The PlayStation VR ($399) has been out in the wild for about a week now, and I’ve been busy giving it a thorough workout. Since my headset arrived last Thursday, I’ve spent countless hours fixing cars, golfing, defusing bombs, and leaning perilously over the virtual abyss.
With a few days of VR exploration under my belt, I’ve emerged from my dark and sweaty headset to lay bare exactly what the launch experience was like for the PSVR. I’ll hit on some of the biggest successes and failures, run down the seven games that I spent most of my time with, and by the end you should know if it’s worth making the investment. Now, let’s take a look at what the PlayStation VR is like in the real world.
Look and feel
Sony’s headset is immaculately designed. It slides on smoothly, adjusts easily, and looks sleek and futuristic. It doesn’t feel heavy at all when it’s resting on your head, and it feels solid in spite of the plastic exterior. Of the big three headsets, Sony delivered a product that’s much more attractive and comfortable than the competition. Even if the specs don’t quite match up to the Oculus and HTC Vive, it’s clear that the PSVR excels in other ways.
But once you get past the headset itself, you’re confronted with countless wires, a breakout box, and a camera that you need to work into your existing setup. It’s a huge hassle, and I still haven’t figured out a good way to store the PSVR and its massive cables when it’s not in use. Until we get low-latency, high-bandwidth wireless communications, this rat’s nest of cables and accessories is what we’ll have to put up with for this tier of VR. It goes without saying that the simplicity of the Gear VR is nice, but it’s just not the same thing. For now, my desk looks like a war zone.
Above all else, the most impressive part of any VR rig is its ability to convey presence. Tricking your brain into forgetting where you are, and letting you buy into the virtual world at a subconscious level, is what makes virtual reality unique. And in spite of the PSVR‘s cost-cutting measures, it still manages to transport you somewhere else.
When all of the planets are aligned, the system works like you’d expect. You crane your neck, walk around, and wiggle your hands around in a virtual world, and it’s more than a little magical. Unfortunately, the immersion is easily broken. If you step out of frame, obscure your controller, or simply suffer from an awkwardly designed living space, the illusion fails.
The HTC Vive’s room-scale solution seems to deliver much more reliable results. Unfortunately, that comes with a bigger price tag, a more cumbersome setup, and some major demands on square footage. Sony’s compromise makes for some unfortunate technical issues, but it really is the VR path of least resistance. That counts for something.
I’ve never been motion sick in my entire life. I can read in the car, shrug off turbulence, and ride the teacups in Disney World without a second thought. As such, it’s not much of a surprise that PSVR didn’t make me sick in the least. I experienced a little bit of jitter on occasion, and the entire world began to shift to the left once while I was playing Batman. I kept my eyes open the entire time, and I didn’t feel the slightest bit queasy.
Clearly, I’m not the best judge of pukiness. So I had my girlfriend, my mother, and my father all spend about an hour each in various VR situations, and that helped me better understand where the PSVR stands. My girlfriend tends to get a little bit sick if she reads in the car, my mother doesn’t have any motion sickness, and my father gets nauseated at the drop of a hat.
Both my girlfriend and mother were perfectly fine with quick turns and the slight jitter, but my father fared poorly. After experiencing the tiniest bit of wonkiness when he turned away from the camera, he decided to punch out before dinner went everywhere.
In my small test, three out of four didn’t have problems, but know going in that nausea is a potential issue here. If that’s a major concern for you, you’re best off skipping the PSVR all together.