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Sony PlayStation VR: Exquisite Review

Sony PlayStation VR

Sony PlayStation VR virtual reality device is meant to work with the PlayStation 4 or PS4 Pro. It’s a capable peripheral that comes in only a hair behind the PC-powered HTC Vive, Oculus quest and Oculus Rift in terms of capabilities and cost, especially when compared to the more expensive VR-ready PCs required by the Vive and Rift. It also outperforms smartphone-based VR headsets like the Samsung Gear VR in terms of graphics capability and motion tracking.

Sony PlayStation VR

Virtual reality is still a technical novelty that requires dedication before investing money, but PlayStation VR stands out in terms of pricing and simplicity of use. The PS VR will no longer be offered as a standalone headset as of September 1(Opens in a separate window). Instead, it will only be available in one of two bundles: a PS VR with a PlayStation Camera (which is essential to operate the headset) for $399, or a PS VR with two Move controllers (which are optional but enable motion controls) for $449.

The camera package is now the same price as the PS VR on its own, while the Move combo has been reduced from $499 to $399. As a result, the PS VR remains our Editors’ Choice for the best inexpensive and accessible tethered VR system available.

Sony PlayStation VR Review

Requirements and Design

The only thing you’ll need to utilise the PS VR is a PlayStation 4 or PS4 Pro, which comes bundled with a PlayStation Camera and Move controllers. This brings the overall cost of a tethered, immersive VR experience far below that of the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift ($599 apiece plus a reasonably powered gaming PC).

Sony PlayStation VR: Oculus Rift

The headset is largely made of curved white plastic, with a large visor that houses the majority of the circuitry and a single broad headband that wraps around your back. It weighs 1.3 pounds, making it somewhat heavier than the Oculus Rift (1 pound) and HTC Vive (1.3 pounds) (1.2 pounds). A plastic crosspiece with an adjustable wheel and button supports the headband, and durable elastic is concealed where it links to the visor.

Multicolored lights that come on when you use the headset are hidden behind grey panels across the front, with a few dispersed around the rear; they’re utilised in cooperation with the PlayStation Camera to monitor the headset’s location. A wire goes from the left side of the visor, partially along the headband, and then drops freely to connect to the PS VR processing box using the provided connection cable.

With its large face mask of a visor and varied whites, greys, and silvers in its appearance, it almost appears like a Microsoft HoloLens. The HoloLens, on the other hand, is an augmented reality gadget that projects pictures on top of what you see rather than fully replacing your vision with a computer-generated image, like the PS VR does.

Sony PlayStation VR: Rift

Simply slide the visor over your eyes and pull back the headband, extending the elastic until the crosspiece fits against the back of your head. The headband tightens and locks in place as you turn the wheel, keeping the headset in place as you use it. The button unlocks the headband, allowing you to adjust or remove it. It’s a big change from the Vive and Rift, which both have a T-shaped harness with a strap that goes over your head. Even without a strap over your head to hold it in place, the fit is incredibly solid.

An inline remote with a 3.5mm headphone jack for use with the included earphones (you can use any earphones, but the included pair is very short to minimise cable slack), volume up/down and mic mute buttons, and a power button that turns the headset on and off with an audible beep from the processor unit sits about a foot down the wire from the headset and contains a 3.5mm headphone jack for use with the included ear The cable terminates in two HDMI connections, one of which is a regular HDMI plug and the other of which has a peculiar form due to a hump over the top.

They both attach to the VR connection cable, which connects to the processing box through another set of HDMI connectors. If the different shapes of the connectors aren’t enough to help you remember which one goes into which port, they’re also labelled with a pair of PlayStation face button icons (Triangle/Circle and X/Square) that correspond to the correct ports on both the female end of the connector cable and the processor box.

They both attach to the VR connection cable, which connects to the processing box through another set of HDMI connectors. If the different shapes of the connectors aren’t enough to help you remember which one goes into which port, they’re also labelled with a pair of PlayStation face button icons (Triangle/Circle and X/Square) that correspond to the correct ports on both the female end of the connector cable and the processor box.

