This article is an ongoing outline of my experiences with the Playstation VR. I will be periodically updating it moving forward. [Update on 10/18 @ 1:20AM ET]
Sony’s Playstation VR has been out for a few days now and I’ve read both positive and negative impressions of Sony’s brave new leap into mainstream VR. Many praise the Playstation VR’s price point for being less expensive than the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive and for being 90-120Hz without any “screen door effect”, something both the Vive and Rift struggle with. Others have been openly critical of the Playstation VR due to its cable management problems, use of old and somewhat outdated peripherals (like the Move controllers), and the lack of “must have” titles at launch. Both critical and praise for the VR are on the mark; The Playstation VR is both very impressive at its best and some what frustrating at its worst. Luckily, it’s mostly the former and I’ve been having a surprising amount of fun with it.
The Playstation VR is mostly made of plastic, which isn’t a knock – plastics are light and durable. The plastics used for the VR seem of high-quality and the whole unit feels very sturdy and well balanced. There’s also a decent amount of soft padding and fabric used around the areas that come in contact with your head. It’s all very comfortable but adjusting the headset is key to keeping it that way especially with long play times. By the end of a few hours of playing, my wife pointed out that I had several red marks across my face. Maybe that should be an indicator that a few hours is the limit for a play sessions with any VR headset.
The screen is really nice but can get pixelated on some games
there is no dreaded “screen door” effect like the other VR headset have.
The screen in the Playstation VR is a 5.7″ OLED running in 1920×1080 resolution (960×1080 per eye). The neat thing about it is each pixel has a Red, Green, and Blue sub-pixel. Because of these sub-pixels, there is no dreaded “screen door” effect like the other VR headset have. I did have an initial issue with pixelation. On my first boot up of the headset, I started up the included demo disc and the pixelation was really noticeable especially on text. I think this is something game-to-game because once I started playing the games, the pixelation wasn’t an issue or in some cases gone altogether. The Playstation VR developers are probably doing resolution scaling to get their game to run at 90-120Hz.
It’s important to note that the screen is only 1080p, 2 inches from your eyes, and magnified by ocular lenses. At that resolution and magnification pixelation is inevitable and that’s something for all of the VR headset on the market.
Cables, boxes, controllers galore
One thing that is an unavoidable mess with the Playstation VR is the amount of stuff plugged into it or needed to fully realize the immersion. Right out of the box you’re treated to a several cables and an extra box that said cables plug into. Once you read through the quick start manual, it’s not difficult to figure out. The problem isn’t with the setup but rather the amount of cables you’re left with to manage after the setup. Storing the Playstation VR and all of it’s components is also a problem. I didn’t want to just stuff it in a drawer or leave it out for my 4yr old to pretend he’s Master Chief, that’s what paper craft is for.
Wires aside, the Playstation VR also requires the Playstation Camera and in some cases the Playstation Move controllers to work. It’s a little confusing as to why Sony didn’t included the Camera in the core bundle and just take a slight hit on returns. This is up there with Nintendo not including the AC/DC adapter with their new 3DS. Nothing new to note about the Camera; it’s the same from launch with a new form factor.
the USB port in the Move controller is a Mini USB and not the newer Micro USB
The Move controllers are identical to the Playstation 3 era Move controllers yet Sony feels the need to charge $99 for them, which is about $30 more than I paid for my Playstation 3 Move controllers. It’s a bad move by Sony because it’s not like the Move controllers were updated at all. They’re old technology Sony most likely pulled out of cold storage and replaced the batteries.
It’s also important to note that the USB port in the Move controller is a Mini USB and not the newer, and more common, Micro USB.
Go through the setup and calibration before you play anything
Calibrate everything before you attempt to play a game
If you’re like me, you want to tear the box open and try out whatever new tech you just dropped lots of money on but do not do this with the Playstation VR. Go through the proper setup and calibration before you play anything. It’s especially important you go into the settings via the Playstation 4 dashboard and set “eye-to-eye measurements” properly because this can cause cross/blurred vision leading to motion sickness. You should also remove any overly reflective items or items with LEDs from the Playstation Camera’s view because this could lead to calibration issues while playing.
Navigating the Playstation 4 UI with the Playstation VR
Interacting with the Playstation 4 Dashboard with the Playstation VR and its peripherals is a bit of a hot mess at the moment. Maybe that was Sony’s intention or maybe they just didn’t have time to redo their interface to work with the VR – either way, it’s not great and if you’re using the Move controllers in a VR game and exit to the Playstation dashboard you’ll find yourself searching blindly for the Playstation 4 controller to navigate the menus. I do find it odd that Sony hasn’t made a “VR Mode” for the dashboard. Sony has taken some large steps to make the Playstation VR immersive yet they seemed to have forgotten about integrating their UI into that immersion.
