Does anyone in the crowd remember the movie Lawnmower Man? I’m reasonably sure it’s the one thing that brought Virtual Reality as a concept to public knowledge, and while it was cutting-edge for its time, it’s several decades old at this point. Fortunately, we’re now living in the future, and anyone who wants a piece of the VR pie can actually jump in without the need for difficult-to-find hardware, thanks to Sony. This month, we’re going to take a look at the PS VR platform.
Design 4.0 / 5.0
The PS VR system is a combination of VR headset, processor box, PS4 Move camera, and the accompanying controllers. Everything is made to look sleek, and fit well with your existing gear. The headset is a nice glacier white, with bright blue tracking lights, and wires running from the back. It’s adjustable for head fit, as well as lens distance, and even works with glasses. The main concern though, is the wiring. There’s quite a bit, and it just can’t be avoided. It’s designed well though, and the manual gets you through setup fairly painlessly. You really can’t see yourself when you’re using the headset, but trust us when we say it looks pretty awesome from the outside.
Hardware 5.0 / 5.0
There’s really nothing that’s both easily accessible and capable of doing the things this system does. It’s quite standard, as far as VR goes–a screen, lenses, and all the wires and cables you need to plug it into the PS4, which does all the heavy lifting. The main difference though, is that motion tracking, a key element in making the whole VR thing work, is done thanks to lights on the headset, on top of internal accelerometers. It’s a simple, elegant solution that works great with all the hardware the PS4 has to begin with.
Audio is handled via a 3.5mm audio jack that’s in-line with the main cables running from the headset to the PS4. This sort of eliminates any additional cables running from the machine, and will keep you from yanking earphones out of your ears while you VR around your space.
User Experience 4.5 / 5.0
After the whole thing is put together, it’s a quick few steps, with the help of a visual guide included in the box. For those who aren’t using the headset, the system doesn’t negate the use of an external display, which shows everything the player sees, as they see it. This is a great way to include people in the action, and a lot of the time, when we were using it, everyone else in the room was having about as much fun watching, as the player did playing.
Putting the headset on is no problem. There is a lot of room in there, and Sony has made sure to give multiple points of adjustment. There’s a band that goes across the back of your head, which ratchets and locks into place very securely, but releases with a quick press of a button.
Getting a clear, bifocal image isn’t difficult on the headset. It’s a simple matter of moving the eyepiece forward or back enough to get things nice and sharp. The locking system is robust and more than solid enough to keep in it place, even with the movement VR headsets go through. This is an important step to get right, as eyestrain becomes a factor much faster with bad focus.
For the purposes of testing, we downloaded the Resident Evil 7 preview. If you don’t already know, RE 7 is going to be playable on VR from start to finish. This demo uses the regular PS4 controller to move around the environment, and despite a little getting used to at the start, everyone who tried it adjusted quickly to playing in virtual reality. Being able to investigate things by moving your head closer, or walking around to get a better view is amazingly immersive. The PS4 is capable of rendering terrifyingly realistic video, and the VR headset is more than sharp enough to pull you into the world. Details, such as shadows falling and moving, parallax, and the subtle increases in scale as you walk through a hallway feel just like the real world after a few minutes
The audio rendered by the system is binaural, and changes appropriately as your head moves through the scene at hand. It’s perfectly synchronized with the visuals, so as you move your head around a sound source, the intensity of the sounds change appropriately, with frightening results.
Even after perhaps an hour of play, I still felt comfortable enough to keep going. Switching the lights off in the room seems to help make the whole experience better, though the headset does create a great seal against outside light. It was only as I approached the second hour of play that my eyes started to complain, and I felt what might have been the start of a headache. I didn’t wait to find out.
Should you be so inclined, you can use the headset with any title you have available, and it’ll look as though you’re alone in a large theater, playing your game, or watching a video. It’s an interesting way to play a game or tear through your Netflix shows, but you do experience the same eye fatigue as you would playing a VR game, so it might not be compelling way to use the VR system.
Which brings us to the elephant in the room: there aren’t a lot of titles. The system comes with a demo disc, which shows off a few titles available, but the whole games are at the horizon yet. Visible, but not quite here. nce they do arrive though, it’ll be quite the experience. Cinema mode, while interesting, really isn’t any different from watching on your regular TV, but with eye strain. Do yourself a favor, and find a place you can try the PS VR.
Value 4.0 / 5.0
This is a bit tricky. On one hand, and in practical terms, this is one-of-a-kind, especially at the price point of just a hair under PHP 23,000. On the other hand, there isn’t a lot to do with it at the moment, though that is steadily changing. There are already a number of titles available online, a few full games present, and more than a few titles just around the corner. Whether or not this is worth it is entirely up to how eager you are to get your hands on VR, though it wouldn’t hurt to wait a couple of months to get your own.
This is the future, and it’s awesome.
Also published in GADGETS MAGAZINE February 2017 Issue
Words by Ren Alcantara