The hype surrounding VR has definitely hit its boiling point. With the launches of the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, along with the myriad of mobile VR solutions including Google Cardboard and the Gear VR, there have been a ton of VR options with each having varying levels of success. Now, the first console solution in the PlayStation VR has hit. Is the relatively lower cost solution a success or is it doomed to failure?
While PSVR is heavier than the HTC Vive, the first thing that you’ll likely notice is that the headset is relatively comfortable. This is in large part thanks to the weight distribution and design of the headset. Rather than using straps to hold the headset to your face, the PSVR uses a single adjustable headband and a cradle to hold onto your head. There are enough adjustable pieces to the headset to allow you to make any number of adjustments to create a comfortable headset.
The monitor itself never feels like it’s weighing itself down on your head, meaning you can play for hours with minimal neck cramping. In short, it’s probably the most comfortable headset around, a massively important piece of the equation that many headsets simply forget about. The one complaint about the headset is that the cradle has a tendency to get a bit uncomfortable. There’s no nice way to say it: if you sweat a lot, this thing will build up moisture like nobodies business. This becomes irritating when, if you’re warm, you’ll have to wipe the lenses often just to be able to see.
When you finally get into the headset, you’ll find that the camera is decent, but it’s not as smooth as some of the competition. The result of rendering your screen twice is that, often times you’ll have a lot of jagged edges on some select games. VR aficionados may notice this decrease more than newer VR users. Yes, it can be somewhat distracting especially when there are plenty of VR experiences on the PC that don’t lose visual fidelity. However, the PSVR never really looks all that bad, especially when you realize that this is all being done on a console with much more limitations than on the PC.
Honestly, it’s a miracle that the PSVR works as well as it does, as it almost never has noticeable frame rate drops. This is massively important, especially when you realize that even high-end PC’s often drop their frame rate on some more demanding games. While the games currently on the PSVR are not incredibly taxing, they are not slouches either, with Arkham VR being a fairly faithful VR recreation of the Arkham world.
The one large issue with the PSVR, however, is the use of the Move controllers. The Move motion controller was, when it launched, the most impressive of the motion controllers on the market. It offered far more fidelity than the Wii-mote but it had a limited amount of games on offer. However, years after the Move launched, Sony insisted on using it for the PSVR and that years-old technology has seriously showed its age. The use of the motion controllers is shoddy at times, but worse is that Sony has recently raised the price of these controllers to an appalling $99 for two Move controllers. Remember, this technology is years old and before the PSVR was announced to use these controllers, you could get these for an incredibly low price. The controllers simply shouldn’t cost nearly as much as they do, especially with there being some major issues present for some users.
A major thing to understand about the PSVR is that your experience will vary greatly from person to person. Some users have had near perfect controls and minimal motion sickness. Others have experienced severe problems with the Move controller simply shaking and not being responsive. As with all VR, you some users will experience motion sickness, so you should definitely check out a demo of the PSVR at a local store, if at all possible. Personally, my PSVR experience has had minimal issues with the Move and with motion sickness, however each user seems to have wildly different experiences so waiting on firmware to correct issues may be a good bet if you are on the fence.
The launch line-up is also notable, as there are some seriously impressive titles on offer at launch. Until Dawn: Rush of Blood is a fun, light-gun spin-off of Until Dawn that makes good use of the Playstation Move controllers. Arkham VR acts as a fantastic proof of concept, having you use the detective powers of Batman in a fun, but insanely short experience. Headmaster is a fun headset only game and RIGS and EVE: Valkyrie offer good multiplayer experiences. Rez Infinite and Thumper are incredible arcade experiences in VR, as well.
Other titles leave a lot to be desired. Here They Lie is one of the few games where I’ve experienced severe motion sickness to the point where I could not play it for more than a few minutes. PlayStation VR Worlds offers a lot of tech demos, but they are far less interesting than Arkham VR and cost far more. Loading Human Chapter One is a mess at the best of times and some of the games that offer additional VR modes don’t make the game any more interesting.
The PlayStation VR does offer a free demo disc (though PlayStation VR Worlds should be included for free as well) and that will give you the opportunity to check out most of the launch line-up. There are some great titles available at launch and many feel like they are far more than just good tech demos. The PSVR feels like a system launch, while the Vive and Rift both felt like they were entering uncharted waters. If you buy a PSVR, there will at least be a good launch line-up of games.
The PlayStation VR offers a seriously solid VR experience, however, there is one big thing for new VR adopters to think about. If you buy a PlayStation VR, you won’t know exactly what you are getting yourself into. While the PlayStation VR requires far less of a monetary investment than the Rift or the Vive, if you don’t know what you are getting yourself into, you may spend $400-$500 on a product you have no interest in. The best entry level VR is still on mobile platforms with Cardboard and the Gear VR and new users should likely look into these solutions, make sure you don’t get motion sick and make sure you want to invest that much money.
For users who want to have a larger VR experience, however, the PlayStation VR is the most affordable and reliable option. The closed ecosystem of consoles often doesn’t get cheered but in the PSVR it ensures that the hardware works consistently. That said, some users have had issues with the hardware, so your milage may vary. The launch line-up is impressive and hopefully the system will continue to be supported. There is a ton of potential for the PSVR and as long as Sony continues to support it, it may be the most successful of the full VR headsets on the market.