With the PlayStation VR Sony has entered the ring of virtual reality, something we’ve only had access to in PC gaming with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, but with this new system from Sony we get a slightly more affordable unit, and if not as sharp and immersive as its PC rivals it’s damn close. So if you don’t want to spend a fortune updating your computer to handle the gaming requirements needed for either the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive the PlayStation VR is by far the cheapest option for good quality VR with motion control.
When one unpacks the PlayStation VR system you have to be ready for a bit of a set-up time; the system hooks up with no less than six cables, one of which takes up one of the two usb ports in the front of your PlayStation, which is a bit annoying but I’ll get into that later, and then you have your camera to place either above or below your television set, and the whole thing should take about a half hour tops to get up and running. Tidying up and cable management is another story; if you don’t want entertainment unit to look like a rats nest it may take longer. The PlayStation VR headset screen has a 1920×1080 image, which is split down the middle to display a different point of view for each eye, making reading text quite easy. This may not be as sharp as either Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive but while in game play I found the PlayStation VR picture more than adequate. What PlayStation VR offers that neither Rift nor Vive can is the ability to render games at 120Hz as well as 90Hz which allows for a much smoother virtual reality gaming experience.
One of the nicest things about the PlayStation VR is the comfort factor; though heavier than its brethren the weight is balanced perfectly across your head so you don’t feel as if the headset is crushing against your face, and the only negative thing I can come up with about wearing this headset is that after a couple of hours of intense gameplay things get a bit sweaty. Now this could affect those gamers who tend play for six to eight stretches, but I doubt many people will try to pull off that amount of time in VR. I myself took several breaks during the day and thus suffered no eyestrain, headaches or derealization (the latter being the effect of the real world seeming unreal after long periods of being in VR), and thus a sweaty forehead was my only unfortunate side effect of my days of gaming.
As for the gaming experience itself I was completely blown away; the headset fits quite snugly to your face to prevent most light leaking in and what little light that does get in from below can be minimized by gaming in a darkened room, but if the game is good enough, such as Batman: Arkham or Until Dawn: Rush of Blood was, you will probably even forget you are wearing a headset after a while. What you don’t want to forget is your actual surroundings; most of the games that were released at launch have you in a seated position, so the dangers of you punching a wall is limited (I did bash my knuckles against my end table once), but there are games where you do stand up and move around, thus it is very important that you have a clear playing area. With the headset on you are “virtually” blind to the real world so make sure there is no danger of pets or small children wandering in while you are playing.
I have a rather small gaming area, had to actually move my couch to the side to get back far enough to play Batman: Arkham, but with the ease of camera adjustment, and a little furniture rearranging, I was up and gaming with little to no problem. What is needed to play is a PlayStation Camera, the PlayStation VR system, and the PlayStation game controller, and though many of the games say that the PlayStation Move motion controllers are optional if you want a truly good gaming experience they are not.
Note: The PlayStation VR Launch Bundle includes the camera (which is required) and two Move motion controllers, and I’m actually looking forward to picking up the gun that is to be released next year, but speaking of accessories as I mentioned earlier one of the USB front ports is taken up by the processing unit which means you only have one port remaining to charge, and thus having a dedicated charging station becomes a must.
I’ve only tried a handful of games but so far my reactions range from “Wow, that was really cool,” to “Oh my god, that was the most amazing thing ever!” I actually got to be Batman, and for me there isn’t much greater joy than that. The biggest thing I took away from the VR experience is the sense of scale; when a London gangster is threatening you with a blowtorch in VR Worlds “The Heist” you are sitting there with this thug literally looming over you, and riding down the elevator into the massive expanse of the Batcave was mind-blowing (it even had the Giant Penny and the Dinosaur statue), and when a ghost pops up in your face you will scream in fright; during my playtime with Until Dawn: Rush of Blood I screamed so much my family upstairs wondered what the hell I was up to.
So whether you want to solve a murder as Batman, battle one another in robot mech-suits, explore outer space in a variety of ships, or simply plunge into the depths of ocean to face killer sharks, the PlayStation VR will give you a gaming experience like no other. Now virtual reality gaming will never replace traditional gaming but what it does offer is an immersive experience that brings you not just closer to the action but in amongst it, and with a slew of great looking games in the wings I for one am excited with the direction console gaming is going.
Is virtual reality gaming the future? Well maybe not quit yet, but though it’s not quite the holodeck experience we see on Star Trek it is bringing gaming in that direction, and though not inexpensive (over $500 Canadian just for the headset) the Sony PlayStation VR is currently the cheapest option, and in my opinion well worth the price.