Being the first to commercially try to push VR gaming to a wider market than just “hardcore” gamers, especially with their pricing, Sony has released the Playstation VR headset. In combination with the PS4 Camera that was released alongside the console in 2013, PS Move controllers (yes, the same that were released for PS3) are needed for many of the games that either require or work with VR. The light bars that Sony loved so much that they put one onto a normal controller are also on the PS VR headset, namely for position tracking (just like with the Dualshock 4 or the PS Move). At the price of $399, you’ll get the VR headset, cables and processing unit only, and the PS4 Camera can at worst set you back another $100, whereas the two Playstation Move controllers definitely will. Those who bought them before the PS VR was announced are in luck, as they won’t have to dish out another $150 – $200 on top of the normal price.
Playing the PS VR is mostly similar to playing on another VR headset, or until the Oculus Rift releases their motion controllers, the PS VR is more comparable to the HTC Vive. Before swinging around like a lunatic, but after everything is connected, you switch on the console, you switch on the headset that is connected to the processing unit that looks like a mini-PS4, and you stretch apart the headset before squeezing your head into it.
Then you put on any kind of wired headphones, or earbuds, for fear of looking even more stupid than with only the headset on. The processing unit splits the 1920 x 1080 resolution into two different 960 x 1080 displays, and any output on a monitor has the same 960 x 1080 resolution, however only displayed once. The screen inside the PS VR headset shows on each half a slightly shifted view of the normal display, which, in combination with the lenses inside the headset, invokes the feeling of actually seeing everything up close. All three main VR headsets use OLED panels, however both the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive use two smaller ones, and the PS VR uses only one larger panel. The PS VR is also, according to Sony, the only VR headset to use a full-color OLED RGB panel, meaning that each pixel is comprised of three sub-pixels (one red, one green and one blue), leading to the picture being more crisp.
In-game movement other than staying within a small radius and flinging the PS Move controllers around doesn’t really exist, except in games that require the Dualshock 4 controller instead of the PS Move controllers, as well as in games that movement implemented into the gameplay by way of pointing, looking, clicking, or rollercoaster. Any movement that places the controllers out of the view of the cameras is considered null and void, and usually you’ll see the hand or gun or whatever the controller stands for in this particular game shortly bug around before disappearing. Despite this small bug, using the PS Move controllers is usually a pleasant, more immersive experience. Apparently Sony denied any games for the console that didn’t natively run at 60FPS, which are upscaled to 90FPS or 120FPS depending on the game, while there are games in development that are supposedly going to run at native 90FPS. Sony has expressed hope for developers to create their games running at native 120FPS as they get more experienced in PS VR development.
The PS VR itself comes with a disc with, if you live in the EU, UK or Oceania (PAL regions), a small list of demos, or if you live in the US, a rather comprehensive list of demos. Wayward Sky, one of the demos on both discs, is not available in the EU Playstation stores for some odd reason. In addition to having less demos, the PAL demo disc only comes in a cardboard sleeve, while the US version comes in a normal plastic PS4 game box. Most of the demos on the US disk can be downloaded in PAL regions via the PS store, but for people with bad internet connections, it’s going to take a while before they can play anything.
Batman: Arkham VR
A new Batman experience by Rocksteady, the developers of the Batman: Arkham series that definitely delivers. At about an hour of play time in the main story and at least one and a half hours playing through it again to get all the Riddler cubes and puzzles it’s quite short, and some might think that it’s not necessarily worth the purchase, but for fans of the Arkham series, it is most definitely a must. From playing around in the Batcave to investigating a crime scene, this game is a fun conclusion to the saga that will have you asking yourself what is real and what isn’t. And as an added bonus: If you didn’t already hate the Riddler and his puzzles, you will after his Batarang challenge in Arkham VR.
Until Dawn: Rush of Blood
When Supermassive Games announced that their “sequel” to Until Dawn wouldn’t have the same gameplay, but instead by a rail shooter, there was a lot of skepticism. Many people wondered why they would stray so far from what was great about the first game. Being one of those skeptics, I took any praise I’d heard about this VR game with a grain of salt. Playing Rush of Blood, however, proved to be a great idea, as the game was not only scary, although I’m not a good judge of that, as a lot of things scare me, and the gameplay was fun. The introduction and small interventions by the mysterious stranger from the previous game are always interesting to watch and the railway takes you on a trip through the world of Until Dawn.
If someone would come up to me and tell me that I would buy a VR headset, and then on the demo, I would find a game about stacking blocks and have a load of fun with it, I’d think they were crazy. Well, it happened. In fact, Tumble VR has no right to be as fun as it is, with just the right amount of challenge to keep you going, but just enough to make you think about how exactly you can get the gold rank in each level. Using the PS Move controllers, different types of blocks are stacked on top of each other carefully in an attempt to build as high a tower as possible without it falling down. And yes, the motion tracking system with the PS4 camera and PS Move does detect certain movements as throwing, so don’t go around smashing things everywhere. Of course, that can be fun, too. Another one of the fun game-modes Tumble VR has to offer involves placing bombs onto a pre-built tower and then blowing them all up at the same time to get the pieces to fly as far as possible.
Hustle Kings VR
If Batman: Arkham VR has almost everything you’d want in a VR game, then Hustle Kings VR has almost everything you don’t want. Using the four small buttons around the big Move button on the PS Move controller’s front face instead of the main one is one of its smaller problems. Instead of letting you use both PS Move controllers to place and angle the cue, it lets only one of them be used and makes you awkwardly press a button, change the vertical angle, press another button to change a different angle, all while not tracking the position of the move controller, but only tracking the direction its pointing in. It’s not hard for the cue to be somewhere completely different than where you want it to be. A combination of all of these factors and buggy gameplay makes the game something you’ll want to avoid at all costs until they manage to patch it eventually
Playstation VR is certainly a lot of fun, and has a lot of potential that isn’t used to its fullest in the games that are out now. I can only hope that it doesn’t follow the ill-fated way of the PS Vita, but instead is supported by Sony until the very end and helps push the future of VR forward. It may not be the best VR headset out of the big three, but, being the cheapest out of them, you definitely get the most bang for your buck. I definitely recommend trying any VR headset out if possible before buying any to know if VR is right for you, because some people are much more sensitive to motion sickness than others.
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