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PSVR (Hardware) Review

Out for a little while now, we thought it was high time to check out the PlayStation’s virtual reality headset- the PSVR.

VR for the console set with the PSVR

Virtual reality has been a thing for a little while now. Headsets have been in the works for (literally) years after all, and just this year came to fruition. But while the PC and even mobile gamers have a few options, the console game fan has but one (for now). Fortunately, it’s a pretty good one.

Of course, this option I speak of doesn’t help you any if you favor the Xbox One, or the Wii U. Nope, this one’s a PlayStation 4 exclusive. I’m sure that Microsoft will have something cooking sooner or later (cough*Scorpio*cough), but for now all that’s available is the PSVR.

Sony has taken the ball and run with it for this one too, by creating what’s essentially a sub-console under the PS4 banner. You’ll need a PS4 to play it, but the PSVR is kind of its own thing beyond that. I liken it to what they tried with the Move a few years ago, although this is a hell of a lot cooler and better realized. And oddly enough, the PSVR represents a second chance at life for the Move as well, which is kind of cool.

I’m throwing out a lot of stuff here, some of which you may not be overly familiar with. So with that in mind, let’s talk about what’s in the box.

 

Unboxing worlds

There are two flavors of PSVR starter kit. The first option includes the headset, the external processing unit, and a demo disc, and is the defacto choice for those who already have the accouterments that you’ll need to get playing. When I say that, I mean the PlayStation Camera, and the Move controllers I mentioned.

The second box set includes all of that and more. You’ll find the headset, the processor, the camera, twin move sticks, and an extra ‘PlayStation Worlds’ disc of games. So this one’s a one-and-done purchase. Of course, it’s more expensive, but if you’re missing pieces then you’ll want to take a hard look at this one. Or you could always go a’la carte. Your choice.

PSVR_g_02_1458056921_tif_jpgcopy

The setup

Setting up the PSVR is painfully easy, way more so than with the PC-based headsets. All you need to do is to unplug your HDMI cable from your PS4, and pop it into the processing unit.

After that, run another (included) HDMI cable from the processor to the PS4. That’s it. The whole setup takes about five minutes and the little add-on actually looks pretty slick if you set it on top of the PS4 itself. It even has lights on it.

The processor has kind of a cool design too, in that it’s made to resemble the PS4, and half of it slides back to reveal the inputs for the headset. So when it’s not in use, you can slide that portion forward and it looks all neat and tidy. Unnecessary? Probably, but it looks cool.

Now, if you don’t have a PS4 Camera, then there is one added complication, and that’d be setting it up. The camera works as a sensing device for the headset, keeping you centered in the virtual worlds that you’ll be exploring, so you kind of do need it. It’s just a simple plug in into the USB port on the PS4 though, so it’s kind of no muss, no fuss.

I will say that my own setup doesn’t quite look so great though, and it’s all because of that camera. I had to run it into the front facing USB connection since the rear port is occupied and I’m too pennywise to spring for a hub right now. So, yeah, it’s a little funky looking.

PSVR Shark_Biting_1407764116

Motion controls and the games that use them

Yes, the PSVR supports the Move controllers. Here’s the thing though, you don’t necessarily need them for every game. That’s right, the PS4’s Dual Shock 4 will work in some instances too, especially in more traditional games (and even some untraditional ones).

Now you will need them for a few titles, so please don’t think that you can get away without them in every game. But if you’re playing stuff like Battlezone, you simply don’t need ’em. Same goes for weird stuff like the Harmonix’ visualizer, which uses the light bar on the Dual Shock to interact with the environment in crazy ways.

While we’re on the subject, Battlezone is great. I highly enjoyed this demo, so much that I went out to hunt down a copy of the full game. It plays like a regular video game, no really movement required other than your head to look around the cockpit of your tank. And that brings me to another point.

Output

So far, I’ve had the pleasure of trying the demos on the demo disc and the games on the PlayStation Worlds disc. Overall, they’re decent to great and I had a good deal of fun with what’s included. You know, even if I wouldn’t exactly run out and buy some of the titles on the demo disc.

What I should add in here too, is that the experience on the whole is an excellently realized one. The headset can display some terrific looking environments and all the action that you’d expect. In some games, you’ll simply be seated and have free-look thanks to the headset, while in others you can expect to be walking around (with the controller) while aiming and changing direction by moving your noggin.

