Virtual Reality has been the talk of the town for a few years now. We’ve seen the Oculus Rift and Facebook bring it to high-end PC users. Then, the HTC Vive arrived and carved its own piece of the market. This time, it’s Sony hitting the scene with their PlayStation VR, a headset that makes virtual reality more available and affordable to the consumer. It’s a good idea and it’s definitely the cheapest option to get into the market. The biggest advantage Sony has right now is that is the only headset for console gamers right now.
We’ve spent a week with the PlayStation VR. The short verdict? It’s a technology that I am head over heels for and want more, now. The long verdict? Yes, it’s excellent. The PlayStation VR unit launches in North America on October 13 and will retail for $549CAD or, if you need the move controllers and camera, $699CAD.
PlayStation Canada sent us over a loaner for the week (we’re devastated it had to go back!) and gave us enough content to explore that we could give a clear grade too as well as explore some launch titles for the PSVR.
Unboxing the PSVR is an experience in itself as you open it up for the first time. It’s a beautiful package and it’s sorted well. The first thing you need to know is that this peripheral needs room to be played. I mean it, otherwise, you’re wasting the potential of the games you’ll play. The second thing is, well, there’s a ton of cables to unpack and get untied. You’ll be unpacking several cables to set up your unit. It’s worth it though.
Now, to set up the unit is relatively easy. What I thought a daunting task at first ended up taking me no more than ten minutes to be plugged in, set up and installing the update on my PlayStation 4 for the VR. To turn on the unit there is a fob on the included headset to turn the unit on and volume controls
The PlayStation VR uses a processor unit to split the image and allows the VR to provide images to each eye. What is the processor unit? The Processor Unit is a small box that comes with your PS VR, and connects your PS VR to your PS4 and TV and provides HDMI cable management, enabling Social Screen TV output, 3D audio processing, and Cinematic mode.
We sat down with the PlayStation VR for what wasn’t long enough. The build of the headset is sturdy and a beauty. PS VR uses a single 5.7” 1920 x 1080 resolution full-color OLED RGB display, also known as “1920 x RGB x 1080.” Unlike other VR displays, the PS VR display uses full Red, Green and Blue sub-pixels to produce a full-colour pixel. There are 1920 Red, Green and Blue sub-pixels for each of the 1080 lines of pixels, so this is referred to like 1920 x RGB x 1080. This enables PS VR to further immerse the player and deliver a strong sense of presence.
Inside the box, you’ll receive the PlayStation VR headset, the processor unit, headphones, cables, and a cleaning cloth to keep those lenses clean. There’s also a demo disc included that showcases some launch titles and capability of the technology.
To get the most of the technology though, you require two PlayStation 3-era Moves, which back in the day were Sony’s take on Wiimote. The controllers have been repurposed here and now allow for the PlayStation 4 camera, which you’ll also need, to track your movements during gameplay. I’m glad to see these devices get usage.
The headset itself is aptly made and comfortable for extended usage. I was even prompted to try playing with my glasses on, and it felt good, too. The design itself lends itself to science fiction. It looks like something out of the future with its blue lights which work in tandem with the Move controllers and PS Camera. It’s light and feels durable and feels like the same material the PlayStation 4 controllers use.
The headset is also prone to sweat and you’ll see it quite often. Doubly so if you’re sharing playtime between friends, make sure to keep the unit dry when it gets sweaty.
The Move controllers make their return for VR and while for the most part were not troublesome to use, I found myself watching as my on-screen controller drifts around the screen as I sat there not moving. It also produced shuddering where it looks like you can’t stop shaking in-game. It isn’t anything that prevents the system from doing what it’s meant to do though.
I had some issues with tracking my movements in a few games. The most noticeable for myself was split between Batman: Arkham VR, Battlezone, and, Job Simulator. The PlayStation camera had issues following me at times and would misread my position in a game often causing me to be inside objects in a game. In Job Simulator for example; often I would run into issues where my height position was off and it would make it impossible for me to grab items in a game. The issue cleared up after quitting and restarting but happened often enough that it became frustrating.
As of this writing, I’ve worked through a sizeable chunk of the release schedule that will be available at launch on October 13. The library for the PlayStation VR is commendable and features a variety of developers supporting Sony in virtual reality. As it is only the start of the launch cycle, I am excited to see what utilizes the technology best on a console.
With around 30 titles to be available at launch or shortly after and more coming by year’s end, there is plenty to decide on and enjoy. VR on PlayStation is in its infancy still and needs time to reach the potential it has to provide bigger titles in VR.
What Sony has done with virtual reality is put it in front of 40 million people. To buy either the Rift or the Vive will be almost double the price and in addition to that, you need a PC that needs to meet the requirements of each headset. By having so many PlayStation 4 units sold to date, Sony has created a market that caters to its users by providing a cheaper option to experience virtual reality. While it’s not the most expensive unit on the market, it certainly provides a new experience for console gamers. I haven’t felt this excited in years and can’t wait to see what the future can bring us with virtual reality. Sony doesn’t just give us a new way to enjoy video games but rather creates a new platform to experience new things.