Top positive review
Free your mind - take the red pill
October 16, 2016
This is probably the first VR experience for most of you reading this, so here are my thoughts on what to expect: the good, the bad, and ultimately whether it's worth giving VR and Sony a shot. There's a comparison to Oculus and HTC Vive below for those who are curious as well as a TLDR at the bottom.
- Very easy to put on, works well with glasses and is comfortable on the head even for longer gaming sessions.
- Tracks position easily when moving around a reasonably large area.
- Easy to re-center with just the touch of the 'options' button so you can get in a nice comfy position to play.
- Comes with a lot of different types of VR demos, games, videos, experiences to try out of the box.
- Guaranteed to impress friends, family, and significant others.
- Lets you play regular games and watch movies on a big virtual theater screen (up to about IMAX size).
- Lets you play games privately when someone else wants to use the TV.
- Using AMOLED screens means nice inky black levels with that fantastic contrast ratio.
- Unlike buying that higher resolution display, this actually feels like you got something new and special.
- Really is just 'plug and play' - no driver troubleshooting needed
- Can use the cinematic mode on other devices (Xbox, PC), but you can't easily re-position it without having the dual-shock controller which can be a real bummer if you're not in a comfortable position already.
- The playstation move controllers make games feel more interactive, but there are mixed results with tracking in certain games (80-90% of the time it works all the time.)
- Video applications like VRideo are really cool, but require a good deal of bandwidth to run fluidly at higher resolutions. Sadly no Youtube VR support (yet).
- 3D spatial audio not currently compatible with wireless headsets, but it's very easy to use a wired pair (and one comes in the box).
- There are a lot of wires you need to plug in to get connected, but they include a very easy to follow instruction manual and a beefy connection cable that is quite durable and should last a long time.
- Most games work great with the standard PS4 controller, but the move controllers really do make it more immersive so you should spend up if you get the 'core' version.
- Visuals not as sharp as competitors, and frankly plenty of visible aliasing/jaggies in certain games/applications.
- YMMV on nausea with more 'active' titles that have lots of change in direction.
- Loses track of you if your camera isn't positioned well.
- Wires suck and really limit how far you can move around. An unfortunate compromise to hit the lower pricepoint and reduce the latency.
- Not safe to use with friends who get scared easily. Seriously, don't let 'jumpy' people play while standing or else you may end up with a hurt friend, or worse a damaged/broken VR headset.
- PS VR worlds DOES NOT come with the core version - a real bummer. Basically, buy the launch bundle if you don't have a PS Camera and/or PS Move controllers already. Come on Sony, support your fans and throw it in for everyone.
Comparison to Oculus: Oculus has the resolution, but lacks in the areas of positional tracking, cost, and widespread support for their $200 controllers. Ultimately if you want the highest visual fidelity seated VR experience go for the Oculus, or better yet wait for their recently announced wireless headset. For those who just want to have fun in VR and don't want to deal with drivers, PC hardware upgrades skip the Oculus.
Comparison to HTC Vive: HTC Vive has superior spatial tracking, and frankly is probably the highest quality experience in VR today. But, its really lacking right now in terms of first and third party games. This is an area where I think Sony has a lot of room to shine in the VR space. Same issues with driver updates and hardware upgrades as the Oculus.
Final thoughts: This is very much a first generation product, but Sony is off to a great start. The main negatives right now have to do with a lack of horsepower for that extra clean finish. Games like DriveClub VR have some pretty obvious visual compromises, but it's something you don't tend to notice once you start moving. Hopefully the PS4 Pro will help with providing the added graphical prowess to make for cleaner visuals - but even without getting the latest and greatest PS4 you'll be in for a treat.
I remember playing a VR game back in a mall in the 90's, it was bulky, looked terrible and I knew at all times I was standing in a giant piece of plastic in the mall. With the PSVR on you lose sense of time, get literally transported to a different place, and truly enter a new world. Upcoming games like Robinson the Journey are going to give you the chance to explore new worlds like you're actually there, and that's what makes VR special. You aren't just sitting on a couch thinking about how gorgeous those vistas are on your TV screen - you get to literally take a step forward into a creepy house, explore a mysterious jungle, and take flight across a wide expanse.
The way you interact with things is still a work in progress, but the experience is still absolutely one of a kind. Sure beats just getting nicer looking games every year that are ultimately still the same experiences (not that I dislike nicer graphics or anything). I'm sure we'll see some really exciting software from Sony because unlike Oculus (owned by Facebook) and HTC Vive (backed by Valve) they are more directly invested in making successful software themselves rather than relying only on third party support since they make the hardware and software. If you have the means, take a chance on Sony, I have a feeling they won't let you down.
TLDR: If you want to know what it's like to plug in to the Matrix, face off against a shark, fly high above like Superman, stand tall with the powers of a god - this is the easiest way to get a taste of that. There are other options, and this is very much a generation 1 product - but man is it just really cool. Plus Sony is all in on making this a success - so I'm betting that means much better first and third party games coming over the next year.
Are you ready to free your mind? Take the red pill and see how deep the rabbit hole goes.
**UPDATE with PS4 Pro**
So I've been using my PSVR with the PS4 Pro pretty much since it came out, and I still have my original PS4 that is soon going to be resold to compare the 2. I've tested the following titles: Robinson The Journey, PS VR Worlds, Batman Arkham VR, Eve Valkyrie, VR Playroom, PSVR demo disc, and Until Dawn Rush of Blood.
Pros (pun unintended)
- Overall "cleaner" appearance with less shimmering around the edges (aka better anti-aliasing/textures)
- PS VR Worlds and Robinson in particular seem to have a little bit of extra polish that makes them feeling more realistic
- Games will only continue to improve and take advantage of PS4 Pro, but even for 1st gen ones you can see some benefit
- Frame-rate is locked for games, but subjectively I felt less motion sickness and as though there is less latency
- Hardly changes the fundamental gameplay, and though visually better it really is just mild-moderate benefit right now
- Cannot get HDR currently when hooked up to VR through the connection box, but 4k does work just fine
If you're buying a PS4 Pro to get better VR, the honest answer is you won't notice a night-and-day difference today with the first generation titles. However, I am seeing bigger improvements relatively with games like Robinson that came out after launch and that bodes well for future titles to take advantage of more aggressive anti-aliasing and higher resolution textures. Games like Farpoint are being touted as being more optimized for PS4 Pro hardware and I'm sure future Sony first-party titles will give you even more of a benefit. This is true not just with PSVR games, but console games in general. Just look at the gap between Uncharted 1 and The Last of Us - both were running on the same hardware but with experience you had a lot of performance to be eeked out.
TLDR on PS4 Pro w/ PSVR: Looks better, but not a big difference yet. Advantages will be seen as new titles come along that are optimized to take advantage of the extra power.