC 2015 in Februrary, but I was a little surprised there weren’t any slight cosmetic tweaks.
There were however, a selection of new Project Morpheus demos to try out behind closed doors at E3 this year - the first was another section of the London Heist from Sony’s London Studios, while the second was a horror-based tech demo called The Kitchen.
Building on the London Heist demo I saw back in March, Sony has a brand chapter in the story for Project Morpheus. This time as soon I’ve got the Morpheus strapped on my head and a pair of Move controllers in my hands, I find myself sitting in the passenger seat of a Ford Transit van with the bald-headed ruffian by my side once more.
Without having seen the episodes in between this and the previous London Heist experience, it’s hard to work out why this London geezer has gone from threatening to blow torch my face off, to being my partner in gun crime. Nevertheless, London Heist is definitely one of the first extended demos that we’ve seen, which builds the idea of character in virtual reality games.
In this chapter though, sitting in the van, I’m given a little time to look around. There’s a large bag filled with gun magazines, a few empty beer cans and even some gloves in the glove compartment. Pretty much everything is interactive, to the point you can fiddle with the radio tuning and turn up the volume, much to the annoyance of your new best bud.
What’s great is that he is completely reactive to your actions. When I opened the glove compartment he said “what did you expect? A gun?”, while opening the van door on the motorway was very much frowned upon. Attempting to shoot him in the face repeatedly later in the demo was also met with much disgust, with our mate asking me whether I’d been a “see you next Tuesday” my entire life.
At the start though, driving along with him drinking a beer, it’s all quite serene. Until the gunfire. Rapidly I’m thrown a gun and I’m hanging out the open door shooting at the motorbikes coming up from behind. That’s not before the ruffian has had the chance to take out the windscreen with his elbow, clearing the way for near 360-degree shooting.
As with the previous London Heist demo, the shootouts feel utterly realistic, with me having to reach for fresh ammo when I’m out from the bag next to me. Aiming feels very natural too, with me occasionally hitting the petrol tanks on the cars and bikes attempting to take us out causing a pretty impressive explosion.
If the London Heist doesn’t become a full title for Morpheus one day, I’ll be very surprised. And every time I play this demo I’m equally impressed by the realism and immersiveness of this gangster adventure.
Next came the Kitchen - the first horror game built specifically for the Project Morpheus. And I’d heard horror stories about this demo from fellow journalists that had played it before me. Some had screamed, others had cowered in fear. And now it was my turn.
Now I must admit that I’m not great with scary movies, usually reaching for the nearest cushion whenever I can feel the boo-scares coming. I know that I’ll have to resist closing my eyes to make the bad things go away with The Kitchen.
When I’m all kitted out with the Morpheus and a DualShock 4 controller, I find myself in a kitchen within what looks to be an abandoned warehouse. My hands are bound in front of me, as I grip the controller, which makes the restriction feel more natural. I also realised that I’m tied to a chair and can’t move.
I realise that there’s a man lying on the floor beside me, also with his hands bound. Suddenly he’s awake and grabs knife from the ground and comes at me with it. Thankfully, he’s not a bloodthirsty murderer, he just wants to try and help cut the ties around my wrists. I instinctively push the DualShock 4 forwards, enabling him to get a better angle on the ties.
But, that’s when she appears.
I won’t spoil the demo for you in case you ever get a chance to try it. It is safe to say though, that Sony has built the tension into the demo well, to the point I was teetering on the edge of my seat by the end - desperate to get the creepiness out of the way and get back to reality.
From the time I’ve spend with the Morpheus offers graphics and an experience that is on par with the other headsets. I still feel that Sony needs to overcome the issues with your head getting very hot while wearing the Project Morpheus - and that wasn’t just because I got panicky playing the Kitchen either. Due to the rubbery seal
Morpheus still impresses and with the games growing every month, we could see the PS4 headset giving the Steam VR HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift a good run for their money. VR can work on a console after all.
GDC 2015 Preview - Second generation Morpheus
Sony outed a brand new version of its Project Morpheus virtual reality headset at GDC 2015, with a revamped design, improved specs and a fresh set of demos to show off those improvements.
Sony already had to contend with Oculus Rift, with the latest Crescent Bay model pushing VR technology boundaries. But Morpheus now has to compete with the newly announced HTC Vive, powered by Valve’s SteamVR platform.
To be honest, with the Morpheus and the HTC Vive you’re looking at two headsets that offer a similar experience and which both have release dates, which is more than you can say for the Oculus Rift.
The improvements Sony’s made since 2014, when we looked at the first iteration of Project Morpheus, have made a world of difference to the PS4 virtual reality headset.
Now it feels like a contender.
The latest Morpheus model features a larger 5.7-inch OLED screen with a 1920 x 1080p resolution. Sony has also stretched the field of view to 100 degrees, which is closer to the human eye’s field of vision, meaning you get a more immersive experience.
Even when moving my head around at high speed, especially as bullets were flying past my ears during The London Heist demo, I really appreciated the fact that this new display has no motion blurring at all.
