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October 20, 2016

PlayStation VR Review


Every few years, the video game industry gets an idea going, that lots of companies jump in on, first it was rumble, in the controllers then people tried to place them in vests. Most recently it was motion control or 3D were everywhere, but for now it is Virtual Reality and while PlayStation VR is not the first to market, it is the first to mass market, but is that enough.

Setting up any VR system is an effort in patience, purely because they are not designed in a way that allows for you to look and see how they are meant to go, but with the PlayStation VR it is a pretty straight forward process. Once you have the external unit connected to the PS4, you just plug the headset into it via the front ports and your off and going, the downside to this however is that the cable from the headset is very short, but the extension cable you are provided with has a very large plug to connect the two ends, which results in a large box bouncing off you when you’re standing up. A little way down from the headset itself is the control box, where you can plug in headphones, as well as control the volume and turn the device on and office, the buttons are clearly defined and even more importantly, easy to use when wearing the headset.


The detractor to the headset itself is purely based on the weight of it, while you may not notice it for a short period of time, but after a few hours the weight does become noticeable and quite bothersome. Of course, before that point happens you might find yourself annoyed or distracted by the lack of airflow around the eye placement, given the nature of VR, having it enclosed is to be expected, but I found that after some use, my eyes were drier, but in that regard everyone else is different. Of course, the biggest point of all of this is how the visuals work on the screens in the unit and while the images are nice and clear, without jaggies or any of the other usual suspects, there is an issue with the black levels on the screen, something that is really noticeable whenever a load screen was being shown.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle for anyone to overcome is the buy in price, which will a lot lower than other VR systems available, its not actually an accurate price. The default price for the PlayStation VR headset will set you back $550 and for that you get all that I mentioned above, however you don't get any version of the PlayStation Camera, something that without the PlayStation VR won't work, in addition to that, some games like Batman Arkham VR will work with the PlayStation Move controllers, in the picture above, but are not required, but then there are games that don't even support them and others where they are needed. Adding the cost of all three parts together and your closer to $800, so its not cheap to buy everything.

Of course, with any new piece of hardware, the games are can make or break it, sadly none of the games that I played, provided a concrete reason to invest in the hardware anymore, while they were all fun, nothing demanded the vr experience to be achieved. Here is a quick breakdown of each through the games I played:

Driveclub VR



This was the most disappointing game that I played on the PlayStation VR system, purely because it was nothing other than Driveclub, but with the camera locked to the first person view. The rest of the game is exactly the same, same cars, tracks, game modes, there is nothing new to be found. While you can explore the cars more, before the events, its not a free roaming explore, you are just warped around to the points and you can look around, but that is it. Perhaps the biggest complaint to be levied against this version of the game is that, not even the menus are different, they are just giant blocks held in space.

Batman: Arkham VR



The Arkham series of games are ones that I have enjoyed playing, yes even Origins and Blackgate, so VR was always going to be on my list of games to play, however it is nothing like I imagined it was going to be. Batman Arkham VR puts you in the shoes of the Dark Knight as he attempts to uncover the mystery behind what happened to his follow crime fighters.

The problem with the game is, all you do is stand and look around, I understand asking people to perform the same fighting moves might not be an option, but not being able to move around at all is just stupid. You move around the world by warping around from point to point, only then being able to move your head around the world, this could be because I played the game in the seated position and the game does ask you if you want to stand, but if it plays entirely different based on that, you have another problem. Once you wrap the story, you can try your hand at solving many riddler puzzles, but they are not really any different from the old games puzzles.

Overall, looking at the world of Batman through VR sounds great, but what was offered here was not quite anything other than an experience, not a game.

PlayStation Worlds



Out of all the games I played, this one is the most divisive, purely based on its content, some people will love the luge game, others the London heist and for some, being able to explore, from within a cage, the depths of the ocean, the experiences on offer here are something that players of all experiences can enjoy.

The London Heist is as close to a full game as you can get, purely based on what potential it offers, letting players become a gangster as they attempt to pull off a heist against a gang of Russians. While the pacing is a little strange, the times when you can do things are quite fun, if this moves into a full fledge game, it would not surprise me. Ocean Descent is the one for players who are not gamers, as it is a mix of serene exploration and heart racing moments, all of which take place as you sink further below the waves. The experiences here are perfect for people who just want to see what VR is about, but not have to worry about anything else.


VR Luge and Scavengers Odyssey are the other two that are worth your time, VR Luge is just that, Luge that plays out in VR, sadly there is not much to see here, more so as the courses you run are the same location, just different setups. Scavengers Odyssey is a meaty experience, but it failed to draw me in, funny seeing how it was in VR. The experience was good, but really did not have a purpose, exploring broken star ships as they are pounded by asteroids from the outside was a cool place to take things, but it never evolved past the walk, jump and shoot cycle. Danger Ball is not worth your time, a similar game launched with Kinect and it was annoying there as it is now.

Gunjack



I had a look on the PlayStation Store to see what other VR experiences I could have and Gunjack was one that grabbed my attention, perhaps the best way to describe the game is space invaders in VR, but set within the world of Eve. You move your head around to control the turrets on the ship, to protect the mining vessel you work for from pirates and asteroids, with the levels getting harder as you move forward. A simple game to be sure, but one that was fun to play and given the short nature of the levels, perfect for people who might suffer from any sort of VR motion sickness.

I also experienced the Resident Evil VII demo, Kitchen and I would not be able to convince most people I know to experience the game, given how it really throws you into the mix, but again it feels more like a passive experience, but that could just be as it’s a demo.

Overall, PlayStation VR is an impressive set of tech, it offers up VR to more people at a lower price than the others on the market, but you will see why, it has lower quality screens than the others and they do contain some noise. At launch I did not play a single game that made me a VR preacher, telling people that they need to have it, but over the coming months, that might change, but for now it’s a luxury add on, that only die hard gamers will look at getting.

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