The future is bright, it appears.
I was lucky enough to procure a PlayStation VR this weekend; GameStop was supposed to have been sold out, and every locale (whether it be GameStop, Target, Walmart, etc.) nearby were picked clean. In fact, most businesses in Ohio were VR-less, as most of the in-store searches took me to Pennsylvania. Due to a fortunate string of events, a GameStop in an area that I’ve never been to but happened to be in allegedly stocked one last unit. Of course, the only argument I could muster against purchasing the VR was weak; so I walked out a few hundred dollars lighter.
Why, you might ask, did I not purchase or pre-order one when they were in stock? The answer is simple: I wasn’t ready to commit to a device that I wasn’t sure would be successful. Sony doesn’t have the best reputation for supporting new ideas (consider the PlayStation Move or the PlayStation Vita), so I was cautious – and rightfully so. When October 13th rolled around and the VR released to a majority of positive (some perfect) review scores, I embarked upon thorough research and left inspired. Since money has been tight, I had to wait a few weeks to put together my finances and figure out where, if any place, I could support this purchase.
The VR, of course, is an expensive machine (it retails at $400 for the unit alone). When you either bundle it or purchase the VR camera/Move controllers separately, the price rises to $460 – at the minimum. Fortunately, I was one of the few sorry chaps who purchased the PlayStation Move when it launched, and I never had the heart to re-sell the controllers for significantly less than what I paid for them; all I needed, then, was the camera. On Sunday, I rolled through Best Buy and purchased Sony’s PlayStation Camera V2 (the original version works, but V2 is built with VR in mind). For me, I only had to spend $460 – plus $20 for Here They Lie.
Before I dive into this article, I must explain my experiences with the VR before I had the camera. Keep in mind: If you’re interested in purchasing a VR and don’t have a camera, you cannot run the equipment on your PS4. With that said, you are able to utilize the headset with any HDMI compatible device. I played Gears of War Ultimate Edition on my Xbox One before watching game four of the World Series via my DirecTV device. To give you a visual of what it looks like via the VR, you must imagine yourself in a cinema, sitting in maximum view of the enormous movie screen where you never have to move your head to view any section of the screen.
At the inception of this article, I mentioned that the future of VR is very bright. The HTC Vive got off to a quick start with numerous supported games, but it has since cooled off. The PlayStation VR, I hope, will remain a hot item, and I believe it is in the position to do so. Why? I’m glad you asked.
1 – Price Point
Yes, $400 is expensive. I’m not going to sugar coat the price of the PlayStation VR; it’s an expensive piece of equipment. If you can’t afford it, you can’t afford it; it doesn’t matter if it’s $400 cheaper than the Vive. With that said, if you’re in the market for VR and own a PS4, you’re paying half the price of a Vive. Even if you don’t have a PS4, you can afford the bestselling console of this generation and the VR for the price of the Vive. Should you balk on the VR portion, you’ve still got an incredible machine.
What’s even more exciting is that a good majority of the PSVR games run far below retail pricing of a standard game. This is for two reasons: most aren’t, at the moment, AAA titles, or most don’t have enough content to warrant a $60 price tag. At this point, I’ve only played the PSVR Demo, and I purchased Here They Lie off the PSN (for $20). And so far, I’ve been absolutely floored by both.
2 – The Immersion is Real
Wow. I’ve tried numerous times to explain to my friends just how impressed and awed I am with the PlayStation VR. The headset fits comfortably on my head and over my glasses, and I’ve been able to maintain a decent amount of playing time before needing or taking a break. But once you put on that headset, plug in those headphones, and start up a PSVR game, the world changes. I’m going to start with the EVE demo the Sony rep at GameStop allowed me to play (generously, as they were deconstructing the VR booth when I came in).
After I was seated with the headset firmly in place, I held the options button in order to re-center the camera. Once the game loaded and my eyes opened, I was in the cockpit of a star fighter. To my immediate left and right, the machine gun turrets sat in quiet anticipation. As I looked down, my body positioned where it should be, my hands on the vessel joysticks. All about, I saw military personnel scurrying through the hangar bay, and, before long, I was launched from the dock aboard my mothership.
