Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release: Out Now
Price (rrp): £349.99
Requirement: PlayStation 4, PlayStation Camera (£39.99)
Recommended: Two PlayStation Move controllers (£39.99 each, £69.99 double pack)
Reviews by Martin Wharmby
The PlayStation VR is not going to offer up the cutting edge Virtual Reality experience other PC-based devices have access to. It was never designed to. Instead, the PS VR is an entry-level way into the immersion offered by 3D interactive environments, with experiences guaranteed to work on the limited power available from the PlayStation 4.
Not that the PlayStation 4 itself is enough to power the headset: the PS VR comes with a break-out box, an extra processing unit that you need between your TV, console and VR headset. Although a neat design that theoretically can sit in a corner somewhere, it’s an inelegant nightmare of wires that take over your gaming space. It should be noted that if you wish to output the VR image to your TV for others to observe, you’ll have to give up one of your PS4’s USB slots for this.
You’ll need some space for set-up, and decent lighting for the PS Camera – not as much as the monstrous, living room devouring HTC Vive, but 60 unobstructed square feet is recommended for optimal use in all games. You can get away with less, but make sure to remove all furniture: there are no external cameras on the headset itself, so you won’t be able to quickly check the real world without removing the whole get-up.
Despite all of this, the PS VR headset is actually the most comfortable and versatile full headset on the market. Insanely lightweight, the headband stretches from forehead to the nape of your neck and tightens very comfortably, while the screen has an easy to adjust slide so you can quickly and easily push or pull the screen to the ideal viewing angle. The rubberised coatings and blackout flaps that cover your face are easy to clean, which is handy because despite being incredibly light, you’ll still get clammy and hot playing for a long time.
The screen inside is a single 1080P OLED display, and and it does an impressive job accommodating for glasses – something the Oculus and Vive struggle with. While this is great, the sad fact is that PS VR falls flat when it comes down to the quality of the image. The age and older technology that powers the PS4 means an even greater lack of detail and clarity than you get from other devices – and that’s with the break-out box adding extra processing power to compensate for the split image. Many games – especially the likes of Driveclub VR – are passable in motion but up close muddy and low detail.
Simpler games are the best way to experience VR here. EVE Gunjack is a simple, seated game played with a DualShock 4 and looks great, the same with Rez Infinite. Both look superb and while the former might be a tad simplistic, there’s a great sense of depth and immersion. More complex games, ones that track more of your body movements fare less with, with frequent tracking issues causing repeating lurching back and forwards, as the shoddy PS Camera struggles to analyse the headset’s lights to determine depth.
Even when just playing seated with a DS4, you should be taking regular breaks. It’s handy that the PS VR is so easy to remove and reuse, as prolonged use can hit the pit of your stomach. In more extreme cases, like the VR section of Rise of the Tomb Raider and RIGS is capable of causing nausea, in far more extreme fashions than other titles. It’s likely that different titles will have different effects on different people, but in our testing experience the worst culprits are games that use the PS Move controllers.
As already mentioned, the PlayStation Camera is a terrible piece of kit, and pairing it with the old, shoddy tech of the PS Move is a killer blow for the PS VR’s bold attempt to be a starter point for a VR revolution. The uselessly designed, light-ball ended wands track badly in all but the most precise environments, leaving virtual hands and objects move too far or too little, jittering backwards and forwards. Once in a blue moon, the effects may be dulled and things work well for while, but it’s galling that such a nifty device like the PS VR is hamstrung by the dire quality of its “required”add-ons.
There is an undeniable charm and pull when it comes to having a (relatively) affordable VR unit without having to spend the best part of £2,000 on PC parts and VR equipment, but Sony’s offering is let down badly by many of the decisions made along the way. It’s a shame, because the game line-up is truly impressive and features a real variety of content. It’s for the enthusiasts only, those with money but not HTC Vive money, who don’t mind less than stellar visuals when exploring new worlds.
GAME REVIEW ROUND-UP
Batman: Arkham VR
There’s so much to love about Batman: Arkham VR. In this short, hour-long experience in the world of Bruce Wayne’s alter ego, you get to explore the Batcave, search for Robin, and find out what’s happened to Nightwing, all from behind the cowl.
