Sony PlayStation VR (PSVR) Review

So, What’s Wrong With It?

Fragility

The PlayStation VR is an impressive piece of tech, but it’s certainly not perfect. As mentioned previously, the headset construction has a couple of weak points that could prove to be a problem over time.

The mechanical headband is clever, but we worry that it will eventually fail. Tension comes from a rubber band on each side of the headset. Every time you put the HMD on your head, you must pull the elastic bands. Nothing lasts forever, especially after repeated stress. It's not a matter of if, but when the elastic breaks.

The relief system for the headset is also clever, but again we suspect it might be a weak point. It’s easy to forget to grab the headset by its headband, rather than the visor, when you pull the PSVR off your head. This puts a lot of strain on the mount.

How’s The Tracking System?

You may have read complaints about the PSVRs tracking system, but in our view those concerns are blown out of proportion. The tracking system isn’t as robust as Valve’s Lighthouse technology, but it also doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. We think it's good enough for most people.

Yes, Sony could have implemented a solution with better tracking performance that never needs to be recalibrated. But that would have delayed the PSVR’s launch, likely driving up its cost at the same time. Sony already had Move controllers, so it was much easier to adapt the same tracking system to the PSVR.

You will find that the headset and controller’s orientation drifts to the side sometimes, and we've seen incorrect controller orientation, too. Fortunately, recalibrating the headset and controllers is as simple as holding the DualShock 4 controller's Options button, or the Start button on the Move controllers.

Most of the orientation problems happen during the day, when there's a lot of sunlight beaming into the room. The darker your play space, the better the tracking. This makes sense. The PlayStation Camera can track LEDs easier in a dark room. You probably want to avoid positioning the camera near large window to avoid calibration problems.

Expensive Content

Most of the content for PlayStation VR is expensive compared to the titles available for the Vive and Rift. You can find dozens of free and cheap experiences on Steam, but you won't find much free content on Sony's marketplace. Several developers offer demos of their games, but the full cost of admission exceeds the average VR game on Steam.

For example, Batman Arkham VR is $20 and Robinson Journey costs as much as a triple-A console title. The hardware is relatively affordable, but the price of content isn't going to help attract new users to VR.

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  • blackmagnum
    Sony going after the affordable market? You've got to be kidding me! What's Apple say on this?
  • 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.
  • Dosflores
    328798 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.
  • 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.
  • Agente Silva
    Born Dead...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • kcarbotte
    328798 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.
  • kcarbotte
    59464 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.
  • kcarbotte
    1342193 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.

    1342193 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.

    1342193 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.


    1342193 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 $500.
  • Agente Silva
    1943658 said:
    1342193 said:
    ... and I´ll explain why: 1. In an era where game developers are heading into unified platforms it will be very hard to see proper games (instead of "experiences").
    Care to elaborate? I'm not following your logic here. Unity and Unreal make it easy for developers to support Oculus, SteamVR, and PSVR with minimal effort.
    1342193 said:
    2. Gamers don´t want to have a strapped screen to their face.
    That's an incredibly generalzed, and ill-informed statement. Sony stated it sold "many hundred of thousands" of PSVR headsets upon release and the hardware has been in high demand to the point where Sony has not been able to keep up with demand. Its sold out practically everywhere. In my experience, after showing over 3000 people VR hardware, people think they don't want to strap on a screen until they try it, and then they want one of thier own.
    1342193 said:
    3. Enthusiasts won´t spend 500$ 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.
    1342193 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.


    1 - Instead of making a game for two platforms (PC and console) games are now developed for console and ported to PC. I´m considering VR to be another platform to specifically develop games (maybe I´m wrong).

    2 - Selling VR is not the same as creating a solid VR trend to the point of being a competitive factor between platforms (consoles/PC). The hype is volatile and it only becomes solid after a couple of years selling (having game developers and gamers backing it). I wonder if those who bought VR are having it strapped for more than one hour.

    3 - Mentioning "developer kits of PSVR" makes me think exactly what I said about development (and support) for specific platforms. This would mean extra costs in making and supporting games I think...

    4 - Showroom equipment under the perpective of utilization. In my opnion it´s a "must try" but not necessarily a "must have".

