The most affordable true VR experience is finally here, but is it worth $400? While you can get a cheap headset to slap your Android phone in for $200, that’s not true VR. PC gamers have had the Oculus and Vive for months and while those are the top of the line VR experiences, the barrier for entry is pretty steep beyond just the high cost of those headsets.
Don’t let the hype fool you, PlayStation VR is nowhere near the clarity or resolution level of the Rift or Vive, but for $400 it does deliver an acceptable VR experience. You really get what you pay for here. The headset screens are nowhere near as clear as either PC headset and the games are running at very low resolution. They look much more like PlayStation 3 titles than PlayStation 4 games, and it remains to see if the PlayStation 4 Pro will improve on that area.
But even with the constraints of the low price point against it, PlayStation VR provides an awesome experience that you can’t get any other way on the console. It’s really something you have to try out for yourself to see how cool it is. I was impressed with Project Morpheus the first time I used it two years ago and the home version is just as good if even a little improved.
At launch the PSVR is available as the headset by itself for $399 or a launch bundle for $499 that also includes the PlayStation VR Worlds game, the PS4 Camera, and two PS Move Controllers. Unless you already have the move controllers and a camera, that Launch Bundle is the best deal as it’s about another $150 retail for the camera and two controllers. And a lot of games do use the move controllers, so they’re something you’ll want to have.
Setup is easy thanks to a great step-by-step manual included in the box, but the VR processor is an octopus of cables to manage. You run a HDMI cable from your PS4 to it, and then a HDMI from it to the TV. It is also connected to the PS4 via USB and requires power via a power brick. Then the headset itself attaches to it via two cables. Also, if you want to use HDR on your PS4 or PS4 Pro you have to unhook the VR processor box and plug the system directly into your receiver as the box only supports HDMI 1.4. It’s a big oversight on Sony’s part and I wouldn’t be shocked if they released a “Pro” processor box next year that supports HDR for an additional charge.
There’s been some complaints about tracking issues with the camera, and that’s because Sony is still using the old Move technology where the camera tracks the lights on the headset and controllers. The closer you are to the camera the better the tracking works, and placing the camera below the TV seems to be the best position. I sit about four feet away and I haven’t had any wobbling issues yet. The farther you get from the camera, the more likely you are to experience the problems. Unless Sony completely redesigns PSVR to use something other than Move controllers this will be an issue for the lifetime of the device. And since it was designed from Day 1 to be an extension of the Move tech, that probably won’t happen.
Right now VR games remind me of CDROM titles in 1993. Back then stuff like MYST and 7th Guest were amazing. But these days we laugh at how fanatical people were about them. The games on PSVR are great experiences so far, but as people get used to harnessing the technology we’ll probably look back and laugh at these early (and sometimes simple) experiences. Rez is absolutely perfect on VR and it’s like the old PS2 title was made for the format. EVE Valkyrie is the type of game I wanted VR for. Thumper is like being transported to the 90’s Lawnmower Man VR universe. Batman VR, while short, makes you The Batman and the world’s greatest detective. Even Driveclub VR, which some called a “Vomit Comet”, is a great VR experience if you like racing games. It’s one of my favorites so far.
There’s also some great stuff on the way. Sports Bar VR is the type of social VR experience the platform has promised, and Star Trek Bridge Crew is the Star Trek game I’ve been waiting decades for. Lots of companies are also including VR experiences in their non-VR games such as in Rise of the Tomb Raider, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Resident Evil 7, and of course the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront Rogue One VR X-Wing Mission. So there is content available now for PlayStation VR and what looks to be a steady stream of stuff on the way.
So is it worth $400? That’s really something you need to answer for yourself after trying it. Personally I think it is worth that for what it delivers in comparison to more expensive VR solutions. As long as you don’t expect PlayStation VR to be on-par with the Rift or Vive, it’s worth the price of admission. It’s a completely new and immersive way to play games. Aside from the annoyances of the cable jungle to the processor box, and that box’s HDR limitation, I really haven’t had any complaints with my purchase.
Even if you’re not sold on the idea of VR, you should at least make an effort to try it. Find a friend who owns it or locate a demo station at Best Buy or a similar store and try it for yourself.