Virtual Reality has been a bit of a different niche for me. Without ever owning hardware to support Virtual Reality, until recently, I haven’t had the urge to purchase a device such as the Playstation VR. Of course, the Playstation VR just requires one thing – A Playstation 4 console. So at an attractive price with minor requirements, it does make Virtual Reality a more appealing option, especially when looking at the console front, but does it prove to be an innovation or just a wasteful gimmick?
When it was announced as the Project Morpheus, I was very excited about the final product, especially considered that Sony, of all companies, would like to price their answer to Virtual Reality competitively. Upon landing on my desk, the quality of the product, especially with it being at a better price point, shocked the hell out of me. The device itself is very easy and comfortable to put on, and it didn’t feel like it was going to break apart. In my use, I was rough with the device, testing to see if any screws or other parts decided to give. I’m pleased to say it’s passed my “kids roughness” test and should hold up pretty well, even surviving shortfalls. Great job on the build integrity Sony.
One of the biggest problems I have with Virtual Reality, in general, is the lack of quality titles for the platform. At this time, there was only one game I thoroughly enjoyed, and that was Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. The game requires teamwork and dense concentration to avoid being blown up by a bomb, but besides that, the novelty of being immersed in these game worlds seems to disappoint. Don’t get me wrong, though, upon first putting the headset on and booting up any Virtual Reality title; It was unbelievable, but it is a moment that is often short-lived as players begin to learn how un-special the result is.
Some of the games I experienced through my playtesting was RIGS: Mechanized Combat League, Batman Arkham VR, Driveclub VR, EVE Valkyrie, Harmonix Music, Hatsune Miku: VR Future Live, and Until Dawn: Rush of Blood. Most of the titles I did play, however, the games were unnecessarily short and limited for features. For example, in Batman Arkham VR, it was cool to look into a mirror and see me as the dark knight himself, but the rest of the demo was unsatisfying, providing only about an hour of entertainment before the experience ran dry. The games I did enjoy, like RIGS and Driveclub VR, were fun to play but faced the same issues as the other titles. Short and lacking depth. Not to mention, and your mileage may vary, both titles I just mentioned give players a severe case of motion sickness. We had multiple members from the team give these titles a try, and everyone but one person had the same gut-wrenching experience. Overall, the software lineup is short-lived and exhausting, with the exception granted to EVE Valkyrie, a title already available for the Oculus Rift on Windows PC.
This doesn’t align with this review well, but I need to make the statement that Sony needs to improve the Playstation Move controllers for the Virtual Reality experience. While they work, to a degree, there are still noticeable problems with them. Like the Playstation 3, unless you are playing in a darkened room, the controllers often face disconnecting issues. Hands in the game sometimes spaz out of control as the Playstation 4 Camera lost sight of the controllers. While the fix for this is just to turn your lights off, I wished Sony would have made some improvements for the motion controller solution that they provide. Perhaps controllers that didn’t use a light would resolve this problem, but using dated technology, as far back as 2010, I would have expected more, especially considering they are still impressively expensive.
One other issue, which could be easily remedied with a hardware revision, is the amount of cable management required to enjoy the damned thing. The cable that dangles from the Playstation VR headset itself is a bit thick, giving that hanging feel during gameplay, but isn’t TOO noticeable when you are immersed in the experience. Still, I have to wonder why there wasn’t a simpler solution to the amount of cabling required to make the thing operate. When everything is plugged in, it exhausts the Playstation 4’s USB ports, making it impossible to charge up your controllers while playing with the VR headset.
Overall, I’m not a fan. I find that there are too many improvements that need to be done to the Playstation VR for me to enjoy the experience fully. If Sony can improve the detection for the Playstation Move controllers without the need of dimming down the lights, improve the amount of cabling required to make the unit run, and perhaps release a model which is collapsible so it isn’t a permanent fixture in my living room, maybe I can jump on board. The Playstation VR headset is still very young in its life cycle, and more software would need to be provided to make this a memorable and enjoyable experience. Until then, though, I think there are too many sacrifices to make the purchase justifiable.
Playstation VR is available at major retailers for $399.99 USD ($549.99 CAD).