PlayStation VR (PS VR) is Sony’s attempt at taking on the likes of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive with its own headset. Unlike the competition, which works on PCs, the PS VR requires a gaming console, Sony’s very own PS4. While early impressions from the Western media have been mostly favourable, we spent some quality time with PS VR over the course of two days at Indian Games Expo (IGX 2016) to tell you what the experience is like with what seems to be yet another stab at the next frontier of gaming - and possibly a whole lot more.
PS VR build quality, set up, experience
Much like most of Sony’s PlayStation hardware, the PS VR is extremely well-built. It’s designed with ample amount of room to allow you to adjust it for your face as you see fit, and even to accommodate for the presence of glasses. It was easy to use and felt comfortable, even after close to 40 minutes of continuous gaming.
While setting up PS VR was easy, the current method of using it involves having more than a few wires up front and centre. Neat freaks take note.
Setting it up was straightforward and painless. Simply connect it to the PS4 via its own box, switch everything on, and the PS4 camera will recognise PS VR’s visor via its blue lights - asking you to move it into the correct box shown on-screen. Compared to the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift, getting PS VR up and running was easy.
Although it looks like a prop from a Daft Punk music video, it’s perhaps the most consumer-friendly looking VR headset of the three, with the competition sporting boxy designs that wouldn’t be out of place in 80s sci-fi movies. You’ll still look ridiculous, but once you're immersed in VR, that quickly stops being an issue.
PS VR Games - are we there yet?
We tried three games on PS VR and had wildly varying experiences, showing off that some developers are taking to the platform better than others. First up was Driveclub VR. While the non-VR variant was subject to many a delay and a slew of updates, it ended up being one of the better racing games of this generation. We wish Sony took similar care with Driveclub VR. Forget the fact that it looked like an early PS2-era title with jagged edges and plain textures galore. The real problem was that looking in any direction other that directly in front of us resulted in a tremendous amount of blurriness that made us question our own sobriety. And it didn’t help that trying to overtake other cars or pressing the accelerator to go faster resulted in feelings of nausea that made it nearly unplayable.
That could in part be explained by this being at an event where the lightning conditions were suboptimal, and not in line with requirements Sony sets for a satisfactory PS VR experience. Even with that in mind, Driveclub VR is one title that requires thorough inspection before you consider buying it. Although on looks alone, it’s nowhere close to its non-VR counterpart, making it one you could probably skip.
(Also see: PlayStation VR First Impressions)
The next game we tried was Resident Evil 7. Our initial impressions of Capcom’s latest entry in the hallowed horror franchise were anything but favourable. But checking out what it dubs as the Kitchen Demo did a fair bit to change our mind. The slower pace of play resulted in no feeling of discomfort and the sense of depth did wonders in portraying the grittiness and filth that had looked absolutely boring and low-res in the non-VR variant. Coupled with some smart jump scares and shrewd use of blood and sharp objects, it was a powerful and immersive experience.
(Also see: Resident Evil 7's Demo Isn't Resident Evil)
Capcom claims that Resident Evil 7 will be completely playable in VR. From the looks of things, it could very well be the game that pushes those hesitant about PS VR and its ilk over the line. Unlike Driveclub, the addition of VR enhances gameplay while taking nothing away, making it an experience worth checking out if you’re a fan of the horror genre.
This was followed by Batman: Arkham VR. The game claims to put you in the cowl of the World’s Greatest Detective. However we didn’t know it took Batman several tries to get his costume on. The controls were unresponsive and movement in the game is dependent on head tracking, which from time to time would not indicate areas you could teleport to. While these glitches could be written off as issues with lighting or calibration, they do a fair bit to hamper an otherwise solid experience that takes you on a whirlwind tour of Gotham City including Wayne Manor, Crime Alley, and beyond.
There’s smart use of VR’s strengths too, limiting your interactions to piecing together elements of a crime scene rather than have you snapping necks of Gotham’s many goons. It works for most part, with slick UI cues and steady pacing though we can’t help but feel that those itching for some of the Arkham series’ stellar predatory combat would be better served with Batman: Return to Arkham.
Each of these games represents PS VR in various stages of evolution. Driveclub VR was near unplayable, Batman: Arkham VR while solid, was subject to technical concerns, while Resident Evil 7 surprisingly showed off the tech best.
PS VR India price and release date
It was rumoured that Sony would announce a date and price for PS VR at IGX 2016, but that did not come to pass. With supply issues being rife we won’t be surprised to see a January release alongside a Rs. 40,000 price point - at par with what the PS4 was at launch in India. Although PS VR retails from $399 onwards, so did the PS4, and that ended up with a Rs. 40,000 tag.
Hopefully Sony continues demoing PS VR prior to launch, with a varied set of games. There’s potential in PS VR, but its possibly steep entry price and limited range of content may be stumbling blocks. It could be fun with a steady stream of games tailor-made for the format, and perhaps we’ll see a few at this year’s PlayStation Experience. Until then, you’re better served waiting. Unless of course you’re willing to pay Rs. 60,000 plus for the privilege - which is its going rate via import or the grey market.