It’s an interesting experience. I’ll also add that I had none of the motion-sickness that I’ve heard others complain about, but I could see whereas some could. After all, the world around you is basically moving and you’re not.

I could see whereas that might be a bit odd for some. That’s what you get with playing more traditional games in VR though. And personally that’s something I’m only too happy to do after playing around with some the titles offered on Steam.

Yes, there are ‘real games’ available for the Oculus and the Vive. I know that. There are tons of them actually, of varying levels of quality. More often than not though, the ones I’ve played (for the Vive) come in on the lower end of the scale. And almost 100% of the time they don’t play like the video games that you and I are used to.

battleszone_13_1k

That changes here.

Just with Battlezone that I was talking about above, the PSVR seems to already be home to more traditional games than the other headsets are. And with special Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Star Wars Battlefront missions on the way, it certainly seems as though the PlayStation’s virtual reality games will be enhanced by VR, instead of being built around the format.

Just look at the forthcoming Resident Evil 7 for proof of that. That one is reportedly completely playable in VR, and that’d mean that it’ll probably play just like you’d expect, just with free look using your head instead of a stick.

I should also point out that everything above has been named as a timed exclusive for the PSVR. So, although nothing’s official, you might see them on PC as well.

Getting back to the games though, and I don’t know about you or your expectations for the format, but this is exactly what I want from VR. Dedicated software designed for ‘immersion’ and unique experiences is great, I’m not saying that kind of stuff is bad, but I want regular games that are made just that much better by donning the helmet.

Speaking of…

Just how comfortable is this thing?

Honestly? It’s pretty damn comfortable.

The PSVR headset, like every other one out there, isn’t exactly unnoticeable while you’re wearing it. I was never in a state where I forgot I was wearing it, though I have to admit that it’s lighter than I had though it would be, and pretty comfy.

Strain wasn’t an issue, and I had no discomfort from wearing it… well, almost none. I do have to admit that the headband does get a little hot after a while. For some reason, it’s rubbery. I assumed it’d be a fabric construction, but well, it’s not. It does stay in place quite well, but that’s about the only good thing I can say about it.

The strap in the back is a little too snug for its own good at times too, especially if you improperly situate the thing on your head. It’s nothing too terrible though. And I have to add that that strap really does keep the unit in place.

 

PSVR_s_04_1458056962_tif_jpgcopyYour own personal theater

There’s also one other thing I should mention here, and that’s that you can use the headset as a personal theater. This obviously isn’t something that you’d buy one for, since they aren’t exactly cheap, but it’s a nifty bonus.

Using the headset with your console, you’ll get a kind of floating movie screen effect, where the screen just kind of hangs there in black space. It’s cool, and lets you game on (with non-VR titles) while someone else watches TV in the same room.

The only bummer is that there’s no sound if you do that. Non-VR titles will play their audio out of the TV instead of through the PSVR’s headset port. But I have to imagine that you could remedy that right quick by plugging your headphones into the controller. That’s something that I do quite often already.

Even cooler is that you can reportedly do exactly the same with any other console that uses HDMI. So you can play your Xbox One, PC, and Wii U games in the headset as well. I haven’t tried this as of yet, but it’s a super-cool little bonus to what’s already a great piece of equipment.

 

PSVR
Release Date: October 13th, 2016
Platform: PS4

An added dimension

Display and graphics - 90%
Control options - 95%
Comfort - 85%

90%

Excellent

So is the PSVR a viable virtual reality headset? Absolutely. Is it as solid an experience as the other headsets on the market? Pretty much. It might not be as high quality as the PC's Vive in terms of hardware, but the games more than make up for it. The PSVR seems to have a bright future in front of it, with some great titles on the way too. Like all 'next big things' though, long-term support will tell the tale of whether the PSVR will be a one-off, or just the first in the line.

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About Jason

Jason
Jason's been knee deep in videogames since he was but a lad. Cutting his teeth on the pixely glory that was the Atari 2600, he's been hack'n'slashing and shoot'em'uping ever since. Mainly an FPS and action guy, Jason enjoys the occasional well crafted title from every genre.

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