Remember when the press hyped up the 3D effect of the Nintendo 3DS at E3 back in 2010? When everyone in the press were falling over themselves saying how Nintendo had raised the bar and created something magical? Then we all got one and found the 3D was interesting for about a nanosecond before it was turned off to be forgotten about until one or two legendary titles got the 3D aspect so spot on you got a better experience through it. VR for me is just like that.
I’ve always loved trying new ways of playing video games from bongos to Gametrak (yes I thought the golf was good) and already had all the necessaries for a PSVR experience except the headset/base unit. The only experiences I’ve had with VR prior to PSVR were with my mobile and some kind of device strapped to my head. At first it was a google cardboard construction, more out of curiosity than necessity. That resulted in a lot of motion sickness so then came the upgrade to a better mobile and plastic monstrosity which did work considerably better but when linked to the PC felt incredibly lacking. You can only go so far with the technology you have to hand, USB2 and an iPhone are not going to be able to replicate £500 worth of kit. So it was a mix of caution and adventurous spirit that had me borrow a friends headset for 2 days (and a few games) to see if it was worth the asking price.
The short answer is yes but if you wanted that short answer you’d just read twitter, it’s a Yes but with caveats. Also quickly worth noting: You can run other devices through PSVR but it takes some tinkering and I found odd issues like Yakuza5 having no sound when through the headphone socket.
Visually the headset is typical Sony, looks ok but your still going to look a plank with it on your head. It’s formed well but nothing mind-blowing. Without any fancy VR games or experiences running it’s essentially a small cinema like experience in front of your face. It’s only when you load a VR specific experience it starts to shine. The 60fps rule Sony were enforcing for all VR experience titles seems to only apply to Games that are made for VR with extra modes such as the slightly creepy Hatsune Mike Diva X VR ‘experience’ chugging badly and dropping below 30fps let alone the 60fps required to stave off most common causes of motion sickness.
Reviews of VR games are always personal though. I jumped in with the opinion it would be like the low-cost PC experience dialled up in resolution and was pleasantly surprised to find the urge to play with it a lot longer lasting. I was over sold to play certain experiences and they defiantly didn’t shine like expected but for me the high points were very different and far more impressive. This backs my opinion that like with the 3DS your mileage is going to vary drastically. My wife’s experience wasn’t the best (despite also begrudgingly having some fun with it) with her having issues with it working for her and not causing eye strain, she does wear glasses and has issue with 3D films so maybe that’s the link?
Still all of this just covers how it feels to have a box on your face, the main key is here how does it fair with a few titles:
PlayStation VR Worlds
Now mostly bundled as a download code (as it should have been at launch) with the kit it’s essentially your Wii Sports of PSVR aged up to fit the market (remember no 14s or under can use it). It’s strangely showing that I had a lot more fun knocking the ball of light/rock/water/bits in front of me when you start the main menu prior to any game than the games themselves. Mostly I found the games to be frustrating unplayable vomit inducing extremes of nonsense. There should have been simple warning for ‘stand’ or ‘sit’ for some of the differences but that’s neither here nor there. It’s worth having a go on the cheap from the fantastic danger ball and the under water cage experience. It’s not a game but being lowered in a shark cage that low into the ocean is absolutely fantastic.
The Playroom VR
The most fun had with the system. These little mini games are always underrated and always a fantastic lark. The feedback from plugging in the controller into the minigun and blasting toy cube aliens gave me the biggest grin. It’s so simple and just pure brilliance in execution. The only time I had to stop was the strange platforming game where as you move forwards the camera lurched forwards I almost always fall forwards trying to stop from falling over. Still it’s free and fun, the best words you can get when it comes to any video game. The fact it includes people around you as well is just the icing on the cake, seeing my wife pretending to be a giant purple cat was something that will stay with me.
Great terrible super frustrating. It’s so incredibly conflicting in execution and enjoyment. The best experience you’ll have in one moment twisting your body slowly as if playing deadly twister to get that sweet shot. Then shortly after that it’s so terrible when your unable to pick up a gun because your move has gone out of visual range of the camera. The graphics are strangely not very polished either but this is likely to allow 60fps and the game itself is a cracker even without VR so it’s recommended but make sure you’ve a lot of space.
Spider-Man: Homecoming – Virtual Reality Experience
I wouldn’t have even noticed this unless the person lending it to me didn’t repeat how amazing it was over and over and over. I went into this pretty sceptical and ended up being surprised a VR experience could give me vertigo. It’s impressive and can’t be understated how terrifying it is standing on a crane in VR. Every sense I had was at work going “no no no I hate this” even though I could just about make out my feet at the bottom of the headset. It’s got a few target practice parts which result in an overall good feeling but it’s again a strangely low resolution and experiences like this all feel low res (likely to keep the frames per second over 60). It’s a great little free throw away app and the PSN store is full of these, this one is possibly the best I’ve seen so far.
Resident Evil 7’s short demo experience really has built up my resistance to this kinda stuff. I can see why Capcom kept showing people playing this, screaming and swearing (I found the miller report episode for this the best so far). I can understand why they were constantly terrified but personally I found the worst was the sound more than the visual experience going on. An awful lot of “crap I can hear that behind me but I reeeeeeally don’t want to look”. Basically fuck jump scares. Want to break your PSVR? Have a go with decent headphones on loud and you’ll likely want to throw it across the room at least once.
I’ve played so much Trackmania that when I type it my mobile auto-corrects to TRACKMANIA and I don’t even care. It deserves those capital letters. I played enough of this to know what to expect and granted it was a little oversold to me but it’s just TRACKMANIA. There were no sizable extras, the game is the same as without VR just with your face following behind the car until a loop where you’re at the front bonnet. I can play this till the cows come home and the loops aren’t great for the stomach but it’s fun with or without VR.
Cyber Danganronpa VR: The Class Trial
Give me a game of this. Hear me Spike Chunsoft? This sold me from start to finish on VR. Absolutely brilliant it’s all there in your face the text, the overreacting, the tiny details, all well polished and wrapped in actual gameplay. Getting a feel for Monokumas height was amazing. Shame it’s dubbed but I still loved it and that’s saying something! If you want to know why I think Danganronpa’s worth checking out by the by click here.
VR devices when reviewed are always personal accounts of how they felt about the experience or endless stats and specifications that only seem to apply to hardcore VR fans that understand the distinct differences. We’re now at the stage where there are essentially 3 tiers of VR experience;
The mobile experience where you slot your phone into a plastic torture device and try to suspend disbelief you don’t just have a mobile too close to your eyes while watching short animations that take full advantage of the low power setup and simple head tracking well.
The backer experience where you fork out obscene amounts of money for a device to justify the £600+ graphics card in your machine to recreate amazingly smooth VR games at 60fps.
The mid-range experience. For folks that want to experience VR gaming but don’t have the funds or beastly PC to experience high-end VR moments. The PSVR fits in nicely here. A few plugs and setups and away you go with some functional moments and clever little tweaks. It’s so middle of the ground it’s hard to recommend wholeheartedly without caveats however it’s classic Sony in a way, the PSVR is essentially the Vita for VR. Amazing, great fun and worth every penny when utilised properly but likely to languish in obscurity by all but it’s lovers.
Yes get one but this isn’t the next level of gaming, it’s the first time you put down a wired controller and picked up a wireless. It’s the first time you got a laser mouse instead of a ball. Your mileage will vary depending on what you want from it because when all is said and done, it’s just a fun monitor for your face.