After teasing its virtual reality headset for a bit of time now, Sony revved things up Monday night and stole the thunder away from Microsoft by formally announcing a specific launch date for the Playstation VR. Needless to say, there was a surge of excitement during the actual announcement at Sony’s press conference for E3 2016, but the electricity generated by the buzz resonated well into the night. And that’s where we got our first opportunity to experience Playstation VR in its full glory.
Before we get into the nitty gritty about the experience and performance, it’s worth mentioning that the ‘core’ bundle will sell for a manageable $399 sans the Playstation 4 console – while the $499 package will come included with the camera and Move controllers; both necessary in bringing the VR experience to the console. Now, the technology behind it is very similar to the Oculus Rift’s implementation, where the IR camera blasts a grid to measure movement and spatial distance. Not all games will require the Move controllers, as the demos that we saw mainly relied on the usual Dualshock 4 controller.
The headset itself feels comfortable for the most part, feeling lightweight over the HTC Vive and somewhat on par to the Oculus Rift headset. Its overall aesthetics appears far cleaner looking and complete, whereas the aforementioned ones tend to seem like beta designs. On top of that, the glowing lights produced by the headset add another layer of futuristic, sci-fi appeal that puts the other rival headsets to shame.
See also – Playstation VR vs HTC Vive vs Oculus Rift
Looking through the headset’s 1080p displays, elements appear pretty sharp and sufficiently detailed; we didn’t even notice any jaggedness. Similar to the HTC Vive, the Playstation VR relies on a separate source for audio – so it requires a pair of headphones to be connected to it. We prefer the integrated ones found in the Oculus Rift, since it means having less wires to mess around with. Besides that, there’s very little to complain about the design.
As for the VR experience, we played the Rez Infinite demo, a rail shooter music game that has us taking control of our character moving within this predetermined path. That means we’re able to look around the space, but unlike some of the other demos, it doesn’t really react to spatial movement – so it means that nothing happens when we try to lean forward or backward. Instead, it tracks just the head movement of the headset, allowing us to see what’s around our space.
Usually, games that have a lot of movement tend to make people queasy relatively quickly, but the swift refresh rate of the headset seems to mitigate it – and that’s a good thing with a game like this. Visually, the game doesn’t really push the limits for the Playstation 4, which enables the game to retain a pretty fast, smooth frame rate. Quite frankly, Rez Infinite isn’t the kind of title that shows off the true potential of the Playstation VR. However, there were other demos on hand, such as The London Heist, which tracks spatial movement to react to leaning in/back while in the game.
Our particular demo relied on just the Dualshock 4 to control our character in the game, by blasting away enemies that appear in front, behind, and on our sides. At one point while chasing an enemy, our view was constantly switching because the enemy was running along the sides, upside down, and even beneath us. Even with all the eye shifting movement, we never felt ill or queasy from the fast-paced action.
Conclusion so far
In looking at the currently available desktop caliber VR headsets, the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, the Playstation VR has arguably the best chance at achieving mass success, since there’s an established Playstation 4 user base right now – whereas its competitors are limited to certain spec’d PC rigs. Of course, you’ll need to pick up the camera and Move controllers as well to fully immerse yourself in its VR experience.
More pressing, however, is that the Playstation VR is already being backed by a solid library of VR games in time for launch. That’s crucial! Just because its main rivals, despite being released way before, are still barren when it comes to quality gaming content. There’s a sprinkling here and there when it comes to top-tiered stuff, but you can sleep knowing that games you care about are on tap with the Playstation VR.
From what we gather so far from these demos, most of the VR experiences are still confined to a small space – within sitting range for the most part. While it doesn’t have the depth and room scaling that’s available with the HTC Vive, the Playstation VR is squarely hitting the mark to where it matters most right now. And that, folks, is the hardcore gamer.