That’s helped by the fact that there are three new shiny blue LEDs on the latest Morpheus, taking the total count to nine – one additional tracker on the front and two on the sides for 360-degree head tracking.
I’ve always said it, but I still believe the Morpheus is the only headset that really looks like a viable consumer product. That’s even truer with the latest model, and the polished design extends to the comfortable fit.
It’s a lot lighter than the previous model, although we don’t have exact figures, and is a lot more comfy than the Vive or the Oculus Rift. The visor is quite large and I was assured that it accommodates large glasses frames.
The latest model is held onto your head using a single band with a quick-release button, making it a lot easier to fit and also escape from when the demo is over. There’s no pressure on your eyes or face, with the weight of the unit sitting at the back of your head where the band is and on the top of your forehead.
I still had issues with the screen fogging up when I first put on the headset, but this is an issue across all VR headsets that are being passed from person to person.
See also: PS4 vs PS3
Sony’s also added support for 3D Binaural audio and a new Social Screen feature. This allows any onlookers to see exactly what you’re doing in the demos, making it a more social experience overall. I had a great time watching my friend flailing around in the London Heist demo and getting (virtually) shot to pieces.
What’s great about the new Morpheus is that Sony has addressed the latency issues, meaning no matter how much you move around in the new headset you won’t get motion sickness. In fact, the latency had been reduced to less than 18ms, which is around half that of the original Morpheus.
Combine this low latency with an upped refresh rate of 120fps and it turned out Morpheus is starting to offer a visual experience that’s almost comparable to PS4 games on a TV.
Here’s what I experienced in the new London Heist demo from Sony’s own London Studio...
See also: PS4 vs Xbox One
I’m kitted out with a pair of PlayStation Move controllers, fitted with the Morpheus itself and have some headphones strapped on.
Immediately I’m told to sit down and I’m transported into a smoky room with a rather burly-looking gentleman sitting opposite me – well, I say gentleman, but he could pass as an extra from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
I start having a look around the room, before my compadre starts demanding my attention. Brandishing a blowtorch, my new least favourite person asks me where Serena is, and turns the blowtorch towards me. I instinctively recoil in my seat, and just as the flame comes towards my face, his mobile rings.
Sweet relief. But it’s actually for me. Suddenly, those Move controllers turn into my in-game hands and I’m able to stand up and grab the phone from his hand. The 3D audio comes into its own here. As I draw the phone close to my ear, the audio gets louder, then gets quieter if I move it away. It’s only a tiny thing, but it really enhances the feeling of immersion.
It’s a shame that London Studios hasn’t given my floating hands any kind of arms. Floating gloves really jar in a game, and I realise the technical difficulties of making the arms look realistic, but it’s one of the main things that holds back VR from being truly immersive, at least for me.
See also: Best PSN Games
Mid-phone call I’m transported to a room and plonked behind a desk with several drawers to explore. Using the triggers underneath the Move controllers I pick up a periscope-shaped torch on the desk and start pulling open drawers to see what’s lurking inside. The voice in my ear informs me there are guards patrolling all around me and prompts me to duck down behind the desk when they draw near.
I manage to avoid detection until I find a key in one of the cupboards of the desk, which unlocks a panel hiding a rather impressive diamond. But, of course, like any good action sequence, picking up that jewel triggers an alarm that sends all the guards running towards my location.
Time for the gun. This is one of the best moments in The London Heist demo – picking up the gun, slotting the magazine in the bottom like a proper gangster and taking out the oncoming guards.
I have an issue where I can’t make the gun fire with my right hand, but switching the gun to my left hand works perfectly. And it turns out I’m a lefty when it comes to firearms...
My friend had a few issues actually loading the magazine later on in the demo, despite successfully pulling it off the first couple of times. I assume that was down to some issues with tracking the Move controllers themselves.
I’ve tried plenty of VR demos in the past year or so, and the fast-paced interactive experience offered by The London Heist is definitely the most immersive yet. Even the seriously impressive Vive demos are a lot more passive than The London Heist.
It gave me a true impression of what a full VR game could be like and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if this is a slice of a larger game that may well come out when the Morpheus is released in the first half of 2016. That’s merely me speculating, but there’s definitely scope there.
The Move controllers and the Morpheus headset itself are both at the top of their game at the moment, offering a truly immersive experience that I can see really translating to a full VR gaming setup that I could play in my home.
However, what’s really holding the Morpheus back is the PlayStation Camera. Unlike you can with the Vive, you can’t really move around with Morpheus. You can stand up, crouch and dodge, but there’s no room for exploration. I wanted to get out from behind the desk, or at least get a better vantage point, but that’s impossible at the moment with the Morpheus.
Hopefully that might change a bit before launch, but at the moment that’s what’s giving Vive the edge.
See also: Best PS4 Games 2015
June 2014 Preview - First generation Morpheus
Project Morpheus is Sony and the PS4’s attempt to take the next leap in gaming innovation and ensure it doesn’t get left behind by the Facebook owned Oculus Rift.
The futuristic looking virtual reality headset encompasses almost your entire field of vision, while internal tracking technology means you can look all around you. VR offers a gaming experience like no other.