Tested: Sony Jumps into the Virtual Reality Fray with PlaystationVR
Expect lots of pros and just as many cons.
The landscape of devices that will take you to Virtual Reality worlds just got a little more crowded thanks to Playstation. Sony has combined its enormous tech-manufacturing capabilities with its cutting-edge gaming and entertainment presence to introduce PlaystationVR, a new headset/console ecosystem that has its roots firmly planted in Playstation’s history while looking far into the future.
Our experience with the PSVR has been quite exhaustive, having been sent one over a week ago. We’ve explored every aspect of it, from a tumultuous setup to the triumph of playing through PSVR’s excellent launch lineup. Here are the pros and cons of bringing PlaystationVR into your home.
Pro – Setup is intuitive.
We’re so experienced with setting up tech that we could moonlight as an entire geek squad, but PSVR’s setup was so intuitive that anyone who ever connected an HDMI cord to a flat screen could do it without reading the manual. (You should definitely still read the manual, though.)
Con – Setup is a wire hell.
Connecting all the wires to the right place is easy, figuring out what to do with them once you’re done is not. PSVR requires an additional 5”x5”x2” box to be integrated very nearby your PS4. Once everything is connected, that box looks like a spider with four HDMI cords, a power brick and a USB data cable jutting out of it. Zip ties were quickly necessary to reign it all in.
Pro – The headset is comfortable, even in long sessions.
It’s light, has more adjustments than both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, and even has rubber curtains to keep the light out without leeching onto your face. We’ve had some extended sessions since the PSVR came home and none of them have given us a migraine like the competition has.
Con – The headset is bulky when you’re not wearing it.
Once the headset comes off your head, you’re left with the problem of figuring out where to store it so you’re not tripping over it or its lengthy extension cord. Sony does offer an official partner stand that also simultaneously charges a PS4 controller and two PSMove sticks for $50, provided you have the space and the extra AC outlets to use it. We found it best to unplug the headset when not in use for easy storage in your nearest steamer trunk.
Pro – PSMove controllers are perfect for VR.
We loved them back in the day as a Wii-mote competitor, and the PSMove sno-cone glowstick controllers easily handle even the most difficult tasks in VR. Most importantly, they get the pinch-to-grab motion correct and are 1:1 accurate when translating movements in real life to virtual reality. Our hands-on time with Rift’s Touch controllers confirm that this kind of tactility is essential in VR, and PlaystationVR has nailed it out of the gate.
Con – PSMove controllers require the bygone mini-USB cables.
Maybe we’re the only ones who have moved on entirely from Mini-USB to Micro-USB, but you better plan to dig deep in the depths of the land of misfit wires to find your old Motorola RAZR wire, required to pair and charge the PSMove controllers with your PS4.
Pro – On-Screen tutorials are perfectly executed.
Like the Rift and Vive, PSVR has on-screen walkthroughs to get you up and running. A pose here, a button-press there, and you’ll immediately be ready for the slew of experiences PSVR has in store for you.
Con – PlaystationVR requires some serious physical space.
At least it did for us in the small space we have designated for gaming, preferring us to stand on top of our coffee table instead of adapting to the confinements like the Rift does. It’s a necessary evil, one that proves its necessity once you’re moving around that physical space to explore a crime scene or dodge incoming enemy attacks. We’re simply not quite ready to rearrange our entire living room for PSVR, but that could definitely change if the games keep using physical space so well.
Pro – PlaystationVR integrates PS peripherals you probably already own.
The PSMove motion controllers, the Playstation Camera, regular headphones plugged into your PS4 remote for sound coverage—they’re all things you may already have lying around that have been given new life thanks to PlaystationVR. Sony, wisely, doesn’t require upgraded versions of the products you already own to make PSVR work. It’s a decidedly un-Sony tactic, and one we really appreciate.
Con – If you don’t own them, you need to buy them.
If you aren’t already the proud owner of the PSMove sno-cone controllers, get ready to buy some 2011 tech to make your 2016 (and beyond!) VR setup work. We’ll forgive Sony because the end result is simply awe-inspiring, but you just know some executive at SCEA is getting a huge bonus this year for figuring out what to do with all those leftover PSMove controllers they couldn’t sell the first time around.
Pro – It offers full immersion.
The PSVR system is as full-blown an experience as any VR platform we’ve tested (read: all of them) and we’re impressed by the level of immersion as PSVR’s games tend to encourage more movement in physical space than many of its competition’s offerings. With the exception of some niche experiences, PSVR is a complete platform.
Con – Sound requires earphones plugged into your PS4 controller.
PSVR’s level of immersion relies on audio as much as video. The setup, at its barest, doesn’t actually include audio built into the headset. Instead, PSVR asks you to BYO headphones into the mix. It’s nowhere near as elegant a solution as the Rift’s on-board headphones, and relying on just your TV’s stereo speakers seriously pales in comparison.
Pro – Playstation VR is cheaper than its competitors.
The cost of the Oculus Rift, when you consider the bare-minimum PC required to run it is, at least, a grand. Vive is even more expensive. The $399 price of the PlaystationVR bundle is going to be the biggest selling point for existing PS4 owners this holiday. Even if you have to buy a PS4 to run the thing, you’re still coming out about $200 cheaper than the cheapest, store-bought Rift setup.
Con – It’s strictly for gaming, for now.
Rift and Vive are slowly but surely getting some wicked non-gaming applications. BigscreenVR and Virtual Desktop both prove that VR has real-world applications too. As of now, neither of the desktop software options have plans to make the jump to Sony’s console-based platform. That’s not to say PSVR won’t lead the way in non-gaming VR possibilities but, with Sony’s track record of terrible first-party UI software on Playstation—like that godforsaken browser—we’re not expecting much in this vein.
Pro – PlaystationVR’s game lineup is astoundingly great.
Here lies the bread and butter. Arkham VR, Resident Evil 7, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy XV all have PSVR content in the works, and no other VR platform can claim that. Mix in non-exclusive VR insta-classics like Job Simulator, and PSVR makes a compelling case for you to own it, based solely on the exclusive titles that’ll show up on Sony’s rig first. When all is said and done, the system is set up, the wires are permanently organized and tucked out of sight, the camera is perched atop your 4K TV, your PSMove controllers are synced and your PSVR headset is snugly seated on your head, the games Sony has to offer in VR makes all hurdles more than worth it.
Con – You’ll have to wait for some of the best games.
Then again, you waited this long for PSVR to go from the prototype-phase Project Morpheus to a real product in your hands (or should we say, on your head?). What’s another few weeks, really? Think about it, we’ve all waited for Final Fantasy XV for a full decade, the extra time with your PSVR means you’ll be extra ready when these essential titles debut later this fall.