Does VR have a long-term home on PlayStation, or are we looking at the new Kinect?

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Editor’s note: We’ll have a definitive review of PlayStation VR closer to its launch on October 13, but in the meantime I wanted to share my thoughts and experiences after four days of poking around with the hardware and some of its games. There’s a lot to take in, from individual games to the nuances of setting up the headset for the best experience, so I’ll add more thoughts every day until I’m happy I’ve seen everything PlayStation VR has to offer.

For now, here are my impressions of the PlayStation VR and its first games and experiences.

Setting-up PlayStation VR

“It’s a great example of smart product design and idiot-proof clarity. If you struggle to set this up you shouldn’t be allowed around plug sockets.”

Set up of the PS VR couldn’t be easier. Every cable is labelled and the printed instructions are a big old floor book that basically says “do this, fool”. Anyone who’s tampered with a PC recently or calibrated the convoluted HTC Vive will appreciate a step-by-step walkthrough without any complications. It’s a great example of smart product design and idiot-proof clarity. If you struggle to set this up you shouldn’t be allowed around plug sockets, basically.

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Getting the headset screen and vision right takes a little bit more tweaking as it’s a personal set-up. But being able to adjust the headset screen and push it forward and back feels great. The headset also sits more comfortably on your head than the Vive, which tends to grip your face like a pair of scuba goggles. It rests more on your head and back of the skull, supporting the weight of the unit rather than it hugging your face.

The cool rubber that sits around your eyes and nose is comfortable too, especially for those of us who wear glasses, and there’s very little light able to creep in. You can also recenter the screen once it’s on your face by holding the Options button down for two seconds, and you’ll probably spend a fair bit of time tweaking the fit depending on how weird your head is. I have one ear lower than the other like some kind of mutant but it’s not a problem.

You’ll find that you need to adjust the headset while playing, and it’ll take a few minutes to find that sweet spot. Chances are you’ll lose that sweet spot after half an hour or less and have to readjust, which can upset your immersion. You can open the quick menu to adjust headset position easily enough, and I found I was doing this as a matter of course for each new game or session I tried. Better to have everything right in place before you start than have to pause the game because images are going blurry.

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When it comes to tracking your position, the PS camera uses the lights on the headset, DualShock 4 and Move controllers, so it’s worth dimming any lights in your room and pulling curtains if you’re sitting in direct sunlight. If not you’ll notice the screen wobbles when you’re not moving, but it’s an easy problem to correct. There’s a neat VR menu option to Confirm Your Position which shows bright lights on screen as dark colours. If any of those aren’t your headset or controller, you’re going to need to switch them off or cover them up.

In terms of space, you’ll only need to sit about two meters from the camera, which seems reasonable in our tiny European houses. Once you’re comfortable with the headest you’ll find that tracking works well and accuracy seems spot on for the helmet, Move controllers and DualShock 4. Using the machine pistol in London Heist feels like you can really pinpoint targets, tyres, windows and headshots, and you can put spin on the ball in Danger Ball with a twitch of your neck.

The included in-ear headphones aren’t bad, but if you’ve got a proper overhead set of ear-cans you’re going to want to use those instead. Once your ears are cupped inside those and the headset is on you’ll feel much more submerged in VR. It’s worth noting that wireless headsets aren’t supported at all – not even Sony’s official PS4 headsets.

Screen quality and visual fidelity

One of my gripes with the HTC Vive is the prominence of the screen-door effect, where visible geometric shapes are like spots in front of your eyes. Surprisingly I didn’t find it as noticeable with the PS VR, but the quality of the screen is always going to be a limitation. What you see is a sort of light mesh effect in front of everything, like you’re looking at the game through a very fine sieve. It’s something you have to accept when using any VR headset but that’s not easy when we’ve spent the last few years spoiled by 1080p, 60 frames per second wonders.

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“Visual fidelity is nowhere near as sharp or defined as we’ve come to expect from the PS4 and the reality is closer to PS3-era graphics. None of these games are going to look like Uncharted 4.”

Visual fidelity is nowhere near as sharp or defined as we’ve come to expect from the PS4 and the reality is closer to PS3-era graphics. None of these games are going to look like Uncharted 4. None of these games are really going to be at the standard we’ve come to take for granted from the current PlayStation and I find that a little hard to deal with at times. Textures are blurry, edges to structures and characters are blocky, objects at a distance are undefined.

But that’s the nature of VR in 2016. If you can’t get over that, you’re not going to get a lot out of any VR headset. It’s going to be an even more prominent gap when you compare the visual fidelity of PS VR to the PS4 Pro when it comes out next month. After four days I’m finding it less of an issue because I’m getting used to it, although it was initially a jarring step down in quality. At this stage it’s acceptable and I’m fine with it, although you have to ask yourself if hardware that costs GBP350 should settle for “fine”. I’ve certainly gotten used to average streaming services, long downloads and the convenience of YouTube quality over 1080p, so maybe “having it now” makes up for average tech solutions.

Having said all of that PlayStation VR can do close-up really well, especially when it plays to the space illusions that VR creates. Bullets rain down around you, dust particles drift across you vision in the breeze, and you can see the wrinkles in characters’ faces when they lean in to snarl at you. Games that play to this are the most effective, and it genuinely feels like something we haven’t experienced before in games. Just check out the warehouse and pub scenes in The London Heist or pretty much all of Batman: Arkham VR to see developers who really understand how to get the best out of the technology.

