First Impressions: My weekend with PlayStation VR

PlayStation VR has officially landed and it’s off to an excellent start as a great piece of hardware that just goes above and beyond a peripheral. It makes the PlayStation 4 the very gaming system that will set it apart from the rest this holiday season (If you can get your hands on a VR headset that is). The launch line-up of games however, can be pretty hit or miss, thankfully most of them are a hit.

To start with, the main box for the headset was pretty exciting to open (see my intriguing one handed unboxing video here).

It was quite surprising with how many cables come with the unit as well as the central processing box being almost the size of the PlayStation 4 slim.

Once I had the gear all connected, I had to then make my living area comfy and find where I was going to sit down to play. I chose to move my coffee table away from my living room area and to sit in a swivel chair. Then came the first minor issue, getting tangled. While you only have one big cable from your headset to the processing box, adding in the extra cable for a headphone only adds to the mess. I am just surprised the headset didn’t come with some sort of built in speaker system. Like a long haired Amazonian princess, I had the very minor annoyance of needing to throw the cables back around behind my back during some games.

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Getting the cables right where I needed them, took some getting used to and to be quite honest, some of the cabling itself would start to get bent and twisted fairly easily which means you will really need to take good care of them in the long run. Basically, if you know roughly where your cables are, it doesn’t take you out of the experience. Until some wireless technology arrives this is the compromise we take with the techs limitations. The lens can get a little fogged up after extended play as well, so you also have to keep the lens wipe handy.

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The headset itself is extremely comfortable to wear and I never felt it was too heavy no matter what angle I had my neck in. The ability to hold down a button just behind your head to adjust the spring loading strap was a nice feature and another button on front, underneath the visor is a great way to get out of the action very quickly if you need to look out of the headset.

I did find a few kinks in the visual fidelity side of things. Trying to get the headset into a position where the text on screen wasn’t blurry can be a little bit of trial and error. I found it quite easy, even with my glasses on but a few friends who tried it out had to readjust the headset for quite some time until they found the perfect position, the addition of a focus dial would have been a very welcome one, Samsung’s Gear VR mobile headset had one and it really made a big difference.

You do need to have the PlayStation camera for any of the VR gear to work at all and it is a very weird move that it wasn’t included in the complete package. The PlayStation move controllers are also a great benefit to some of the main games such as London Heist and Batman VR. They are not required but it makes a huge difference. Most of the games will give you a choice to use one or the other. Using the move controllers give you that added realism when it comes to picking items up in a game, for example: in London Heist you have a move controller in each hand and to pick up a gun you hold out the move controller (which looks like your hand in the game) and the trigger button closes your hand around the object. So when going to pick up a gun you lean forward, pick up the gun and sit back again and then use the other move controller in your opposite hand to pick up an ammo clip and bring it towards your other controller to load it into the gun itself. It is such a minor task that makes the entire experience feel so surreal and bloody exciting. Add this to games like Batman VR and the possibilities open up even more. It really is a great piece of tech that you just want to show off to everyone.

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Now onto a few of the launch titles. First I threw in the demo disc which was included and tried the first title.

BATTLEZONE VR

 

This game used the PlayStation dualshock controller and Initially the menu for Battlezone in which you sit in a tank and start up all the controls, was an awesome introduction and comfortable to get adjusted to, when you left the comfort of the main static hub screen however and started to drive out into the battle-arena, it was very disorientating. The fact you do most of your movement with the controller and are given the ability to look around with your head in real time is probably what brought on the feel of vertigo. I couldn’t stick around with the game for long and it wasn’t such a great start. So I put it down to possibly not being used to the tech yet. I took out the demo disc and put in a full title.

PlayStation VR Worlds

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VR worlds is a collection of 5 VR games. London Heist, Ocean Descent, VR Luge, Scavengers Odyssey and Danger Ball. I like to call these titles VR glorified tech demos and quite frankly most of them are fantastic.

Oceans Descent

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I found myself lost in another world for a good ten minutes in Oceans Descent, while being lowered down into a diving cage to the bottom of a sub-marine wreck. You are then given the ripe opportunity to play peek-a-boo with a great white shark that goes out of its way to terrify you.

London Heist

 

This is the highlight of all the titles on this disc and it truly redefines how you play a video game in the sense of pure immersion and interaction. Sadly it ends as quick as it begun and like many of the other VR titles only lasts mere minutes. It really is a little annoying that such a great quality title ends up feeling like a glorified tech demo. However, London Heist gives you the option to use the move controller in each hand and then throws you in the deep end of a diamond heist.

