Two years ago, Sony revealed that it was working on a project code-named Morpheus. The project was shrouded in mystery, but aptly named. Much like the Matrix character, Morpheus was meant to take us out of this reality and into a different one. Sony’s red pill, however, brings you into the video game, instead of the real world. And it’s the cheapest good quality gaming VR headset we’ve seen.
How Does It Work?
Like many virtual reality headsets, the Playstation VR makes use of stereoscopic images—shooting two images into your eyes up close to have them appear to be one. An accelerometer and gyroscope sense the position of your head, indicating to the headset how to position the image and change it when you move. This, combined with totally removing the view of the outside world, leads to the illusion of being in an entirely new world.
Sony’s specific brand of virtual reality throws in added use of the Playstation Camera to track the headset and motion-sensing Move controllers. You have to own a Playstation Camera to use the PS VR.
What’s It Look Like?
The PlayStation VR seems more similar to the PC-attached HTC Vive and Oculus Rift than it does the smartphone-dependent Gear VR and Google Cardboard. Instead of inserting a phone, the PS VR is fully enclosed and plugs into your PlayStation 4.
The headset is covered in bright LEDs–seven on the front and two more on the back. It looks like something out of an anime cartoon.
Is It Tough To Set Up?
Compared to the other good gaming VR options (Rift and Vive), the PlayStation VR is relatively painless to setup. Even before buying HTC or Oculus’s offering, setup time is baked into making sure your PC gaming rig is in tip top shape for running the demanding VR headsets. PS VR, on the other hand, requires simply owning the console and updating to the latest software.
Once your PS4 is fully setup, putting together the Playstation VR is as simple as plugging in all the various pieces in order. Sony’s labeled each cable with a number, making it clear which step in the process you’re at.
Setting up takes longer than the simpler Gear VR, but it’s less daunting and time-consuming than the HTC Vive. While the PS VR utilizes a camera, it doesn’t ask that you set up base stations around your room. The downside to this is that while the HTC Vive can track you as you walk around a room, Playstation VR can only track you within a relatively small rectangular-shaped area.
Is It Comfortable? It Doesn’t Look So
The lights on the device look slick but the Playstation VR seems clunkier than competing headsets. A hard circular outline goes around the wearer’s head, but it’s made more comfortable by the fact that it’s adjustable. Foam padding on the front of the helmet, near the eyes, make wearing the display for a couple of hours doable. The padding, fixed position on the head and weight of headset make the Playstation VR the most comfortable of the VR headsets to wear for extended periods of time–for my head shape, at least.
Will This Make Me Sick? What’s The Experience Like?
Mostly no. In general, most PS VR games were comfortable to play. Even when I played a 2D game and I bumped up the screen size to movie theater-esque large. While some VR games like Wayward Sky and Batman VR lead to no problems of wooziness, game demos like the one for RIGS have lead to some sickness. The game has players jumping between platforms and running through arenas, which I couldn’t handle for too long.
Directional audio may or may not help with sickness, but is a cool effect when experiencing the Playstation VR. The included earbuds, or any wired headphones, will simulate sounds on either side of you–something other companies like Ossic have attempted to simulate as well. And doesn’t affect the amount of graphics the console is able to handle, like many may assume.
Because you’re not walking around like you are in the HTC Vive, the PS VR requires less initial orienting. With the included extension cable, Playstation gamers can sit on the couch or in their office chair and play their Playstation as normal, even with the VR headset on.
It Costs A Lot Less Than Oculus Rift And HTC Vive
The Playstation VR will cost you $500 if you get the launch bundle, which includes the headset, Playstation Camera, 2 Playstation Move controllers, and the VR Worlds game disk. If you already have the $60 Playstation Camera, Sony will offer the Playstation Core, consisting of just the headset, external processor and required cables. Coupled with the $299 Playstation 4, the total rings up to cheaper than the $1,000+ gaming PC you’d need to run the $600 Oculus Rift and $800 HTC Vive.
So Should You Buy It?
Virtual reality on the Playstation 4 is good. The graphics aren’t quite as good as on the Vive and Oculus, since those are powered by expensive PCs, but overall they didn’t get in the way.
But VR in general is still expensive. What your buying decision will come down to is titles: do you have any interest in the launch titles coming on October 13 or the games coming thereafter? For now, the VR titles can be amusing, but playing your favorite games on the virtual big screen may be worth the $300 alone.
If you’re not a PC gamer but are still interested in hardcore VR games, this is the one to get.