Setup & Experience
Not So Scary After All
When you first take everything out of the PlayStation VR box, you’re gonna be looking at a lot of individual cables and pieces. There’s a big instruction booklet included, but thankfully there’s big pictures and one step on each page.
Most of the cables are in service of connecting the PSVR breakout box to the PlayStation 4. The breakout box has an HDMI cable that goes to the PS4 and an HDMI cable that goes to the TV. It also has it’s own power adapter and a USB cable that needs to run to the PS4. So over by your TV you may have a big of a table mess, but the headset itself has one thin cable that runs from the headset to the breakout box and plugs in with two ends.
The whole thing took me about 10 minutes to set up as I lazily followed the big pictures in the instruction booklet. Once I hooked everything up the PS4 already knew all about the PlayStation VR system—like long-lost best buds—I didn’t have to download any updates or install anything to start using PSVR right away.
Once you’re ready to pop the headset on, pull the back strap outward and loop it behind your head, resting the remainder of the unit on your forehead. The back strap goes down low around the crown of your head and you can give the crank on the back a few turns to start tightening things up. Using the button under the right side of the display assembly, slide the lenses in as close as they will comfortably get, then adjust up and down to find the sweet spot where everything is sharp. Once done, give that crank a few more turns to keep everything in place. Now you’re ready to game.
One very cool feature of PSVR is the ability to operate your entire PS4 on a virtual big screen. Before even launching a game or putting in the demo disk, you’re able to see the usual PS4 home screen inside the headset. You can launch and play any and all PS4 games, apps, and content through the headset as though you’re sitting in front of a massive TV (you can adjust the size of the virtual screen to small, medium, and large).
Gaming is of course the major highlight for VR on a game console, and Sony has arrange an impressive launch lineup with some surprisingly strong debuts.
Batman Arkham: VR
One game that has particularly impressed me is Batman: Arkham VR. Developed by Rocksteady—the same studio that kicked off the popular Batman: Arkham series—the game is a filled with intuitive and satisfying VR interactions that are well designed for PlayStation VR and the PS Move controllers. As the studio’s debut VR experience, I’m blown away by the proficiency in virtual reality interaction design.
Batman: Arkham VR puts you in the boots of the famous masked detective and literally equips you with a belt of gadgets: you’ll be using a forensic scanner with two modes as well as the classic batarang and grappling hook. These all end up being effective tools you’ll use to find out what’s happened to Nightwing and Robin.
While Rocksteady’s prior batman games had you brawling with thugs from a third-person perspective. Batman: Arkham VR has you doing mostly detective work.
Now I’m not even a big Batman fan—I’ve never read the comics—but I was thoroughly impressed with interaction-heavy approach to virtual reality. Almost everything you do in the game is controller with natural motion interactions, from throwing batterings to pressing buttons to firing your grappling hook to move, all of the intuitive engagement with the world around you made it feel very immersive and satisfying.
Beyond it’s design merit, Batman: Arkham VR stands out as a stunning example of what a talented developed can do with VR on the PS4. The game is up there among the best looking real-time VR experiences I’ve seen on any platform, VR or otherwise.
Its biggest flaw? It’s too short. They made an impressive VR game, and I want more.
Thumper is a beautiful escape into a stylistic and somehow action-packed rhythm game. At the time of the review I was only able to play a taste of the game from the PSVR demo disk, but it was easily among the most memorable titles I’ve experienced on PlayStation VR to date.
The game has you racing up an infinitely long pathway toward a whirling abstract… actually, you know what… I’m not even going to try to explain it with text. Just watch this:
It’s beautiful, visually and sonically, and once again shows how pretty something can look on PSVR when it’s made by a talented developer. Your milage may vary depending upon how much you like rhythm games, but Thumper may emerge as a sleeper hit for me, depending upon how the game progresses from the demo stages I had access to.
PlayStation VR Worlds
PlayStation VR Worlds is Sony’s collection of excellent VR showcase content that every PSVR owner should have in their collection.
Among the five small experiences is some of the best designed interactive VR content out there, and the included games cross a wide swath of player tastes, making it perfectly suitable for showing friends and family how cool VR can be.
The London Heist in particular, like Batman: Arkham VR, has created a firm foundation, but we
want need more!
PlayStation VR is a strong start for virtual reality on consoles, showing that it not only can be done, but it can be done well; the system is home to some of the best VR content I’ve played yet.
Powered by the now three year old foundation of PS4, I’m blown away by the visuals that have been achieved on PSVR. I’m especially interested to see how things improve further with the launch of PS4 Pro.
The 1920×1080 might be lower on paper than the headset’s two major competitors, but it’s perfectly capable of creating powerfully immersive experiences and beautiful virtual worlds, despite a few display flaws.
The design and ergonomics of PlayStation VR feel class leading in many ways compared to the Rift and Vive, with a design that maximizes field of view and comfort. Though I really would have liked to see built-in headphones to eliminate an extra cable and bulk from a pair of headphones not designed to be worn with a VR headset.
PSVR’s tracking is likely to be it’s biggest challenge going forward. It feels only just over the ‘good enough’ line and is notably less accurate and responsive compared to the more expensive Rift and Vive.
By no surprise and no mistake, PlayStation VR is in a big way all about the price. Consoles have always been about value. And despite being based on demonstrably less powerful hardware, PSVR delivers a VR experience that punches above its weight class and makes a strong argument for both existing and new console players to jump into VR.
Disclosure: Sony provided Road to VR with a PlayStation VR headset, PS4 system, and accessories for review.