It’s been nearly a month since I got my hands on the PSVR and after putting many, many hours with a lot of the launch library I think the time has come for me to review my experience with it.
Let me preface this review by saying that I have never, in my 20 odd years of playing games, experienced anything remotely like PSVR. Before I got my unit I was beyond hyped, but had my expectations tempered by places like NeoGAF with negative views on the hardware.
When the time came to slip on that headset, my gaming world changed forever.
I cannot stress enough that this is a watershed moment for gaming; like the T-Rex demo on the original Playstation, Mario 64 or Phantasy Star Online – there is no shaking that feeling of “things will never be the same”.
Please note that I will not be giving a score to the PSVR, I believe that every platform is defined by its software and at only 3 weeks it is impossible to score a new platform this early in its lifespan.
The question is; is this the dream hardware? Or is it another case of too little, too soon?
First things first; Sony have packed the PSVR in a superb box. I’m not one to lose my mind over packaging, but this is the best box I’ve seen since the clear plastic iPod Nano boxes.
Further to this is the superb “Quick Setup Guide” that is in there, the diagrams are incredibly helpful and every cable (of which there are quite a lot) is conveniently numbered that makes getting the PSVR up and running a quick process. My first time took about 10 minutes.
The result is not pretty. There are cables everywhere and because the PS4 doesn’t have a rear USB port I have a cable going from the front to the back and up the back of my desk – it’s ineloquent and ugly solution. The external processing box though is quite attractive; it resembles a mini PS4 and takes up little to no room; its fan is incredibly quiet and it sits very comfortably under my monitor.
The biggest draw back that I found is that if you are using a HDMI splitter with HDCP stripping (I use it for PS3 streaming) then your PSVR will not work. I had to directly connect my PS4 to the processing box, bypassing the splitter altogether. This is a niche issue though and not one you will likely come across.
Sony have a proud history of creating some of the most beautifully designed hardware to market; look at their current range of UHD TVs, the PS2 or even the VITA, all are poster boys for the Sony R&D department and they have worked their magic again with PSVR. It looks incredible; and while the majority of it is made from plastic it does have a premium look and feel to it. I can say without reservation that the PSVR is, undoubtedly, the best designed VR headset currently on the market.
One thing that got me about Oculus Rift and Vive is that they look like prototypes; the PSVR looks like a fully fledged product that has been iterated until it has been perfected. In the place of unsightly head straps is a headband that is fully adjustable, with a dial for minute adjustments to ensure the best possible fit.
This is a great design choice for two reasons, it uses the same principle as a welder’s mask and distributes the weight around the head (rather than on top) which makes it much more comfortable for the wearer and it holds the visor off the face of the wearer, which allows for on-the-fly adjustments of the mask itself. Rest assured that the PSVR is a very comfortable piece of tech, I have had no issues with wearing it for extended periods of time; with and without my glasses on.
Finally the optics are of a very good quality and finding the sweet spot is a very quick process for everyone that has tried the headset in my house.
One design choice I am not overly keen on however is the rubber strip around the visor that acts as a light shield – there is a little leaking along the bottom side which can be distracting. However it ceases to be an issue when your game begins. In fact that little bit of a gap allows for airflow and stops the lenses from fogging up. In the three weeks I have played the PSVR I have never had to remove the headset for either comfort reasons or lense fogging.
A lot has been made of the PSVR’s screen and how it will be inadequate for its purpose and while it is undoubtedly a lower resolution per-eye than either of its main competitors; the screen itself looks gorgeous!
It is a full 1920×1080 OLED and it has all benefits that come with it. The blacks are deep and natural (it often looks like the screen is off when it goes to black) while other colours are deep, natural and vibrant. It is a thing to behold. On top of this there is no noticeable “screen door effect” when playing the games; something that was a big worry for enthusiasts because both the Oculus Rift and the Vive have a pronounced screen door effect despite their higher resolution.
How Sony have gotten around this issue is another success for their R&D department. They have used RGB subpixels; this means that every single pixel is made up of 3 distinct sub pixels (Red, Green and Blue). This rendering technique treats every pixel as 3 and it effectively gives the screen 3 times the horizontal resolution (see here for more info). This minimises the screen door effect to such an extent that it is only visible when there are no colours except black on the screen (which is only during some loading screens). It is an incredible feat and the results speak for themselves.
In game everything looks beautiful, yes it is not true HD but it doesn’t really matter. The level of immersion here is unparalleled in the console space and it is an eye opener for the future of the technology.
In a sentence?
The experience is mind-blowing and as I said at the top, it is a watershed moment for gaming. Nothing can prepare you for the scale of VR, and there is no getting around the amount of “WOW” moments that happen minute to minute inside that visor.
Simple things that we all take for granted in gaming, like reloading and then firing a gun become activities that are incredible! On top of this there are truly spectacular moments that are only possible in VR.
The opening cinematic to ‘RIGs’ left my jaw on the floor, ‘Robo Rescue’, ‘The London Heist’ and ‘Ocean Descent’ are just incredible experiences. The best thing about these games (excluding ‘Ocean Descent’) is that they are fully fledged games, not just tech demos – these show that traditional gaming is more than possible with VR, it’s already here.
Then there is the sound.
Oh my God the sound.
I am using a £25 pair of Sony headphones and the sound I get from them is incredible! The use of 3D is something that is unattainable on traditional gaming – it makes every game so much more immersive because you are surrounded by a soundscape. Further to this it really does seem to be a 360 degree sound scape, you hear things all around you as well as above and below. There is nothing you can do to appreciate how much the sound adds to the experience and if you have an expensive pair of wired headphones, I dare say your experience would surpass mine by a brave distance! It is incredible!
Every time I play PSVR I wear a grin like a Cheshire Cat – it is impossible to describe and impossible to convey how VR changes absolutely everything I thought possible in gaming!
I have had absolutely no issues with tracking either. I’ve never had the camera lose me or my PS3 move controllers for even a second; there’s been no “drift” either. In short my experience has been optimal and my playspace is my kitchen, hardly what you would call optimal.
I’ve had more fun playing on my PSVR than I have gaming in a very long time. It is a technology that is genuinely new and it brings out the 13-year-old in me every time I play. It is groundbreaking and it WILL change gaming!
In short, PSVR is everything I dared hope for, it’s often more.
I can’t wait until I get more games for the thing! Roll on ‘Resident Evil VII’
Have you tried the PSVR?
What did you think of it?
Tell me your experiences in the comment section below!