Sony PlayStation VR: HTC Vive

The VR processing box resembles a small PlayStation 4, however instead of a parallelogram, it has a rectangular appearance. It’s larger and heavier than the HTC Vive Link Box, measuring 5.6 by 5.6 by 1.4 inches (HWD) and weighing 12.9 ounces, but it’s still dwarfed by the PlayStation 4 next to which you’ll be placing it. On the left two-thirds of the box is an indicator light, and on the right third is a pair of headset connections.

The VR connections are hidden behind a plastic sleeve that pulls back to allow you to plug the cable in before returning to its original position to lock the cable. A connector for the accompanying power brick is included on the rear, as well as a micro USB port for connecting directly to the PlayStation 4, an HDMI input for connecting to the PS4’s video output, and an HDMI output for connecting to your television.

Setup and Display

The method of connecting everything is simple, although it results in a tangle of cords akin to the HTC Vive and its Link Box. With the provided USB cable, connect the processor box to the front of the PS4, to the rear of the PS4 with an HDMI connection, and to your television with another HDMI wire. Then, using the VR connection cable, connect the PS VR headset to the processor box, and the power brick to the processor box.

Sony PlayStation VR: HTC Vive USB Cable

Finally, connect the PlayStation Camera to the PS4’s back. Turn on the PS4 after it’s connected, and you’re ready to go. Once it’s started, hit the power button on the headset’s integrated remote. It will turn on and broadcast the PS4’s main menu onto a huge screen in front of you, tracking your location with the headset’s LEDs and the PlayStation Camera.

The PS VR has a 1,920-by-1,080 OLED display divided into 960-by-1,080 pictures for each eye, which is somewhat lower resolution than the Rift and Vive’s 2,160-by-1,200 panels (1,080-by-1,200 for each eye). The PS VR’s image is significantly grainier as a result, but aside from some minor pixelation with small lettering, it’s not a significant degradation. The PS VR’s panel also features a 120Hz refresh rate, allowing for better motion than the Rift and Vive, which have 90Hz refresh rates. In the end, it appears clean and fluid, and it compares favourably to the other two headsets in terms of visual quality.

Controls and Motion Tracking

Sony PlayStation VR: Motion Sensing Wand Controllers with luminous bulbs

The PlayStation VR uses Move motion controllers, which were initially designed for the PlayStation 3 as a Wii-like motion control system (but much more precise). These controllers are not included in the $399 bundle, however they are included in the $449 bundle. Move makes use of two motion-sensing wand controllers with luminous bulbs that are tracked by the PlayStation Camera and the PS VR’s positioning lights. The result is a motion-control system that, in terms of precision, is remarkably comparable to the HTC Vive’s, but without the touchpad on the Vive’s controller.

You can’t spin entirely around as you can with the HTC Vive and its two spread-out tracking sensors since they rely on the PlayStation Camera. The controls are fairly stable if you keep seated or standing in front of your screen (or wherever you place the PlayStation Camera). While the PS VR does not feature whole-room motion tracking like the HTC Vive, it does require some room.

For the PlayStation Camera to track properly, I had to sit several feet away from the screen on which I put it, which is a major improvement over the Vive’s (which utilises two wall-mounted sensors that covered me in virtually every area in our test room) and Rift’s performance (which uses a desk-mounted camera that functions very well close-up). The requirement for distance is apparent because your PlayStation 4 is likely linked to a television for couchbound use rather than a display for desk use. However, if you have your PS4 connected to a display or want to use the PS VR in a small space, this is something to keep in mind.

Sony PlayStation VR: VR Headset

Because the PS VR depends on coloured LEDs for visual tracking rather than infrared tracking, it appears to be more susceptible to ambient light and reflections. With the lights turned on in our test room, I observed some tracking drift, which caused the headset’s image to progressively float to the left, as well as several hitches and other tracking interruptions while I played. Batman: Arkham VR required the greatest movement of any PS VR game I tested, and as a result, it revealed more flaws in the motion tracking system than other games.