It’s fittingly short and sweet, with simple, smart interactions and puzzles as you explore small pockets of Gotham looking for answers. While the game is brief, the Riddler offers up a few more reasons to return beyond marvelling at this beautifully realised VR world, but there still isn’t a great deal to do.
Batman: Arkham VR is fun to play, gorgeously designed and feels like a natural extension of the Arkham series’ story. It’s not a reason to go investing in a PS VR by itself, but for those who’ve taken the plunge or just need a little more encouragement, Arkham VR is the first game to truly let you become the bat. For a few minutes, at least.
PlayStation VR Worlds
Maybe PlayStation VR Worlds is the most essential PS VR purchase, given its diversity of content and experiences. There are five “games” here, although a few of them are little more than tech demos with trophies attached.
There’s the excellent little Danger Ball, a first-person Pong that offers up the most replayability, as you use your head to move the paddle and it’s surprisingly satisfying. Comparatively, the exciting idea that is VR Luge is a one-trick tech demo, as you luge down a busy highway moving with your head. You’ll do this one once, and never again.
The London Heist subjects you to a terrible Getaway-style story and just a couple of mediocre shootouts, while Scavenger’s Odyssey offers up a more substantial shooting experience in space, and Ocean Descent lets you swim with a shark.
The real issue is VR Worlds is not at all worth the entry price. It’s what the PS VR demo disc should have included in the box, rather than a cheap disc of demos.
Until Dawn: Rush of Blood
An on-rails shooting gallery is quite the departure from the original Until Dawn, last year’s surprisingly brilliant teen horror story. Until Dawn: Rush of Blood puts you on-rails through a 90 minute rollercoaster where you dual-wield PS Move controllers and shoot your way through houses of horror.
The seven levels take you through familiar locations from the original game, each one filled with different fears to try and terrify you with. It’s mostly jump scares and shooting, and it has some genuinely fun and challenging moments. The weak link however are the boss fights, which are tedious and frustrating, running the atmosphere Supermassive do well in the rest of the levels.
DualShock 4s are supported, but playing with the PS Move is the best way to go, as the accuracy is far better (although the tracking can go very wrong during the most heated battles). Although it’s a massive departure from the original game, Rush of Blood is a neat sideshow shooter that will test your terror limits.
RIGS: Mechanized Combat League
With RIGS: Mechanized Combat League, make sure you take a quick break after every match. This ambitious attempt at a VR combat sport FPS in mech suits is fast moving and can quickly become disorienting, but the matches are fast-paced and fun.
After a frustrating and patronisingly slow forced tutorial laboriously gets you used to the basics of moving and shooting with your mech of choice, you’re free to take on online and offline matches of Team Takedown (team deathmatch), Power Slam (where you have to charge your mech with kills to reach Overdrive mode before ‘dunking’ yourself in the middle of the arena), and Endzone (essentially rugby with guns).
Bright and inviting, if you can stomach the constant fast paced movement RIGS is a blast. Sadly online matches can be hard to come by, the amount of arenas is insultingly low, and earning new mechs is too much of a grind. A decent start for multiplayer shooters in VR, but hardly an essential one.
Ace Banana is the single worst game available for PlayStation VR by a country mile, thanks to a mix of poor design, atrocious execution and hopelessly dull gameplay.
It at least has a fun premise: you’re a Banana Guardian, using your bow and arrows to protect your village’s supply of bananas from evil monkeys. Unfortunately what story and text there is in Ace Banana is atrociously translated, and does a terrible job explaining what you have to do outside of shooting monkeys with plunger-headed arrows.
Archery games are usually a good fit for VR, but the team behind Ace Banana has utterly failed to make the motion controls work properly. Calibration often doesn’t work, tracking is woeful and the act of drawing your bow often fails, or doesn’t follow the Move controllers as you pull back the string. It’s frustrating and feels broken, unfinished, and reminiscent of the worst shovelware churned out for the Wii.
What was one of the prettiest racers on PS4 is now a muddy, murky experience in Driveclub VR, with heavily blurring that at times is just plain ugly. It’s also one to sit out if you suffer from motion sickness, as it has a stronger effect than any other VR game, thanks to the juddery headset tracking of the PS VR not mixing well with high speed vehicles.
