Ever since its introduction to the PlayStation hardware lineup, I’ve had this bizarre perception of PlayStation VR – A semi-baked attempt to cash in on the already semi-baked VR market, filled with only middleware titles and low-quality cash grabs… However, upon getting a PlayStation VR unit as an early Christmas present around the middle of December, I’ve completely, to my surprise, inverted my opinion about it.
Now, I want to start this off by saying that I’ve tested the PlayStation VR on both an original PS4 unit, and a PS4 Pro unit, both of which have subtle differences between eachother – I have a range of titles under my belt for the subsystem, such as SUPERHOT VR, Job Simulator, DOOM VFR, Skyrim VR, Astro Bot and Resident Evil VII VR… However I’m not going to go into depth reviewing each of these titles in this article. I feel I should preface this with a small introduction to my playspace instead – In my front room, which stretches around 6 meters in length and 2.5 meters in width, I’ve left around 2 meters or so (Probably more realistically 1.5 meters) to house a small coffee table in front of my sofa and TV – Usually PlayStation VR recommends a play area of around 1.9 meters wide and 3 meters long… However I found that my rather small play area was perfectly fine to play every single title I’ve currently purchased for the subsystem. SUPERHOT VR, Job Simulator, Beat Saber… All of these titles and more have worked absolutely flawlessly on my base PS4 and limited play area.
Honestly, this is one of the aspects of PSVR that surprised me – I was expecting to have to push back my whole living room, shuffle everything around and mess my living space just to accommodate… But that was far from the truth – I even feel that in one of my old bedrooms, I would’ve had just enough space to enjoy most of these games. In terms of performance, on the base PS4 I didn’t notice any sort of immediate issues or performance drops – Intensive titles such as Resident Evil 7 and Astro Bot however run extremely well when given the additional graphical and processing power of the PS4 Pro – This isn’t just noticeable with resolution, but with frame rates as well getting a well-welcomed boost when running on the Pro in comparison to the base PS4 units.
Now, one aspect of the PSVR that does irk me, as with any VR system, is how foggy the lenses on the unit can get, even at base body and room temperature – Simply breathing out of the mouth seems to steam these puppies up, which made my initial playtest with the unit (When I was suffering with a horrid case of winter cold) a bit frustrating – Thankfully all PSVR units come with a patterned microfiber cleaning cloth to wipe sweat, dust and gunk away from your PSVR headset, which does work wonders when paired with something like conventional lens cleaner – It may not be the best thing to clean close-quarters monitors with, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see a difference after a proper clean.
Continuing with another minor drawback of the PSVR camera, due to hardware limitations with Sony’s setup with PSVR, all backwards-facing tracking is similar to pulling the plug out of your router midway through a match of Call of Duty – Limbs flail unexpectedly and lose tracking, warnings will pop up that you’re out of the play area, and regular functions will be impacted simply by facing away from your TV and PlayStation Camera – Something easily done during an engrossing and immersive session of SUPERHOT VR; this can lead to some annoying moments where you’ll try to dodge or fire weapons behind you, only to have the tracking mess up because you’re not allowed to play facing away from the camera. It leads to cheap deaths, frustrating gameplay sessions and even a few bugs, especially in games like SUPERHOT VR where, due to an enemy running behind me post-headshot, he continued to live without his head, spinning inside geometry infinitely whilst not dying. Regardless to say, I had softlocked the bloody thing.
Now, this can be forgiven due to the PSVR’s low price of entry and simple setup, which, I’ll admit, took me by surprise – With a minimal amount of cable juggling, I was able to cleanly set up my unit to fit straight into my TV space with little to no fuss – At an entry price of around £300, you can enjoy a slightly neutered VR experience, as long as you’re willing to put up with some annoyances with backwards motion tracking – So far the selection of games has been great, if a little limited in size, and you do lose some of the customizations of PC VR units like the Oculus and HTC Vive headsets (For instance, custom songs in Beat Saber and using it in VR Chat), but at over half the price of these competitors, and without requiring expensive PC components, PSVR may just be the mainstream VR headset for the masses.
…Now all Sony needs to do is funnel more investment into innovating and improving the PSVR with a successor, perhaps for the PS5, and fund more development studios to create fully-fledged, AAA experiences and titles worth the £40-60 price tag.
I give PSVR, at least in its ‘start of 2019’ form, an 8.5 / 10.