First Impressions: PlayStation VR

psvr_boxedWe’ve had our fair share of Virtual Reality (VR) experience, albeit, from the 1990s. We’ve even written about our walk-through the VR graveyard from two decades ago. When PlayStation announced that they were going to produce a VR add-on for their PS4 console, we reserved judgement till its release. Well, the PS VR is now out and we got our trusted friend and VR aficionado, Alex (aka:Alexpletives), to give us his first impressions based on the ease of setup, design, comfort and most importantly, performance and gaming experience.

Ease of setup:
The first thing that struck me about the PS VR was how easy it was to setup. Once switched on, position your head in the centre of the camera, and that’s it! Doesn’t get much easier than that!

Instructions! Bah, seems easy enough, and it is!
psvr_instructions

Design:
The design is genius, making the plugging in of the bits and pieces an absolute breeze. Just in case there are some of you that want to know how all this VR’ing hangs together, here we go: the VR headset plugs into the extension with the inline remote which features the volume, mute and VR on / off buttons. The other clever design are the raised volume buttons and sunken mute on/off buttons – you’ll always know, by feel, which buttons you are interacting with.

Turn me up!psvr_headphones_vol

All leads lead to the Processor Unit. Each lead is numbered which makes it damn simple to get all plugged in. The best part is, you can connect other systems via HDMI, like the Xbox One!

Easy as 1, 2, 3!
psvr_proc_unit

Comfort:
Right off the bat, the PS VR was way more comfortable to wear than the Oculus Rift. When using my Oculus Rift I tend to get quite sweaty, but with the PS VR, I didn’t have such a problem. The strap tightness is cleverly independent of how near the actual headset is to your face. The button under the visor enables it to be moved forward and back independent of the strap. This provides superior comfort as you can have the strap nice and tight, with the the visor just resting against your face. In comparison, the Oculus feels like wearing a diving mask.

Strap me in baby!
psvr_rightside

Lenses and surrounding rubber – very soft and lovely, oo’er
psvr_top

The PS VR aural experience is provided by in-ear headphones which clip in the inline remote on the main cord running from the PS VR. Volume still comes out of the TV so your guests can hear and see what you’re doing.

And I can’t go without mentioning the lens cloth that comes with the PS VR – it is beautifully embossed with the triangle, circle, X and square buttons, a very nice touch indeed.

psvr_cloth

Performance and gaming experience:
The very first game that I tried was DRIVECLUB VR. I noticed immediately that the VR version had lost a fair bit of detail compared to its non-VR graphical tour de force counterpart. The vehicle detail was still as good, but track-side detail was vastly cut down (with reduced lighting). You don’t really notice it when racing, but you do if you look around. I’m sure the casual DRIVECLUB VR player will not notice these little niggles, as it doesn’t impact the racing.
DRIVECLUB VR
driveclubvr
Scavengers Odyssey
scavengers
 source: Playstation
The next experience was provided from VR Worlds, via Scavengers Odyssey – it was damn good! I did suffer some motion sickness, which was generated by moving back and forth and side to side within the game but not in the real world. The brain was seeing you move but no feeling to match it, so that stuffs up spatial awareness. It didn’t make me stop playing (it was that good), but its effects did linger for a few hours.
Ocean Descent
oceandescentsource: Playstation
Also from VR Worlds, I hit Ocean Descent, where you are lowered in a cage deep into the sea. I didn’t do the shark attack part though, as I knew it was scary (it was that real!). The experience was intense – you felt like you were right there in the cage with full 360 degree views, with fish everywhere and an absolutely beautiful manta ray with a 9-foot wing span leisurely gliding about. It was very impressive. There was a nice touch with the light on your helmet spilling light on wherever your head turned.
VR Luge
vrlugesource: Playstation
The other VR Worlds game I tried was VR Luge. This one was a bit of hit and miss. There was a nice sensation of speed, but for some reason the 3D felt flat. Having limited depth perception made it difficult to judge how far things were. Apart from this issue, VR Luge was as good as it could be given the power (when compared to a high-end PC rig with an Oculus Rift).

Overall the performance was as expected, nothing more, nothing less. What PS VR really needs (to succeed) is a VR killer app. Just like Tetris on the Game Boy, the PS VR needs its own special bit of software that can provide its unique experience that would not work without VR.

Final thoughts:
One point that keeps plaguing VR is the inducement of nausea. Whether that goes away the more you use it, I don’t really know. Do astronauts get used to zero gravity? Well, they learn to live with it, don’t they?

Every person I have shown PS VR has been blown away by it. VR is something that can only be appreciated by experience. I could talk until I’m blue in the face about the immersion and instinctive feelings it generates whether they be fear, exhilaration or just plain enjoyment. But experiencing it really is believing.

These are pioneering days of VR, if you discount the crude shenanigans of the 90s. Developers will need time to harness the power of VR which will hopefully lead to wonderful games and experiences. We just have to be patient.

The future is here
psvr_isometric

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alexpletivesAlexisms (aka: Alexpletives)
UK based gamer with a taste for the bleeding edge in gaming. Cystic Fibrosis sufferer, 15 years post heart and double lung transplant, diabetic. You’ve got to laugh, er I think!

Follow Alex on Twitter and Twitch.