Playstation VR - Virtual Reality’s best chance of going main stream?

New toys for a new era 

The past week the kids and I have been thoroughly testing and enjoying Sony’s latest entry for the Playstation brand, PSVR.
A futuristic looking headset/helmet that makes you look like you are part of Daft Punk or have a part
in some sci-fi movie. The future feels it is here indeed, no longer do you watch a game on the screen you can now be square in the middle of the action and be part of the world as it envelops all around you.  Even at this early stage of virtual realities second attempt to break through to the masses it is clear that this can be a game changer.

Off course PSVR is not the first out on the market, before it have gone the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive as well to a lesser extend Samsung Gear VR. But where Sony might be different is that it has a huge potential user base available and a low(er) cost entry then the Rift and Vive without the need for an expensive powerful PC.

Having played the HTC Vive quite a few times and being utterly blown away by it I had high expectations and fears about Sony’s effort. How they could deliver for that price and what was the expectation of the PS4 even being able to handle the need graphics output to render the content at high enough speeds to be tolerable.

After this week I can say with confidence that Sony absolutely delivered a fantastic product.

The goods

The PSVR is currently available in a bundle option that has everything you need to get started including a Demo disc and the VR worlds game bundled in as well. Then there is the core bundle which is the headset and a demo disc, meaning that you still need to get the camera and if you want the best experience, the move controllers. This makes it a bit more pricey to get everything you are going to need but at the same time makes the bundle very good value at $499.
That price is somewhat steep but as mentioned before it is still the lowest entry into full VR for those looking jump in. Considering the Holidays are around the corner it can be the big gift of the year for a household where all consoles are already well in place. It is reported Sony is already making a profit on the devices so who knows if a price drop will happen within the year or not, at this moment that is the entry price to get in early.



The Headset packaging is actually very nice and I like seeing great effort in packaging really becoming a standard these days. You will find a lot of new cables and an extra box that you will have to install in between the Playstation and your television. A large instruction manual with clear picture and numbered parts make this a fairly easy task and within 15 minutes or less you can be ready to play. The headset itself is well built and very comfortable to wear. You can even wear it with your
glasses on , but I would advise to not tighten the headset too much causing the glasses to hit the inside lenses of the headset as this can cause scratches on both the headset as well as the PSVR. A headset can be easily plugged in to the controls on the headset. The PSVR comes with a pair of earbuds but you can plug in any headset with a 3.5 mm plug as well if you prefer on ear/over ear headphones instead. Once you start the device it will have you calibrate your camera/headset so that you get the best result. Keep in mind though that you can also take a bit more time and go into the PS4 settings to fine-tune the calibration even further, even to the point of setting your eye distance.

The games

We started our VR adventure with the “VR worlds” disc, a series of experiences designed to really show off what this new device can do. If you have never experienced a VR device then words cannot describe, and no footage can show you what it feels like. You have to try it to understand even if you are already really intrigued by the entire concept.
We started with Ocean Descent which has you started in a shark cage under water and you can feel the cage move and get a real sense of presence and awe. There is no controller and you just get to look around and enjoy the surroundings and the action unfolding around you. Things get a little tense later that can really make your heart race and make you giggle with glee at the same time. Look at the video below {spoilers included} to the emotions it can release while playing.



VR worlds has a fee more games on it and it almost feels like the whole experience is there not only to show off VR’s strengths but also to teach you the ropes of moving and playing in its world.  You can experience a downhill luge and play a game that is a 3D pong game off sorts named “Dangerball”. Then there is the heist game which introduce the use of controllers [ Dualshock or Move] but also introduces a good amount of cussing , so not for the little ones and finally the disc has a futuristic platform/shooter game called scavengers odyssey where you are in full control of a Mech type device and run around , jump and shoot your way through the world.

The demo disc included with the package has a nice variety of games included, ranging from relaxing experiences to action packed horror games. Most demos are short but just long enough to leave you hunger for more. And for most games available at this time the entry price is very reasonable.

For instance Batman VR is a first class experience for a low intro price of $20 [less with things such as Best Buys gamers club]. You get 90+ minutes of amazing graphics, a cool story, puzzle solving and something to talk about to your friends at work or school. After all you get to be the batman.
Other games will go for the full $60 and it is up to you to decide if you think that is worth the price or if you rather wait for a discount.

Let’s Nitpick a little!
Even though the experience has been great with the PSVR , it is not all perfect. The controls for one are not as precise as I would like to see. If you ever play on a Vive with room scaling you will see and feel what I mean. By no means is it bad, but it could be better. In part this is because Sony has opted to use the already existing camera and move controller tech it has invested in before. Some people experience a “drift” where positioning drifts to the side in relation to your position, for some this is more prevalent than others however to YMMV.  I hope that with software tweaks in the future they can improve the experience even more but it is clear that the hardware has its limitations which cause you to sometimes have to hold down the options button to re-center your screen or otherwise reset the tracking of your headset. Again in the grand scheme of price vs quality you get a great experience none the less.
Another problem is the graphic fidelity. Even though the overall image quality is great,and there is less screen door effect, the objects in the distance tend to be less detailed, blurred somewhat blockier (aliased) than what we are used to in our videogames in recent years. Overall it works really well but it is something I would love to see improvement on. This is only nitpicking criticism as the overall experience works really well due to the fine balance in its graphical delivery. Word is that the PS4 Pro will add extra AA and a bit more clarity, so if you are a sensitive on this topic then you could see what differences that will bring, but it is still amazing what the PS4 can deliver at this very moment.

Available Games.

The launch library is super impressive and I really hope it continues to grow. In this aspect I also hope Sony keeps its full weight behind PSVR, at least for a while and not leave it uncared for as we have seen with PSMove and Vita in the past. We are however off to a great start and with full game releases such as Tomb Raider and StarWars Battlefront adding in support for VR as well, the future looks bright so far.

Parent recommendation

First of all let me advice you right of the bat that the recommended age for VR according to Sony is 12 and up. I am sure a year or two under that could be fine depending on your child but much younger than that and you might want to keep them from getting into VR at this time. However from my anecdotal experience it seems that a child's brain adapts actually much faster then an adult to the virtual environment, so stay involved and see what is appropriate in your family.  Game content wise there is plenty of great material to choose from , the demo disc as well as VR worlds has wonderful
ager appropriate experiences as games but also content that is intended for more mature audiences, such as “the heist”. ”the kitchen” and “Until Dawn” So do not plug in the kids and walk away, something I do not advise to begin with in most gaming situations to begin with, especially concerning VR.
With free downloads such as “Playroom VR” you even get a bunch of mini games that allow local multiplayer with those people no in the headset at that time, a cool way of experiencing this new tech together and take turns with the headset.


Overall recommendation 

PSVR is the real deal. If you have the budget for it and want to try something new with in gaming then this is the way to experience being a kid again. The VR headset can bring amazing experiences to anyone in the whole family from kids to grandparents in a way much like the wii did in the past. If you are very sensitive to motion sickness however you might be in for  a bad time but play ins short bursts or sit down in a chair allows you to still enjoy some of the less action packed games as well.
Maybe there is a demo unit in a store near you or you have a friend/coworker that already has a VR device, be it the PSVR or one of the other units. See if you can give it a try if you are nervous about the motion sickness.
All in all we highly recommend the PSVR for this holiday season as a must buy and give it a :



-Dad

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