2016 has been the year of VR. As that year is coming to an end, we were fortunate enough to get our hands on the final headset of the year—Sony’s PlayStation VR—before it officially launches at retail. So, we all gave this new console technology a go, and then sat down as a crew to give our thoughts on what many hope could be a groundbreaking video game peripheral. After everyone put in several hours with a variety of games, here is what the EGM crew concluded. If you’re also curious about the games themselves, be sure to check out our rundown of all the games launching with PS VR as well.
Until getting a PS VR kit, I had never spent more than 30-45 minutes straight with a VR headset on. In this amount of time, although a tad draining due to eyestrain, I found the experience wholly enjoyable. Trying to play VR for a more prolonged session with PS VR, I found the experience to become more strenuous than I’d prefer. I won’t get into the software limitations here, but after having the headset on for nearly five continuous hours I found that I had started to become susceptible to motion sickness and fatigue. I began to sweat and fogged up the lenses to the point I had to remove the headset every half-hour or so to clean them again and again. The sweat also caused where the headset was sitting on my face to become very itchy.
My worry now is that while VR is definitely enjoyable in short doses, I don’t know if we’ll ever get the truly immersive experiences we crave due to the fact that prolonged exposure tends to lead to discomfort to various degrees depending on the person. For me, I think after three hours was where I was really ready to tap out, and although it’s probably better for me in the long run to take a gaming break now and then, PS VR is definitely not meant to marathon anything with, at least at this point, which is disappointing.
One of the odd quirks of setting up the PS VR is that you never know what you’ll need until you’re already in the middle of things. Put on the headset and the headphones, cutting yourself off from the outside world, and only then will a game tell you whether you should be standing up or sitting down. Try to calibrate your position in the room by looking through the headset, and only then will your realize that your camera’s not in a good position. Start a sample game, and only once the game’s begun will you find out which type of controller you should have been holding all along.
The same applies to the experience as a whole: you just never know what you’re going to get. Depending on how you react to VR, the same game could be thrilling, boring, or unplayably nauseating, but there’s no way to guess ahead of time without taking the plunge. VR technology is nifty, but it’s clearly still in its early stages. While buying in now may be a bit of a gamble, I have high hopes for where the tech and games may go in the next few years once developers have more of a chance to standardize and polish the experience.
Mollie L Patterson
I come at PlayStation VR from kind of a strange position, due to one simple fact: pretty much every VR game I’ve played up until this point has left me feeling ill enough that I couldn’t last more than five or so minutes.
As someone who could never play Goldeneye 007 on the N64 due to the framerate and who takes Dramamine before any flight I take, I wasn’t really surprised to find that out. However, time after time, developers and PR reps swore to me that their game was “one of those that doesn’t make you sick.” I tried everything from first-person shooters to action adventures to virtual board games to experiences where you simply look around a world, in first-person and third-person, both sitting down and standing up. Every single time, I regretted putting on the headset in the first place.
And it’s not that I don’t want to like PSVR. I’m not at all sold on the idea for long-play games, but I’ve seen projects and promises that made me wish I could stand to enter the world of virtual reality. One of the things I tried from the flood of titles Sony has pulled together for launch was DriveClub VR. I was legitimately in awe of the experience—until I had my first decent crash and spent the following two hours feeling like I wanted to die.
Given my inability to even try the hardware at any great length, this might not seem like a fair thing to say, but I don’t think the era of VR is here yet. PlayStation VR is great in that it provides an easy and lower-cost path for consumers to give the technology a go, but it feels like it’s still a handful of years from being where it needs to be in order to really capture players. For now, it’s an absolutely interesting curiosity—but one that I’ll probably have to pass on, no matter if the idea is bound for success or failure.
As Donald Trump has been careful to remind us of late, actions speak louder than words, so allow me to share a brief timeline of some of my recent actions.
March 24th, 2016: I place an Amazon pre-order for the PlayStation VR Launch Bundle, nabbing one just before they go out of stock for good.
September 30th, 2016: Final PlayStation VR hardware arrives at the EGM offices for review. I call dibs on taking it home for the weekend.
October 1st–2nd, 2016: I spend the entire weekend playing PlayStation VR launch games, beating many of them.
October 3rd, 2016: I check eBay to see how much I can expect to get if I resell my Launch Bundle.
Now, to be clear, I’m still not absolutely certain I will sell my Launch Bundle, but going hands on with the PlayStation VR has certainly dampened my enthusiasm. It’s not that the hardware doesn’t work as advertised. It does, for the most part, though the Move controllers’ tendency to slide out of alignment and the finicky, small play area make it clear Sony’s relying on outdated tech to keep the price down. No, most of my disappointment comes from the fact that the games just aren’t where they need to be. Maybe it’s just the fate that befalls all launch games, with new technology and shorter development cycles leading to experiences that feel unfinished and underdesigned. Maybe it’s not.
Either way, I’ve gone from an eager early adopter to, quite possibly, one of those gray-market scumbags looking to make a profit off some kid’s Christmas list. If I do sell, I’m sure I’ll hop in once the headset’s cheaper, the tech is better, or the games are more fully formed. Until those hurdles are cleared, I’m afraid we might be looking at the next Kinect.
As something of a novice when it comes to virtual reality, the PlayStation VR was my first extensive experience with such hardware. The headset can control a handful of experiences through movement alone, but those games that push the boundaries of the new technology need something more solid. Games using the conventional DualShock 4 reside in a comfortable middle ground, dropping players in the center of an environment with the most efficient control scheme, but gaming with the PlayStation Move sticks offer the most innovative, yet potentially problematic experiences.
Of the variety of ways to control PlayStation VR games, the Move controllers facilitate the highest tier of immersion in VR games, acting as a virtualization of the players hands. While they function adequately in most instances, the London Heist minigame found in PlayStation VR Worlds demonstrates one of the headset’s most significant shortcomings. While waving hands around to fire guns, the controllers can block the sensors on the headset which leads to some major jarring in-game. As many games will presumably use the motion controllers for that extra level of interconnectivity, this issue is in dire need of a work-around.
The technology of the PlayStation VR is undoubtedly impressive, but its implementation into the gaming scene may need to learn to walk before it can run.
I’ve had time in recent months to play around with many of the VR options available for consumers—the HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard, and the PlayStation VR. Shockingly, despite the subpar visuals and nest of wires, I found myself enjoying the PlayStation VR the most. The headset fits snugly on my head, and even with my glasses on was the most comfortable option I’ve tried. The two-step adjustment assisted in the experience, allowing me first to pull the device over my head, then move the visor into place. The headset secured, I was able to engage in everything from heading a laser ball to dodging enemy fire without concern.
However, unlike other devices, the PlayStation VR relies on the PlayStation Camera to read the light matrix to tell it where you’re looking. In smaller spaces, or in less-than-ideal light, it was not uncommon to have to reset my view, or take a break to rearrange things so the camera wouldn’t lose sight of me.
All that being said, this is an excellent “first step” into VR. It delivers a comfortable and affordable experience, allowing players to see if VR is really for them. If you find yourself addicted, then maybe one of the higher price-point headsets is for you, but for me, the PSVR was right on the nose.