During PlayStation Asia’s press conference for PlayStation VR at Hong Kong’s Ani-Com & Games event last month, there was the announcement of PSVR demo booths at participating Sony Centres, including Malaysia. We finally got our chance to try the headset for ourselves and see what the fuss about VR is: just hype or a real game-changing technology?
Add that PSVR being the cheapest entry point for gaming VR (the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive costs around RM3000+, not including a decent PC capable of VR support), and it’s constraints with working on the PS4 that is undoubtedly a far inferior hardware compared to recommended specs for PC, there’s a lot to be sceptical about PSVR.
We came back with hope. The technology indeed works, though it has its drawbacks and it’s current lineup of games may not be worth picking up just yet.
You’d be surprised at how light the whole headset is. As someone who had wielded old VR headsets of the 90’s, I didn’t feel anything with headset strapped on and bobbed my head a lot during my play test session. It’s surprisingly comfy too. Instead of straps, the top part of the headset can be extended and then gripped nicely onto the head like how a rubber band works. There are pads at places where it grips the head. You can wear glasses underneath the headset, and to the muslimahs out there, it’s also easy to use even with a tudung.
The wires are long. There’s volume controls along the wire, with a headphone jack there that allows audio output for both the headset and the TV. The long, seemingly non-bendable wire then connects to an external processor- the small black box- and then connects to the PS4 via USB.
(For the hygiene conscious out there, the headset is sanitised fairly after each demo session)
The make or break question of any VR headsets is always about motion sickness. This issue plagued the first generation of VR decades ago, and PSVR is fast and responsive enough to mitigate this issue. Any frame drop or stutter will not only break the immersion, but could lead to motion sickness. Among the people that tried the headset I asked mostly reported to have no experience of such, though one person did experience some but it is not specifically due to VR-the person had similar experiences with normal FPS games.
Speaking of immersion, PSVR nails what I expected it to do- portray a believable space. I felt the sense of depth and space throughout my demo of Battlezone. The cockpit area feels believable with all the texts that you can read-all of the info you expected on a traditional HUD is there in a more tangible form.
If you look down enough, you can see that the headset does not seal itself too tight as you can see the outside world-well, basically your own body, from the bottom-middle part of the display. While this could have been immersion breaking, for me it actually sold me the idea of a virtual space even more. I looked around the cockpit inspecting the details, but there was no avatar replicating my body. Then I looked down low enough and see myself, making me feel grounded in the (virtual) reality, believing I’m in the cockpit. Otherwise I would feel like a floating sphere!
Battlezone is by far the best demo that was available for demo, the other was EVE Gunjack: a turret game where you use your head to aim, and PSVR Worlds.
There were many smart usage of VR that tricked me into believing more in the world. For one thing the Dual Shock 4 is actually rendered in-game. Raise the controller high enough and you can see it without the hassle of removing the headset, handy, especially for new players that are not instinctively remember where all the buttons are.
Despite being a game of controlling tanks, the much loathed tank controls is by far the most intuitive implementation thanks to VR. The left stick controls forward-backward and turning while the right stick adjusts the aim. You can fully rotate and aim higher or lower. At the same time you can glance with your head on the sides to look for enemies, glance down to see the radar the displays all the enemies around the vicinity.
Whilst I always have problems with tracking where tank is moving when I rotate the top part a lot, it did not felt that way in VR. The sense of space given me more awareness of where the tank moves.
I also flinched when taking a rocket head-on, weaved and leaned my body a bit as I tried to juke the rockets and leaned a bit closer to get a clearer look at the radar mission objectives placed around the cockpit.
However, not everything is perfect with PSVR. As expected, the resolution of the headset experience is low, so you won’t see super sharp graphics with it. Battlezone does not look apparently so since it uses a Tron-esque low-poly aesthetic. But more realistic styles, even the PSVR Worlds’ collection of experiences can look a bit muddy..if you expect a 1080p experience. But the fact that PSVR managed to do VR with hardware constraints and a lower budget is a remarkable feat in and of itself.
What worries me now is the selection of games for VR and how clever will the VR implementation be. If there’s 5 or six more titles that does VR brilliantly like Battlezone did, I’m sold. But at the moment, it’s something worth of at least a try just for the experience.
There will be 18 games from third-parties available for PSVR on launch for Asia:
- Phantom World VR
- KILL X VR
- Ace Banana
- Pixel Gear
- DYING Reborn
- Weeping Doll
- The School – Swan Song
- Mortal Blitz VR
- The Occasional Encounter
- Unearthing Mars
- O! My Genesis VR
- Resident Evil 7 biohazard
- Hatsune Miku VR Future Live
- Hatsune Miku – Project DIVA- X HD
- Cyber Danganronpa VR The Class Trial
- Final Fantasy XV
Of course, this does not count the list of first party titles published by Sony, but it is safe to say for Asia region, there won’t be that much well-known publishers and franchises jumping into VR just yet.
PSVR costs RM1849 for the headset alone, but you will need the PlayStation Camera for it to work (RM249, RM2048 for a headset + camera bundle).
The demo we tried was at KLCC’s Sony Centre. It is also available at The Curve’s Sony Centre. The demo kiosks will be available until 31 August, so if you’re keen to try it out yourself, better head to these two locations quick.
Pre-orders are now closed unfortunately, so you won’t be able to get it on its launch date on October 13. No word when more stocks of the device will be available.