Mention the words “virtual reality headset” to someone and the first image that comes to mind will most likely be a magical gadget that costs an arm, leg and a kidney to acquire. Let’s not beat around the bush here, the whole virtual reality experience has been prohibitively expensive thus far, requiring a top of the line PC and a not exactly affordable headset in order to experience it first hand.
While a huge majority of the VR experience is currently limited to the enthusiast market, Sony is looking instead at the mainstream market. Is it possible to create a great VR experience that doesn’t require someone to fork out large sums of money in order to do so. The answer lies within the PlayStation VR, one of the most affordable VR headsets available at the moment.
Before we get into the meat of the PlayStation VR, let’s talk about the design of the headset. In terms of looks, I daresay that the PlayStation VR is the sexiest looking VR headset I’ve seen thus far, beating out both the Rift and the Vive. The entire white and black aesthetic of the headset, coupled with the smooth, rounded edges and lights gives the PlayStation VR a sense of class to it.
Looks aren’t the only thing that the PSVR headset has going for it as the headset itself is rather comfortable to use as well. The headrest located at the rear end of the headset is well-cushioned, making it ideal for long gaming sessions. Also, the headpiece itself is big enough to accomodate glasses with little problems. Overall, the PSVR headset itself is a very well designed headset that is both pleasing to the eye and great to use.
The entire PlayStation VR experience centers around a couple of items. These are the PlayStation 4 console, the PlayStation VR headset itself, the Processor Unit for the PlayStation VR headset, the PlayStation Eye camera, the PlayStation Move controller, and a DualShock 4 controller. Setting up the PlayStation VR is simply a matter of running wires between the PlayStation 4 console, the headset, and the Eye camera to the Processor Unit and the TV. Generally speaking, the process isn’t very complicated, but it is easy to get lost in the tangle of wires that comes with it. You’ll also want to do some basic cable management once you have all the wires and cables set up correctly as the entire setup is rather messy.
Once you’ve tidied up the cables and boot up the device, all that’s left to do is to update your PSVR’s software to the latest version and complete the calibrations needed. After the device is properly calibrated, you’ll finally be able to get right into the main attraction of the PSVR: the games!
So how does the PlayStation VR feel? The short answer is that it is better than expected, but not perfect. The PSVR experience is one of those things that will be affected by your familiarity with other VR headsets available in the market. If you’ve never tried out the Rift or the Vive before, the PSVR will manage to seriously impress you. Inversely, if you’ve experience either the Rift or the Vive before, the shortcomings of the PSVR is far more noticable.
Let’s begin with the general performance of the PSVR. Sony has set a target to developers that games must run at 60FPS at all times in VR to if they are to be certified as VR-ready. For the most part, games that are currently available for the PSVR do run at a steady 60 FPS. That being said, there are occasions where the frame rate drops noticeably. This can mostly be attributed to the PS4’s lack of horsepower, something that the PS4 Pro has more of.
Playing PSVR games using the DualShock 4 is very enjoyable as games that employ it are rather straightforward. Furthermore, looking around with the PSVR on is mostly problem free as the PlayStation Eye and the refresh rate of the headset allows you to move your head around without any obvious lag. There are the occasional PlayStation Eye chokes where the camera fails to track your head movements, but those are few and far in between.
If there is one part of the PSVR experience that I am not completely sold on, it would be the motion tracking experience. Because of the limitations that comes with the PlayStation Eye, the PSVR experience isn’t exactly suited for games that rely on full motion tracking. The nature of the PSVR setup means that the amount of space you have to play with is extremely limited as the PlayStation Eye can only function up to a certain distance. Additionally, the PlayStation Move is ill-suited for precision-based actions like say picking up the key in Arkham VR.
As for the whole motion sickness thing, that one is going to be a case-by-case basis. Personally speaking, I didn’t run into any motion sickness problems during my entire PSVR sessions, but your experience may vary.
As far as barrier of entry is concerned, there is no doubt that the PlayStation VR is the most affordable full VR experience available in the market right now. That said, just because it is affordable doesn’t mean that the thing is cheap. Make no mistake, the PlayStation VR is still rather expensive to own. For starters, you’re going to need a PlayStation 4 console, which costs RM1,349 for the 500GB Slim version. Alternatively, you can opt for the PS4 Pro instead, a decision I highly recommended if you’re serious about making the PSVR your default VR headset. The PS4 Pro would cost you RM1,799.
Once you have the console, you’ll need the headset itself which costs RM1,799. Assuming you don’t have the camera, you can get the PSVR Camera bundle that costs RM1,949. Finally, you need the two PlayStation Move controllers which costs RM189 per unit.
In total, you’ll need to spend at least 3.5k Ringgit in order to get all the part needed for PSVR. There is no denying that 3.5k is miles cheaper than building a powerful PC and grabbing a Rift or Vive instead, but 3.5k is in no way a small sum of cash for the layman.