Space is quiet, especially from the inside of a cockpit. The demo has you in the middle of your fleet when it is attacked; your job is to decimate the enemy star fighters. The headset allows you to follow your enemy, which is something I’ve never been able to do in starfighter simulator. The ease of using your PS4 controller while maneuvering your vessel is a cinch, and it didn’t take me more than a few minutes to dispatch my foes. I knew then that my purchase was warranted, but it has only gotten better since.
The second demo that I played once I hooked up my PSVR and camera at home was RIGS Mechanized Combat. RIGS put you in the cockpit of your conceptual mech as you compete in a combat sport. Three things really stood out to me in this short experience. The first is that, Again, I was fully immersed in this world. From the cockpit, I watched as my teammates entered their mechs; I watched as I rode the lift to the arena; whichever direction I looked, I was within this world. The second piece, which is fairly similar to the first, is how gorgeous and smooth the visuals were.
To me, the PlayStation VR’s biggest flaw is that it must run on the PS4 with its limited capabilities. This isn’t to say that the PS4 is not a powerful console, but it certainly can’t compete with high end PCs. With that said, the PSVR is optimized to play the same across every PlayStation 4. There’s no guessing whether your PS4 can run a said VR game without any hiccups; it can, and they’re set to run at 90fps with a playback refresh rate of 120hz. In other words, the experience is seamless, which compliments the immersion to its fullest. Thirdly, the controls in RIGS are rather intuitive. You move the mech with the left stick, while moving the overall camera with the right. Your triggers fire your weapons (in the demo, L2 was a machine gun and R2 was a laser beam). The real interesting piece here was the tracking; in order to aim, you don’t use the right joystick. You use your head. The PS camera tracks your head movement 1:1, so aiming is easy and, for me in the demo, to accurate. I would love to see more games do something similar (Here They Lie allows you to direct your character with where you’re looking, and the flashlight moves with your head) because it, to my experiences, works almost flawlessly… and it makes you feel like a badass.
Lastly, I purchased and plowed through the majority of Here They Lie (the review will follow shortly). Say what you will about whether the game succeeds as a psychological horror, you can’t deny the significance of the experience. The game opens with you speaking to a woman, saying goodbye before you enter a subway car. As you proceed down each car, absorbing the shiny floor or rusty seats, the lights flicker and dim; the horror begins when a group of men and women wearing pig masks appear before you. Once that ordeal is over and you step off into your destination – an empty subway station – the game begins. I know I’ve spoken about immersion time and again, but Here They Lie, crafted by Sony’s Santa Monica Studio, displays the current force of what the PSVR can do. As I stepped into an office, I felt like I was there; the chair, the phone, the desk, each where they should be. This was a world both unlike and like my own; the experience, surreal.
If there’s one thing I can say about Here They Lie, it’s that I’m not sure that I will be able to handle first person horror on the VR. Since I’m fully immersed, the intensity of a horror game becomes magnified to significant proportions. And while Here They Lie wasn’t particularly frightening (outside of a few jump scares and disturbing scenarios), a game like Outlast or Emily Wants to Play would surely mess with me.
3 – This is Only Just the Beginning
That’s right. I bought my PSVR on October 29th, still fresh in its launch month (only 16 days from launch). Already, some 30 games and cinematic experiences are available, many of which have been critically successful. Games like EVE, Here They Lie, the upcoming Resident Evil VII (which, by the way, could be phenomenal in VR), and Thumper (perhaps the highest touted PSVR game to date) have already laid the foundation for future releases – releases that should build upon the successes and avoid the faults of their predecessors. Games like Ace Combat 7, Dreams, and Farpoint, have the potential to succeed and become pioneers of their respective genres and VR games (Dreams being the newest game from Media Molecule, creators of Little Big Planet, and Farpoint being, perhaps, the first true FPS on the VR).
With Resident Evil VII looming just into the new year, I can’t wait for the experiences I’ll get to have with the PSVR. As I’ve mentioned in my VR mumblings and my thoughts on the evolution of horror, Resident Evil VII (and, in different regards, Ace Combat 7) can define the role of large, 3rd party publishers on the VR – which, in my opinion, will make or break the success of the overall equipment.
I sure hope it’s a raging success. This is something every gamer should experience.