Driving games are well suited to VR, and Driveclub VR serves up a passable racing experience. The controls feel great and being able to move your head to look around the cockpit and check mirrors works great, but there’s the same lacklustre sense of speed, and a shorter campaign to keep you busy.
Driveclub VR is not a bad game, but this stripped down release has taken away so much of its best content – good visuals, weather, depth – that it’s only recommendable to those desperate for a PS VR racer.
Battlezone is a perfect fit for the PS VR. While you might expect simple, engaging tank combat – and oh boy, do you get that – what is unexpected is just how much additional depth the game fires at you.
At its core, this is an accessible arcade game, pitting you in battle against other tanks, flying devices, turrets and even powerful Nemesis opponents, all from the comfort of your tank’s cockpit. The visuals have a Tron-like bright, chunky neon look, and enemy design is crisp and clear. The main campaign is a punishing, procedurally generated battle against improving AI, as you race towards a volcano and the odds constantly stack up against you. Failure can be quick, but there’s a roguelike structure, meaning upgrades carry should you get Game Over.
With neat co-op play and plenty of upgrades and new tanks to play with, Battlezone is really only let down by a lack of alternate modes, its punishing difficulty and lack of mission variety.
15 years after its original release, and finally there is a truly definitive version of Rez. Rez Infinite doesn’t “need” PS VR, but the enhancement offered by virtual reality transforms Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s trippy synaesthesia-inducing rail-shooter.
The game itself has always been an esoteric trip into virtual reality, as your evolving digital avatar flies through the Project-K system to help the AI system Eden. Not that the game really tells you this, blinding you with stunning line-art, increasingly absorbing electronic music, and simple but challenging waves of enemies and boss battles that rely on target-locking up to eight enemies at a time.
Playing in PS VR replaces stick aiming with your point of view, making control more precise and natural than ever before, and being immersed into its universe only enhances the trance-like effect. Without VR this is just a neat new version with a new level, Area X, but inside the PS VR, this is a true classic enhanced by age and new technology.
Arguably one of the most impressive looking VR experiences out there, EVE: Valkyrie is a mostly multiplayer dogfighting shooter, putting you in the virtual body of a pilot sent out to fight in epic space battles inside the EVE universe.
It’s a gorgeous game, and one that does remarkably well to keep you grounded and not disoriented as you navigate 3D space, twisting, turning, and banking around space stations, dodging missiles and chasing enemies. There’s a brief contingent of single-player content here, where your cloned pilot relives past battles and failures while Katee Sackhoff occasionally has a word in your ear, but it’s sadly nowhere near as deep as we would have liked.
Depth instead comes from the multiplayer, which features up to eight v eight battles that will (eventually) be filled out by cross-platform play. There are tons of ways to customise your ships, and while not featuring many maps or modes, the multiplayer can be thrilling – but you will always end up having a few pedestrian matches.
The sumptuous visuals and presentation value go a long way here, but this impressive looker comes up just a tad too light to be worth its steep asking price.
One of the funniest games available, Job Simulator sends you to the far-flung future of 2050 where jobs are obsolete and people have to use VR to ‘experience’ old-timey jobs like Mechanic, Chef and Office Worker. As you might imagine, the interpretations of said jobs are… loose.
Job Simulator is daft as a brush and beautiful for it. Although lacking 360 degree support thanks to the PS VR’s limited angles, loading a Job Cartridge dumps you into a job and has you perform job-like tasks: cooking someone breakfast, serving customers hot dogs at a convenience store, fixing some broken headlights. But it just lets you have at it. Someone wants some soup? Why not put a banana, burnt bacon, a disco CD and a salt shaker into the blender? Don’t like the bot giving you instructions? Just keep chucking things at him.
Short and silly, Job Simulator is the perfect way to mess around in VR with hilarious consequences. It’s not challenging in the slightest but there’s nothing better than seeing what happens when you photocopy your head, munch on a mouldy doughnut, or how you leave a level. You’ll never look at a burrito the same way ever again…