    As you probably remember, there was the Sega VR thing back in the 90´s where the word "hype" didn´t even existed - you tell how far it went (http://segaretro.org/Sega_VR) :P
  • kcarbotte
    1342193 said:
    1943658 said:
    1342193 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.
    1342193 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.
    1342193 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.
    1342193 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.
    1 - Instead of making a game for two platforms (PC and console) games are now developed for console and ported to PC. I´m considering VR to be another platform to specifically develop games (maybe I´m wrong). 2 - Selling VR is not the same as creating a solid VR trend to the point of being a competitive factor between platforms (consoles/PC). The hype is volatile and it only becomes solid after a couple of years selling (having game developers and gamers backing it). I wonder if those who bought VR are having it strapped for more than one hour. 3 - Mentioning "developer kits of PSVR" makes me think exactly what I said about development (and support) for specific platforms. This would mean extra costs in making and supporting games I think... 4 - Showroom equipment under the perpective of utilization. In my opnion it´s a "must try" but not necessarily a "must have". As you probably remember, there was the Sega VR thing back in the 90´s where the word "hype" didn´t even existed - you tell how far it went (http://segaretro.org/Sega_VR) :P


    1 - VR is somewhat another platform, but the development platforms are embracing VR in a major way. They are making it easier and easier all the time to port games from one platform to another with minimal effort.
    Yes VR is a new platform, but if you chose to make a VR game, it's not hard to make that game for Oculus, SteamVR, and PSVR.
    Yes, VR is harder to develop for, but there's also far more potential in this market. Indie devs have nothing to lose and everything to gain by supporting VR early. The big studios have everything to lose by taking on the small VR market right now, which leaves the doors wide opne for the next video game powerhouse to emerge.

    2 - One hour per day? One hour per week? or one hour total?
    All you need to do is check the VR communities on Reddit for Oculus, Vive, and PSVR to see that many people are using thier headsets daily, and for hours on end.
    There are some tremendous games available for VR systems that people love.
    VR was always destined to multiple years to reach critical mass. So does every new technology. That's not something you can knock it for. That's just a reality of the product category's infancy.

    3 - I have no idea if Sony charges money for development kits. Valve and Oculus do not (or at least, they didn't prior to the retail launch).
    Developing for cutting edge technology is always more expensive than established technology. That is not unique to VR.

    4 - VR is definitely not a must buy for everyone at this stage. Neither were smartphones when they first launched, nor laptops, nor color TVs. Things change over time. VR is not different.
    In a couple years, purchasing a home VR system will be much more practical, and there will be much more you can do with it.

    Sega tried to launch a VR system in 93. Long before high resolution, low persistance displays, long before high-end graphics cards existed, long before multi-core CPUs existed, long before inertial sensors existed, and long before milimeter precise tracking systems existed.
    You can't compare the consumer viability of a 24 year old product that never actually saw the light of day to what's available these days. There's a reason VR systems never hit the market before. The technology wasn't fully there until now.
  • bit_user
    1342193 said:
    1 - Instead of making a game for two platforms (PC and console) games are now developed for console and ported to PC. I´m considering VR to be another platform to specifically develop games (maybe I´m wrong). 3 - Mentioning "developer kits of PSVR" makes me think exactly what I said about development (and support) for specific platforms. This would mean extra costs in making and supporting games I think...
    So, you just want the status quo to continue until ... ?

    Like Kevin basically said, fundamental technology changes are needed to truly push the boundaries of what experiences users can have. At first, new tech is usually a bit clunky and expensive, and it takes some investment by developers and early adopters. Over time, it'll get cheaper to buy & easier to use and develop for. That's just how the state of the art gets moved.
  • Agente Silva
    All fair arguments... only time will tell if VR settles in as intended.
  • jamesackerman
    Great Article! Well explained. The detailed instructions helped me a lot. Combination of play station and virtual reality will make games more interesting. PS VR headset has solved a lot of problems and one can now experience more virtual games. I read something similar about best games of play station 4 camera, you can take a look at: http://www.techtyche.com/best-games-for-ps4-camera/