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Sony PlayStation VR (PSVR) Review

What You Can Do With The PSVR

First and foremost, the PSVR headset is a peripheral designed to enhance your PlayStation 4 gaming experience. For over 20 years, Sony’s PlayStation platform has been synonymous with video games and that’s not about to stop anytime soon.  

When Sony launched the PSVR in mid-October, there were but a few games available for the system. That's no longer the case, though. Sony’s marketing machine boasted that there would be over 50 PSVR titles available for the holiday season and the company wasn't kidding. By December 20, Sony had 50 made-for-VR titles in the PS Store. 

The library of games includes several ports from the Vive and Rift platforms, such as Owlchemy Lab’s Job Simulator and CCP Games’ EVE: Valkyrie. You’ll also find exclusive PSVR content, such as Batman Arkham VR and RIGS Mechanized Combat League.

Sony offers several VR experiences that are tacked onto standard games, such as the Star Wars Battlefront Rogue One: X-Wing VR mission and the Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration, which features a new VR-compatible chapter called “Blood Ties.”

The PlayStation VR platform will also play host to several familiar franchises. Polyphony Digital is working on a VR experience for the next installment of its beloved Gran Turismo racing series; Evolution Studios launched an all-VR version of Driveclub, and Capcom’s upcoming Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is playable from start to finish in first-person VR.

Virtual Reality Can Be Social

Game consoles often reside in living and entertainment rooms, which makes them easy to share with friends and family. Sony’s VR system is uniquely set up for social activities because it can display independent views inside the headset and on the TV. Sony calls this the “Social Screen,” and developers are free to use it as they see fit, opening the door to asynchronous gameplay with one person in VR and others playing through the TV.

The Playroom VR features multiple mini-games that utilize this concept, with one person in VR and up to four others controlling on-screen avatars with DualShock 4 controllers. Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes is another example of asynchronous play, though perhaps not as impressive. The real-world players scroll through pages of a guidebook on the TV to help the VR player defuse a bomb. Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes is available for the Rift and Vive, but in the PC version you scroll through a PDF document or print the pages.

Why Bother With A Big-Screen TV?

Like Oculus and HTC (Valve), Sony offers a cinematic mode for the PSVR that lets you enjoy 2D content with the headset. You can play any game from your collection of PlayStation titles, or you can sit back and enjoy a movie on a huge virtual screen.

Believe it or not, you don’t even need a PlayStation 4 to use Cinematic mode. The PSVR headset is designed specifically to interface with the PS4 console, but the headset is device agnostic—it just needs an HDMI signal.

You can play Xbox One, Xbox 360, or Wii U games on the PSVR headset, or you can plug the headset into a DVD/Blu-ray player to watch movies, making PSVR an interesting alternative to owning a big-screen TV if you live in a small apartment or dorm room.

So You’re Saying There’s A Chance (To Use PSVR With My PC)?

The PSVR headset works with a PC the same way it works with other HDMI-equipped devices: in Cinematic mode. It wasn't Sony’s intent to make a VR system for the PC, but it can't stop clever people from creating drivers for the hardware, and there are already power users trying to crack this nut.

If you like to tinker and don’t mind messing with unfinished, experimental software, there’s even an option to try out. Github user gusmanb created the PSVRFramework, which “allows you to control the PS VR set states, turn it on/off, enter/exit VR mode, recenter theater, control box power and read the headset sensors.” A company called Trinus even managed to get the PSVR working with Valve’s OpenVR and now sells the software that makes this possible. Trinus PSVR also works with Vireio Perception, so you can play non-VR PC games in VR on the PSVR HMD. 

  • blackmagnum
    Sony going after the affordable market? You've got to be kidding me! What's Apple say on this?
    Reply
  • bit_user
    Thanks for the thorough review, Kevin. Is OSVR's HDK2 in your queue? I understand it has display tech similar to PSVR's, but with the same pixel resolution as Rift & Vive.

    If I buy PSVR, I'd wait for PS4 Pro to get updated so the breakout box is unnecessary. They should've just put the PSVR ports right on the front of it. Then, sell me the whole kit in one box.

    As for the lack of room scale, it's hardly surprising, if they're just using the stereo camera for tracking. It has to be able to see the controllers, which it can't do if your body is in the way. Even if they have built-in IMUs, those will drift without periodic registration with the camera.

    Finally, I'm impressed that it can send different images to the HMD and TV. Although this will only add to the burden on the PS4's GPU, it's a nice feature. Reminds me of the Wii U, a bit. I don't own one, but saw a couple games make good use of the private view afforded by the tablet.
    Reply
  • Dosflores
    19196429 said:
    Finally, I'm impressed that it can send different images to the HMD and TV. Although this will only add to the burden on the PS4's GPU, it's a nice feature.

    It doesn't necessarily add burden on the GPU. It's only needed for "social gaming", and that kind of games can live without great graphics. For "standard games", the breakout box simply undistorts the image being sent to the HMD, and outputs the result to the TV.

