Virtual Reality is here. Could it actually be the future of entertainment, or will it become yet another fad to add to a stockpile of Virtual Boys, Kinects, Wii U GamePads and other elaborate and pricey flights of fancy? Well we're soon about to find out as the much-hyped PlayStation VR steadies itself for release in a market where not that many people even know what an Oculus Rift or a Vive is.
But what these devices don't have over #PSVR is Sony's marketing swagger, a relatively low cost and the knowledge that millions of people already have the pivotal device for making the headset work in their homes – the PlayStation 4.
So will you be making the dive into the waters of VR on whichever model of #PS4 you own? If so I've tossed together a little run down of...
5 Things You Should Know Before Buying PS VR
Now, PS VR is significantly cheaper than both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, but that still doesn't mean you'll be able to pick one up down the high road for a fiver. The RRP for the head mounted display (HMD), wired headphones and all of the corresponding wires alone is $399 (€399, $549.99 CAD, £349). But remember, there's a whole host of other things you'll need to pick up in order to get it running, like the PlayStation Camera and two PS Move wands (if you dare go down that route).
The PS VR bundle – which includes all of the above and PlayStation VR Worlds – will set you back $499. And both iterations come with a demo disc. Because demos are back in fashion now.
What's In The Box?
Now time to delve into PS VR's box o' tricks:
1. Wired headphones
2. The head mounted display (HMD)
3. The HMD's cable (also includes volume control)
4. The HMD's very own box
5, 6, 7, 8 & 10. Mound of wires meant to connect PSVR's processing unit to the HMD and your TV
9: PS VR Processor Unit
11. Instruction manual
Also, there are a few things to point out regarding the innards of PS VR's box and how that will affect your time with the system:
- The PS VR Processor Unit is a literal junction between your face and your TV, or "HDMI cable management" as Sony delightfully puts it. The PU is essentially a HDMI splitter that sends video images to both the HMD and your TV or just to your HMD.
This little box creates the 3D audio (for wired headphones only) that aides immersion in the virtual world, and offers Cinematic Mode which is the awesome sounding way we'll all be watching movies and playing non-VR games (more about that below), as well as Social Screen TV which is the system for sending images to both the TV and HMD – so others in the room will be able to witness what you're getting up to in the virtual realm.
- The PU does not provide extra processing power. That's where the PS4 Pro comes in.
- 3D sound will only be replicated via wired headphones. So those flashy, bluetooth cans you just picked up won't replicate the immersive sound of the world of your VR title, unless they can be connected via a 3.5mm cable. Though they will produce stereo sound just fine without.
- And Sony's much hyped drafting in of HDR support will work only when PS VR is switched off. Meaning you'll have to plug out the system in order to make games look extra pretty.
PS VR Games
Unlike its PC based competition, PS VR has a shed load of games itching to get into your eyes from the moment it releases. 50 titles planned for release up until the end of the year; games such as RIGS (which I'm very sad to announce isn't a Lethal Weapon VR sim), puzzler SuperHyperCube, Driveclub VR and horror titles Until Dawn: Rush of Blood and Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (which will be freaking us out come 2017).
And don't forget about that demo disc releasing alongside PS VR. which will include a few of the above and:
- Allumette (Penrose)
- Battlezone (Rebellion)
- Eve: Valkyrie (CCP Games)
- Gnog (KO_OP)
- Harmonix Music VR (Harmonix Music Systems)
- Headmaster (Frame Interactive)
- Here They Lie (SIE WWS)
- Job Simulator (Owlchemy Labs)
- Rez Infinite (Enhance Games)
- Thumper (Drool)
- Tumble VR (SIE WWS)
- Wayward Sky (Uber Entertainment)
- Within (Within)
And releasing with PS VR will be the awesome-sounding PlayStation VR Worlds which SIE believe will "present a collection of varied experiences, each designed to showcase VR in different ways." Titles such as The London Heist, VR Luge and Ocean Descent will be promising big treats for the fledgling system.
Prices of PS VR games will undoubtedly vary depending on the experience of the game, or on publishers' thirst for capital. Digital VR experiences and mini-games will more than likely be cheaper than bigger, fully-fledged titles.
Anyway, check out the trailer below and feast your eyes on PS VR Worlds, traveler:
PS VR's Special Features
Right, here's a rundown of all of the futuristic goodies we'll be drooling over when PS VR is finally strapped to our heads:
Cinematic Mode (CM) Is one of the most exciting aspects of the system and will bring your favorite titles to your eyes like nothing seen before on console. This mode will allow you to use the PS4's user interface (UI) and play non-compatible games within the HMD on a virtual screen.
You can even watch movies and series within CM via a screen floating in darkness, kinda like a cinema screen but in your bedroom. And it boasts a virtual screen that can get to as big as 226-inches! That's like watching IMAX in your underwear!
Social Screen (SS) splits the image between the HMD and the TV, meaning your pals will be able to see what's happening on your HMD whilst watching on the TV. This will also open up some insane multiplayer options as one person wearing the HMD will be able to take on their buddies outside of the virtual world.
Have a look at it in action:
You may have been wondering why the HMD has those crazy blue lights all over it, and that's down to motion control. Similar to the lightbar on the back of the DS4, the PS Camera will track your location and head/hand movement and then accurately replicate that in the virtual world.
You can play PS VR games with either a DS4 or two PS Move wands, depending on what the game requires. But PS Move does come at a disadvantage. Not being as advanced as Nintendo's motion control, PS Move may need to be recalibrated often seeing as it manages to disorient itself at lot of the time. This means you may have to recalibrate multiple times in intense games. At least that's one of my biggest gripes from back in the PS3 days.
Will be limited to one HMD per PS4, though online multiplayer will be a doddle. Local multiplayer will come via PS VR's Social Screen, as you should have just read about above. Have you been paying attention in the back?
You can also use the PS4's share function as normal – depending on the game of course.
How Not To Break Your Everything Whilst VR-ing
Or: PS VR Safety
Seeing as none of us are particularly acquainted with VR, I'd advise you to break yourself in easy with 15-20 minute sessions with PS VR until you get used to it. I'm not prone to motion sickness, but I can tell you after playing Adr1ft on Oculus Rift I was all over the place. So I'm expecting the same giddy reaction from PS VR.
Sony also insist you take 15 minute breaks per hour, and I'd say that's a very good idea.
You've seen PS VR's set up and the plethora of wires that come along with it. With this in mind it's advised that you make a space of 9.8 feet by 6.2 feet, with the person in the HMD sitting around five feet from the PS Camera/TV. And, of course, ensure that there are no pieces of furniture, people, pets or whatever in your close proximity that you could break or knock out with the swing of a wand.
SO there we have it! Everything you need to know about PS VR without trying to describe latencies and resolutions with straws and salt shakers. All that's left is to ask...