[nextpage title=”The Games”]
The Playstation VR comes with a real physical demo disc, which is unheard of today. The disc 18 titles on it but I was only able to play a handful. For some reason, some just have a “buy” indicator, which is odd because why is it even on the disc if I can’t try it out or at the very least preview a video of it? Regardless, I was able to really get a feel for the headset and it’s controls by playing through some of these demos.
Here’s the list of titles on the Playstation VR demo disc (taken from Sony’s official blog):
- Allumette (Penrose)
- Battlezone (Rebellion)
- DriveClub VR (SIE WWS)
- Eve: Valkyrie (CCP Games)
- Gnog (KO_OP)
- Harmonix Music VR (Harmonix Music Systems)
- Headmaster (Frame Interactive)
- Here They Lie (SIE WWS)
- Job Simulator (Owlchemy Labs)
- PlayStation VR Worlds (SIE WWS)
- Resident Evil 7 — Kitchen Teaser (Capcom CO., LTD.)
- Rez Infinite (Enhance Games)
- Rigs Mechanized Combat League (SIE WWS)
- Thumper (Drool)
- Tumble VR (SIE WWS)
- Until Dawn: Rush of Blood (SIE WWS)
- Wayward Sky (Uber Entertainment)
- Within (Within)
Allumette is similar to Journey or Flower since it’s not really a “game” but more of an art piece or interactive story. It’s beautiful to watch and the art design is very “claymation” inspired. It’s just beautiful to be honest. I really think “non-games” like Allumette have a home on the Playstation VR. I’d love to see Life is Strange or a Gone Home style game made specifically for the VR. Allumette is free-to-play on the Playstation Network and VR demo disc. I highly recommend you check it out.
The first Playstation VR game I played was Rebellion’s Battlezone, which may sound familiar to some of you older folks (like myself) because it was an Arcade and Atari game from back in the 80s. Something that took me a little off guard while playing Battlezone was how smooth and fast paced everything was. Keep in mind, this was the first Playstation VR title I played and up until this point the only VR games I played prior to Battlezone was on my Google Cardboard! So needless to say, I was really impressed by everything. I did start to feel a little motion sickness during quick head turn moments but once I centered myself that did fade. Battlezone feels like you’d expect; a fast paced arcade shooter in the vein of Tron. The maps are supposedly procedurally generated so no two battles will be exactly the same. Battlezone does retail at $59.99, which will no doubt turn some early adopters away especially when most of the Playstation VR launch titles average $20 – $30. I’m personally putting this on the back burner because I’m not sure how much variety I’d get out of it.
The name alone will turn plenty away but don’t let it! I had a friend come by the other night and I said,”wanna play Job Simulator“, and the noises he initially made said it all. I convinced him that it’s stupid immersive, funny, and probably my favorite Playstation VR title so far. So far that’s true. Job Simulator reminded me a lot of JazzPunk. Not in gameplay but in design and humor. You basically hold 1 of 4 jobs: Office Clerk, Quick Stop Clerk, Mechanic (my personal favorite), and chief. Each job has it’s own set of crazy scenarios it puts you through. My favorite job to hold was mechanic. Let’s just say there’s headlight fluid – come on! Gold. My only gripe with Job Simulator is it’s length, it’s rather short like most of the VR titles. Job Simulator is a digital download via Playstation Network and it retails for $29.99. I happily paid the $29.99.
Resident Evil 7 — Kitchen Teaser
This demo was actually really made me feel on edge. If I’m being honest, that’s really weird for me because I’m a big fan of horror and I don’t spook easy. With VR you are in the Kitchen watching and listening to this creature as she slinks around you and you can’t do anything but sit there. When the creature did get in my face I instinctively pulled away and squirmed. One thing that did stick out with this demo was the amount of pixelation around the characters and environment. The characters also looked “small” for some reason. The Kitchen teaser was interesting and I look forward to seeing more from Resident Evil 7.
Tumble VR is a puzzle game that I didn’t get very far in. It looked fun and had an almost portal vibe to it. You basically balance different objects on top of other objects and solve different puzzles. It reminded me of the balance block games on iOS or Android. Unfortunately, the game kept losing my controller making it impossible to play. This was the first game I have controller issues with. I really would have liked to play more of it though. Puzzle games like this seem like a perfect fit for the Playstation VR. Maybe a future update will fix the controller tracking. Tumble VR is only $9.99 on the Playstation Network.
That’s it for now! I’ll be back with more impressions.