    You're right about the PS4 Pro. It should have included the PSVR ports, and not only to reduce clutter. The PS4 Pro supports HDR output (and the standard PS4 now does it too), but the breakout box doesn't. If you want HDR output to your TV, you have to disconnect the breakout box and connect the PS4 directly to the TV. If you want to play some VR game again, you have to disconnect the TV and connect the PS4 to the breakout box again. This design flaw is enough to convince me not to buy PSVR until the next update of either the PS4 Pro or the PSVR system.
    Reply
  • cknobman
    You did not touch on the actual gaming experience very much.

    I read and watched a few game experiences and reviews using PSVR and the biggest complaint that was due to how low the processing power was of the PS4 they had to really really compromise on the graphics.

    The graphics of the VR games on PS4 were absolutely terrible including missing/no textures lots of things just not rendered period and low res up-sampled.
    Reply
  • Agente Silva
    Born Dead...
    Reply
  • Agente Silva
    ... and I´ll explain why:

    1. In an era where game developers are heading into unified platforms it will be very hard to see proper games (instead of "experiences").

    2. Gamers don´t want to have a strapped screen to their face.

    3. Enthusiasts won´t spend 500$ on something that doesn´t display AAA games (not even mentioning mainstream).

    4. For the mainstream this is a showroom equipement.
    Reply
  • Jeff Fx
    >Premium-grade virtual reality demands more performance than you would expect a PS4 could provide

    Yes it does.

    >, but Sony pulls it off.

    No, this is PSVR, which is far from a premium VR experience.
    They can't deliver the tracking accuracy or video quality of a premium VR system.
    Reply
  • kcarbotte
    19196429 said:
    Thanks for the thorough review, Kevin. Is OSVR's HDK2 in your queue? I understand it has display tech similar to PSVR's, but with the same pixel resolution as Rift & Vive.

    If I buy PSVR, I'd wait for PS4 Pro to get updated so the breakout box is unnecessary. They should've just put the PSVR ports right on the front of it. Then, sell me the whole kit in one box.

    As for the lack of room scale, it's hardly surprising, if they're just using the stereo camera for tracking. It has to be able to see the controllers, which it can't do if your body is in the way. Even if they have built-in IMUs, those will drift without periodic registration with the camera.

    Finally, I'm impressed that it can send different images to the HMD and TV. Although this will only add to the burden on the PS4's GPU, it's a nice feature. Reminds me of the Wii U, a bit. I don't own one, but saw a couple games make good use of the private view afforded by the tablet.

    I'm glad you enjoyed the review. OSVR HDK2 is on my list. I hope to have a review sample in the near future.

    I was also suprised/impressed that it could do social screen gaming when I first hear about it. Check out my interview with Richard Marks (linked in the review) for more insight on that.

    Reply
  • kcarbotte
    19198130 said:
    You did not touch on the actual gaming experience very much.

    I read and watched a few game experiences and reviews using PSVR and the biggest complaint that was due to how low the processing power was of the PS4 they had to really really compromise on the graphics.

    The graphics of the VR games on PS4 were absolutely terrible including missing/no textures lots of things just not rendered period and low res up-sampled.

    I wrote the review before the PS4 Pro launched but it was delayed due to the Rift review, holiday break, and CES. At the time of writing the review, I hadn't had a chance to try many games. Sony didn't provide us a review sample, so I purchased all the games that I have.

    I've since updated to the PS4 Pro and picked up a number of games. Watch for follow-up content about some games soon.
    Reply
  • kcarbotte
    19198536 said:
    ... and I´ll explain why:

    1. In an era where game developers are heading into unified platforms it will be very hard to see proper games (instead of "experiences").


    Care to elaborate? I'm not following your logic here.
    Unity and Unreal make it easy for developers to support Oculus, SteamVR, and PSVR with minimal effort.

    19198536 said:
    2. Gamers don´t want to have a strapped screen to their face.


    That's an incredibly generalzed, and ill-informed statement. Sony stated it sold "many hundred of thousands" of PSVR headsets upon release and the hardware has been in high demand to the point where Sony has not been able to keep up with demand. Its sold out practically everywhere.

    In my experience, after showing over 3000 people VR hardware, people think they don't want to strap on a screen until they try it, and then they want one of thier own.

    19198536 said:
    3. Enthusiasts won´t spend 500$ on something that doesn´t display AAA games (not even mentioning mainstream).

    Resident Evil 7 drops tomorrow with full VR support start to finish.
    Robinson: The Journey is easily a AAA title.

    AAA titles are coming. It takes time to make AAA games, though. Many games take 2 to 3 years or more to develop. Sony hasn't had developer kits of PSVR out in the wild for that long.


    19198536 said:
    4. For the mainstream this is a showroom equipement.

    Yup. That's how new technology launches.
    When CDs hit the market in the 80s, DVD players were thousands of dollars.
    When PCs hit the market, they were well over $5000
    When Cell Phones came to market, they were thousands of dollars with no subsidies.

    I could go on and on and on all day long about new technologies launching at crazy prices.
    Early adopters always pay a higher price to be first in line. As units sell in higher and higher volume, manufacturing costs come down, which leads to lower consumer price tags.

    VR hardware won't always be $500.

    Reply