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Should you buy the PS VR?

It’s a lot of money – you could buy a console and a bunch of good games for the same price – and you need to accept that this isn’t the future of video games. It’s a new direction, and an interesting one, for sure. But it’s not going to replace your console and TV set-up anytime in the next 10 years. At this stage there’s a lot of fun to be had with VR and the games I’ve played so far show variety, with a handful offering up a genuinely new experience. But as with any launch, some games are great and others mediocre.

There are questions about the long-term support PS VR will receive, but that’s up in the air until after its first three months on sale. We still have another week until October 13 to play through the launch titles, and we’ll be dropping reviews for them as we go and adding them to this page, as well as updating with more impressions of the hardware’s strengths and limitations.

25 Comments

  1. Hermione Granger

    i have only used one account.

  2. Gheritt White

    CAN’T. FUCKING. WAIT!

    Bring on all the shooty-pew-PEW-pew goodness of EVE: Valkyrie and BattleZone in glorious immersive VR!!

    Btw. there are two types of people:

    1. People who are negative towards VR.
    2. People who have tried VR.

    Honestly, half of you come across like people seeing movies for the first time and saying, “we don’t need THAT! We’ve got BOOKS!”

    FFS /smh

  3. Gheritt White

    Here, read it and cry fangirl -> “PlayStation VR is My Favourite VR” – http://www.kotaku.co.uk/2016/1

  4. Gheritt White

    In all honestly as somebody who has used VR *a lot*, the difference between PSVR and Oculus Rift is about the same as the difference between PS4 and XB1 – i.e. barely noticeable.

    HTC Vive does provide a noticeable step up, but even then it’s *so* slight – not a full gen’s worth of graphical upgrade, more like the difference between Dreamcast and PS2, or PS2 and Xbox Classic.

  5. Kharnivore2099

    So Virtual Boy and N64 era Nintendo “curbstomps” Sony’s PS1/2 and their Sony Walkman?
    https://cdn.meme.am/instances/

  6. Revolver Ocelot

    Oh look, it suddenly reappears mere hours after I bring it up.

    Try harder, 49ers fan.

  7. orion

    I guess you speak from your long history of dust collecting. lol

  8. Rosendajwilliams2

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  9. Rosendajwilliams2

    Google is paying 97$ per hour! Work for few hours and have longer with friends & family! !cr324f:
    On tuesday I got a great new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $8752 this last four weeks.. Its the most-financialy rewarding I’ve had.. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it
    !cr324f:
    ➽➽
    ➽➽;➽➽ http://GoogleFinancialJobsCash614MarketSecurityGetPay$97Hour

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  10. Nintengods

    Your $ony $hilling is even more pukeworthy than the pukestation VR.

    But then $ony $hills have nothing really since their waifu shovelware got moved to next year and everyone knows the last guardian is going to be shit.

    Oh look. Color Splash is getting great reviews. Even Nintendo at it’s worst curbstomps $ony at it’s best. Bite the curb, sonygimp 🙂

  11. Nintengods

    Exposure to nausea watching you shills try defend it. Just as much as the Pukestation VR or PS4 Prolapse

    And Digital Foundry still hasn’t revealed the native resolutions yet. Oh what fun we will have 🙂

  12. Nintengods

    Enjoy your $499 motion sickness simulator that will be gathering dust in a few months

    Pukestation VR 🙂

  13. Boris Fett

    If ever.

  14. Boris Fett

    So it’s a poor man’s Vive? Noted.

    The biggest problem with short of peripheral approach is that by the time it’s affordable enough for the average consumer to get involved with it… support may have already dried up.

    People always talk about a “killer app” defining a product, but that’s the thing. One game that validates a piece of hardware is not enough to make it a valid long term platform. It needs a continuous support of quality products.

    Unless these headsets start being packaged day one with hardware, with almost everything designed to support them from the outset, they will simply never take off, because there won’t be any money for third party developer to make from them.

  15. Kharnivore2099

    I’m not criticizing the quality of the product, I just don’t care for Sony’s support of their hardware. I was a big fan of the PSP and I think the Vita is a fantastic device, but their support of both in Western markets has been weak at best.

    I hope it gets the support it needs, Sony just don’t have the best track record of doing so.

  16. Revolver Ocelot

    It’ll be whatever meagre way Snorpio tries to shoehorn it in, Ziriak.

  17. Revolver Ocelot

    Did you forget the password for your other account, 49ers fan?

  18. Revolver Ocelot

    Back to your Xbox Mad hole, Ziriak.

  19. Revolver Ocelot

    Encouraging early impressions. Still waiting for my killer app though – it’ll be either RE7 or Ace Combat 7.

  20. Ramocheese

    Ah, but what about the price gouging memory cards? Do you have an excuse for that?
    Surely it’s not a double standard to criticise Sony for having an essential peripheral at such a high cost.

  21. Darth Vader™

    I’d definitely just wait it out. All of this is pretty expensive, plus we don’t know how support for it will fair afterward. In all honesty I’m just not a big fan of the VR craze, or even Hololens. I could only see myself having fun with VR with a horror game and a strategy game with AR.

  22. DAngelomay

    I would say some of you have too much time on your hands..but I just realized I sat and read these comments…so I guess I have to much time as well

  23. TheTruth

    zzZzzzzzZzZZZZZ

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