PSVR Review: Is Virtual Reality a Passing Fad?

Some electronics I’m lucky enough to use for free, but some I have to pay to play. To prepare for the PSVR launch, I spent $299 on a limited edition Uncharted PS4, then dropped another $499 on the PSVR Launch bundle, which included  a PSEye camera and two Move controllers in addition to the headset and VR Worlds.

I’ve been able to pick up or get review codes for most of the launch titles (or at least played demos at E3, PAX, GDC, CES, etc.) and posted a few reviews, but I’ve been holding back on the PSVR itself for a few reasons.

For one, I hadn’t owned a game console since the PS3/Xbox 360/Wii generation that are presumably still sitting in my parents’ tool shed. Consoles and TVs aren’t easy to carry when traveling in a van. I had hoped Auravisor and Gear VR would provide a decent taste, but I already knew what virtual reality could be and already is.

Android VR simply isn’t enough. Turns out the PS4 is barely enough itself…

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Under the Hood

The PS4 has an AMD Jaguar 64-bit octacore processor with 500GB-1TB of internal storage. It’s capable of reading Blu Ray and DVD disks, has two USB 3.1 ports, ethernet, multi-band WiFi, and Bluetooth 4.0.

The GPU in the PS4 Pro has been beefed up from 1.84 to 4.20 Teraflops and an extra USB port, which is absolutely necessary as the PS4 I bought is already struggling with overheating.

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PSVR also comes with a separate processor unit that connects to both your TV and PS4 via HDMI. The PSVR headset actually connects to this processor unit that handles Cinematic mode, 3D audio processing, mirroring mode, etc. As does the PSEye

The PSVR headset connects via two HDMI cables to the processor unit, which also connects to a USB port on the PS4. This leaves you with one open port to either charge the controller or connect VirZoom and other accessories.

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The headset displays 960 x 1080p in each eye on a 5.7-inch OLED screen with a 100-degree FOV. It supports a headphone jack on the cable and the hardshell plastic design is easily the most comfortable VR headset I’ve ever worn.

It feels like wearing a hat, and even after a few all-night gaming sessions, neither my roommate nor I (who both wear glasses) had any issues.

Motion detection is done through the Eye camera, which tracks different colors for each Move controller, the DualShock controller, and the angle of the PSVR headset, which also includes a built-in three-axis gyroscope and three-axis accelerometer.

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Downsides of PSVR

As you can see above, cable management is the biggest issue facing PSVR as it quickly becomes a mess behind the TV to hook all this stuff up.

I have to charge the Move controllers on my desktop. A dock just takes up extra space, so I’m considering options. Even with a Pro, I’ll still run into issues connecting all the peripherals necessary for just one player games. I can’t even begin to add a third party gaming headset.

Games and software at this point is the standard launch experience of Steam VR and Oculus, but there are some really great games (and Sony exclusives) in the mix.

My PS3 used to run very hot so I expected the same from the PS4 and I wasn’t disappointed. With PSVR running, it’s important to ensure your PS4 is well ventilated. I’m already looking into cooling options although I’m likely to replace the PS4 with a PS4 Pro soon anyway.

After lengthy gaming sessions on the VR Worlds shooting range, it tends to overheat, the sound cuts out, and glitches start popping up. It’s only a matter of time before we kill either the system or the game running it as much as we do.

Which is a rather clumsy transition into the positive aspects of Sony’s console virtual reality experience.

The Upsides of PSVR

There are a lot of adults with different levels of tech and gaming experience in this house, and PSVR has quickly become a hit among our guests, despite all the other cool tech sitting around.

I have just about every smarthome gadget, drones and other toys laying around at this point, and it’s virtual reality everyone wants to try. Although the games are mostly solo experiences at this point, Sony does a great job of allowing people in the living room to interact.

In some games, it’s possible for one player to use a controller while the other player is in VR. Also there’s the opportunity to use gaming peripherals, like VirZoom’s VR exercise bike (which costs another $399).

Although much of this can still be experienced on the Steam, Oculus, and maybe even Daydream eventually. What Sony does have to offer, however, is launch exclusives like Arkham VR, Robinson: The Journey, and VR elements of both Resident Evil and Tomb Raider.

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It’s a strong sign that some of the games I’ve been seeing at the trade shows are going to be a lot more interesting than I initially anticipated. A lot of analysts see VR being a $30+ billion industry by 2020, and I honestly believe it’ll be the next TV screen.

PSVR is a great sign of this, as you can experience 3D and 360 content on a variety of platforms, including interactive games, concerts and live events, and even Hollywood content on Hulu. There’s no limit to what can be experienced in VR, and I’ve already met enough developers to see a steady stream of solid content coming.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ failed 2016 Presidential campaign was recorded in 360, and you can even eat tacos with Danny Trejo.

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One day we’ll all be watching the Super Bowl from the 50 yard line and standing with the referees to review plays. Cameras are everywhere, and Jaunt VR is only progressing things further. It won’t be long before we’re able to explore the world virtually like ghosts.

Until then, PSVR provides a ton of solid gaming options that have kept everyone in my house fully immersed for over 6 weeks now, despite technology practically raining on us every day.

Whether suiting up as Batman, riding a pegasus through digital clouds, competing in Rigs, World War Toons, or Tanks, or just watching a Hatsune Miku concert, PSVR is a definite hit and well worth the entry fee.

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Final Thoughts

PSVR is expensive if you don’t already own a PS4, but it’s still cheaper than HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. Still, it provides just as much immersion and Sony secured plenty enough exclusives to make it a worthy competitor.

Lack of a headset camera means it won’t ever compete with Microsoft’s Hololens, and it will forever remain graphically limited in terms of what can be created. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, since what’s available at launch is already wholly immersive.

If you’re looking for the easiest virtual reality experience to share with the entire family, PSVR is top of the line. It’s gathered no dust since I bought it and has not yet failed to impress anyone who tried it.

Final Grade: A

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Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer.

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