Games

The PlayStation VR started with the best signal-to-noise ratio of completely completed games rather than small-scale experiences that act as tech demos, out of the three major virtual reality headsets that came out last year. It doesn’t come with a single killer app to warrant the headgear, but there are enough full games to keep you entertained for several hours, making it seem more than simply a tech demo.

Sony PlayStation VR: Driveclub VR

To get you started, Sony offers a DVD containing software. It largely comprises of trial versions of retail VR applications, such as Driveclub VR, Rigs, and Thumper, with varied scopes and costs. I tested a few demos as well as full copies of PS VR games given by Sony for the review, including Batman: Arkham VR, Battlezone, and Until Dawn: Rush of Blood.

Rigs

Sony PlayStation VR: Dualshock 4 Controller

Rigs is a mech action game in which you take control of a massive robot in a combat sports league. In several game types, your team battles against other teams. It makes use of the DualShock 4 controller, with the analogue sticks controlling mech movement and PS VR head tracking managing weapon targeting. The Powerslam game option is shown in the demo, in which you must power up your mech by eliminating adversaries and collecting power orbs before launching it through the arena’s goal to win points for your side.

Head motions make aiming exceedingly intuitive, allowing you to just gaze directly at opponent mechs to fire them while avoiding and navigating independently of your weaponry. The visuals are stunning, with well-detailed, sleek mechs and some excellent cockpit and interface effects that add to the immersion. It’s a brief sample that hints at the complete game’s potential and showcases how VR can provide engaging gameplay.

BattleZone

Battlezone is a contemporary reimagining of the classic arcade tank battle game. It also makes use of the DualShock 4 controller, with the left analogue stick controlling the tank and the right analogue stick controlling the turret and aiming. Because head movement is limited to gazing about and locating targets, the VR implementation appears to be far less important than it is with Rigs.

Sony PlayStation VR: Guns Reticle

However, because you’re in a tank rather than a more nimble mech, the guns reticle travels slowly, and quick targeting through motion tracking would destroy that impact and unbalance the game. The visuals aren’t quite as good as Rigs’, with a much more Tron-like neon-and-geometric-shapes aesthetic, but it’s still a great action game with a lot of depth.

Driveclub VR

Driveclub VR is a VR-enabled version of the Driveclub racing game, which was previously published for the PlayStation 4. I first saw this PS VR experience at a PS VR preview event earlier this year, and the demo on the PS VR disc gives a same experience. On a single three-lap street race, it puts you in the driver’s seat of one of three automobiles. A basic racing control scheme involves driving with the DualShock 4 left analogue stick and accelerating with the right trigger.

Sony PlayStation VR: Driveclub Racing Game

The huge VR attraction is that you can glance around the car while driving because the game covers your entire vision and the camera monitors your head motions. This may appear to be a gimmick until you realise how much your head moves when driving. When driving, the option to look left and right when passing, or to tilt your head up to see the rearview mirror (or directly over your shoulder for a better view behind you) is quite handy, and it considerably improves the Driveclub experience.

Thumper

Sony PlayStation VR: Thumper

Thumper is the creepiest rhythm game I’ve ever encountered. To respond to luminous bars and severe curves on the course, use the X button and left analogue stick on the DualShock 4 to drive a scarab-like vehicle going down a predefined track in a featureless vacuum. As you play, a spooky, pounding music builds up, and bizarre, tendril-filled geometric portals appear on the course, twisting it and adding difficulties. It’s a pleasant and scary experience, despite the fact that it’s a fairly easy rhythm game.

This demo offers the least rationale for VR of all the demos on the PS VR disc. Although wearing a headset makes the emptiness look weirder and more immersive, it has no effect on the gameplay.

Final Verdict

The PlayStation VR headset from Sony provides strong, immersive virtual reality to the PlayStation 4, complete with motion control support.

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