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Two Weeks With PlayStation VR

"Virtual reality goes mainstream but is it worth it now or not?"

We’re two weeks into the PlayStation VR era for the PlayStation 4 and many wonder if Sony’s mainstream approach is finally VR’s coming out party. The Oculus and Vive headsets have been out for a while now this year for PCs. The barrier of entry for either of those is quite steep compared to PlayStation VR. To this day since it’s launch, you can find both SKUs on store shelves compared to new consoles when they launch. I personally went with the $399.99 SKU that just includes the headset and a demo disc. The $499.99 bundle has those plus PlayStation VR Worlds, the new PlayStation camera and two Move controllers. We finally have an affordable gaming VR headset in the market now unless you count those Samsung ones, but it is worth getting now?

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If you have seen unboxing videos of PlayStation VR, you notice lots and lots of cables to set it up. Yes, it’s a bit of a hassle to hook up those cables, but it didn’t take long to get it going once you turn on the PS4. It comes with it’s own breakout box requiring one more power outlet. Earbuds also come with both SKUs, but if you have better headphones, I highly recommend using those. Having 3D audio on with headphones personally adds along to the immersion of the VR experience. Audio coming out of the TV for VR games is still fine, but it’s night and day how it compares to using headphones.

Sony’s main solution to calibrating their VR headset is the hold of the options button. If your VR view is not as centered while playing, you can hold that button to recalibrate. It’s that simple for the majority of games that support PlayStation VR. There’s also an option to calibrate the headset’s tracking lights under the devices section on the system’s settings. That should of been an requirement to do when you use the headset for the first time. Every game tells you before you start to check your distance and surroundings. Some of them also recommend to take breaks if you feel nauseous of some sort. At least they’re not as crazy as Nintendo during the Wii era. Then again they had kids in mind and Sony’s recommended minimum age requirement for PlayStation VR is twelve.

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Now with the setup and calibration stuff out of the way, does PlayStation VR live up as it was advertised to be gameplay-wise? The answer is yes. If this is your first VR experience, you’ll be immediately awestruck of the display around you. That was the case for me when I tried out Battle Zone at my local Best Buy. When you’re playing however, that depends on how you’re prone to motion sickness. Most of the games I played or tried out in PSVR so far weren’t too intense with the movements. Personally I had a bit rougher time psychically with the RIGS demo out of the games I played because of it’s handling of both VR aiming and analog stick movements.

Out of the impressive launch lineup, there is a great variety of stuff to play. Some games like Headmaster and Playroom VR’s multiplayer minigames use more of the headset to play than actual controllers. Others highly recommend the Move controllers over the Dual Shock 4 even though most games support both. Playing Until Dawn: Rush of Blood for example with a Dual Shock 4 feels awkward holding the controller forward for both guns. The Move controllers feel more natural for games requiring both hands to play like that and Batman Arkham VR. Head tracking and the field of view alone are game changers for games like Rez Infinite and Thumper. I reviewed both those amazing games so if you wanna read more, check them out in the links above.

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The launch lineup so far are full of games that are meant to be played for short segments. Batman Arkham VR and Rez Infinite take about a hour to beat as examples and I’m fine with that. Most players want the same lengthy and traditional experiences already in VR and we’ll get there eventually. I don’t think we’re all ready for that and honestly VR was never meant to be played for long sessions. I’m fine with one to two hours at most, but over that is pushing it. The first true test of a lengthy game for PlayStation VR is Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, out this January. If the Kitchen demo on the demo disc is any indication, we’re in for a fun time full of spooks.

The drop in visual quality and resolution inside PlayStation VR is pretty apparent to compensate for the framerate. Games that go for realistic look like Driveclub VR and Eve: Valkyrie don’t look as hot to the point they’re at early to mid-PS3 quality. More abstract visual styles however shine in VR such as SuperHyperCube, Thumper and Rez Infinite. We’ll see if the PlayStation 4 Pro is that much of an improvement for the performance of VR games. In the meantime, PlayStation VR’s games look fine as an entry level headset for the medium, but don’t expect PC quality especially for realistic-looking games.

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So is PlayStation VR worth the minimum $399.99 pludge now? It does have the best launch lineup out of any VR headset out now thanks to Sony’s support. However it depends on you what you like out of the bunch. Personally that was easy for me because I wanted to play one of my favorite games of all-time in VR with Rez Infinite. I’m also sold on the potential of VR’s future in gaming. It is a completely new way to play games just based on immersion alone. Sure, I don’t expect VR to be a mainstream hit right away like how Nintendo struck gold with the Wii’s motion controls. At least Sony’s affordable price of entry and seeing some of your franchises in VR is a start. Some games being a little expensive than normal is a concern going forward though.

I would also say try it for yourself at retailers or at a friend’s house to help make your decision. Can you psychically handle what VR throws at you and you won’t throw up at the end of a session? If so, then go ahead and take the pludge. I hope we see less games however getting slapped VR support for the sake of having it on the box (Rise of the Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy XV I’m looking at you). Established franchises with fully VR focused experiences like Batman and Star Wars are ones I’m cool with. The “killer apps” out of Playstation VR’s launch lineup now are Rez Infinite, SuperHyperCube and Thumper. The headset’s execution itself is not perfect, but PlayStation VR is a great sign of what’s to come for gaming’s future.

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