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Review: PlayStation VR

3

PlayStation VR is upon us, a hulking behemoth of plastic and cables, all offered at a whopping $549.00 AUD. Requiring a PS4, a PlayStation Camera and optional Move controllers, Stevivor set off to decide if virtual reality was worth the expense.

PS VR comes in a big, stylised box with an easy-to-follow guide showing you exactly how to set it up. The first thing you’ll notice, taking the unit out of its casing, is there are cables everywhere. You’ll need an HDMI to connect your PS4 to the PS VR’s processing unit, then another HDMI cable to your TV (or, like us, if you’re capturing, even more). The processing unit needs to be plugged in to power, and to the PS4 USB as well. The PS VR headset itself needs to plugged in to the processing unit, and finally, 3D headphones need to be plugged into a cable that leads from the headset. Got all that?

Setup is easy, but the multitude of cables mean you’ll have a mess on your hands. In my case, I needed to find a longer power board because my current setup had maxed out outlets. The need for one of a total two of the PS4’s USB outlets meant I also had to prioritise what else was plugged into the console; with a regular PS4 controller — and potentially two PS Move controllers – all needing to be recharged through the console itself, you’ll have to constantly juggle devices.

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Once you’re all hooked up, things get easier. On-screen prompts show you how to fit the headset. It takes a bit of fiddling at first, but very quickly things click – you’ll be able to take the headset on and off with little thought. That’s important, because I stupidly kept fitting the headset without putting on headphones — or grabbing a controller — first.

Sony’s provided a small pair of in-ear headphones with the unit, and while they’re of great quality and very functional, I found myself yearning for the over-ear headphones I’ve continually used in previous demonstrations. The in-ear headphones come with a range of different-sized buds, but I had trouble keeping them in whilst playing (especially when flinging my head from side to side to avoid objects coming at my face). Moreover, over-ear headphones really help to immerse you in the virtual reality instance you’re playing within.

The aforementioned cables and your overall play space can pose problems – in my office, I was too close to the PlayStation Camera, and therefore, my view blacked out when I did things like try to peer over the edge of an underwater cage, or when I stood up and went out of the camera’s field of view. Standing up almost broke the headset too – I unknowingly had a foot on the headset’s main cable and almost ripped it from its housing. Whoops. In my living room, with a larger play space, things were less problematic. That said, once you’re finished playing, a new problem arises — just where the hell do you put the headset? I ended up disconnecting it from the PS4 and storing it in a nearby closet as there’s not enough room in my entertainment unit to house the thing.

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The headset itself is lightweight and very comfortable. While primarily a contact lens user, I had no problem fitting – and seeing – with my glasses on. Visually, things are magical – it’s strange to be able to turn your head at 360 degrees and still be wholly immersed. Once you’re used to things, you will notice a reduction in quality as compared to non-VR games. Alas, that’s the limitation of the PS4 – and something that the PS4 Pro won’t fix, either. Frame rates, thankfully – or is that necessarily – remained solid, no matter the experience.

As we pointed out in our initial impressions, the PS VR is the new Wii. You’ll want to set it up purely to invite your friends over and have them experience the big new thing in gaming. It’s fun to go on a dive in PlayStation VR Worlds, and it’s fun to be able to give someone that same experience for the first time as well. The real trick is to move the technology beyond this mere novelty — though titles like Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, Batman: Arkham VR and Star Trek: Bridge Crew are doing that. Three games don’t mean the hurdle has been jumped; it’s one that Sony and associated third-party publishers will continually have to tackle.

Ultimately, the experiences we’ve had are one-of-a-kind and definitely water cooler talk for the following day. The price of entry is worth it, though consumers should be aware that what you’re buying is on the lower end of the scale when it comes to VR experiences. With easy upgrade options, overpowered PCs will outshine Sony’s little (well, little-ish) device.

PlayStation VR was reviewed using a unit provided by its publisher.