One scene has you sitting down at a desk in what seems like someone’s mansion and sifting through all the draws in an attempt to find the combination to a safe which led to the diamond. While figuring it all out, the occasional guard will pass by and shine their torch your way, at which time you physically have to duck down in real life and behind the desk in game just to hide. Followed by an amazing level in which your sitting in the passenger’s side of a speeding car shooting at enemy vehicles. This level had me giddy with excitement when I realised I could open the car door and look out and around at what was coming up from behind me.

VR Luge

You lay down on a Luge sled and fly down steep hills and duck and weave between oncoming traffic in a race to the bottom. This game is basically a checkpoint racer, the more cars you hit the less time you have left to make it to the bottom and onto the next level (there are only 4 levels). This one may make you rather queasy to begin with and isn’t really the first game you would throw your visitors into when giving them a demo.

Scavengers Odyssey

This games graphics are incredibly good, however the way in which you leap and bound between rock formations in space and in first person all from the window of your space ship, upside down and sideways, it can really bring on the vertigo factor. I honestly think this game requires you to be very well adjusted to VR before you take on this game. At this time, I can’t bring myself to spend more than a few minutes at a time with it and that’s really upsetting they didn’t fix this issue before release.

Danger Ball

This is one of the games I spent the least time playing, it works and it plays well. But it is basically a very advanced version of pong in which you use your entire head to hit a ball back and forth and destroy the wall on the opposite side. Swinging my head back and forth can be fun for a few minutes and after that it really just starts to feel like a gimmick. I am not a huge sport fan either, so that didn’t help much at all.

Now that I had tried all that PlayStation Worlds had to offer I downloaded and played some of the other titles the store had ready for us at launch.

Batman Arkham VR

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Without spoiling to much this game is very much played along the same lines as the London Heist in VR Worlds. This time of course you take on the role of Bruce Wayne aka The Batman. You start off by witnessing the very surreal and confronting murder of your parents in crime alley. You then wake up from what feels like a nightmare and are seated in front of the grand piano in Wayne manor’s foyer. You can then look around and interact with everything in the area. Pick up photos of your parents, answer the phone when it rings, open and close drawers and basically getting to know how everything works. When you’re done, you can follow Alfred’s wishes and touch a few keys on the piano and be transported into the Batcave. This is where the fun happens. Put on the suit, hold the cowl and then place it over your head, get to try out your grappling hook and detective scanner.

From here on out, you must follow clues and search areas to solve a mystery that seems to take place between the events of Arkham City and Arkham Knight when the Joker has poisoned you with some of his infected DNA. This game shows how well an action game can be played out and still show you real drama without taking away from the gameplay. Sadly, as with all the other VR titles so far the game only lasts a few hours and it’s over. But, it’s glorious and it doesn’t hold back and is definitely not for children.

Other titles to which we will review more in depth at a later date will be:

Until Dawn: Rush of Blood – A first person horror game, literally on rails and in which you ride a rollercoaster through a psychotic theme park full of scary and unnerving horrors.

Here They Lie – A first person interactive psychological horror.

Wayward Sky – A family friendly VR point and click style adventure.

Loading Human – Santa Monica studios and Sony’s first full-fledged VR science fiction adventure game.

There are also a few great demo games to download such as Resident Evil 7’s Kitchen demo which only lasts about 2 minutes and some bigger titles like RIGS, Hustle Kings, Drive Club VR and for now, other than Kitchen, I just wasn’t that interested in getting these just yet.

Phew, I know that is a lot to take in (it was a lot to write) but I hope I have given some real insight into what you’re getting yourself into when you enter the world of PlayStation VR. If you can get your hands on a headset before Christmas, as well cough up the cash for the hefty price tag that comes with it, you really won’t be disappointed.

I for one, really hope this is just the beginning and it becomes mainstream, that we get some amazing quality and full games and big licensed developers on board and this amazing futuristic piece of hardware doesn’t end up sitting in my lounge room corner gathering dust like many gimmick peripherals of the past (I am looking at you PlayStation Move). The future is now, this VR unit is only held back by its hardware limitations such as the amount of room the PlayStation camera can see and cover and the headsets many cables decline many games from being a fully fledges 360 degree experience. Even with those minor annoyances, it never breaks you from its reality and it can only get better from here right?

One more thing i wanted to show and mention was a trailer to tease everyone with for a new game coming from Crysis developers Crytek and it is called Robinson The Journey. This really proves that we are getting the support and the quality and at such an early stage as well. Bring on November.

If this continues to grow and become mainstream, this is the very future I want to grow old in.

PlayStation VR is available now for purchase or pre-orders and currently retails at $549.00