The PlayStation VR has made a right mess of my living room. Sony’s new headset requires the use of roughly seven thousand bits of cable, which snake and coil around your TV and your console and your neck like rubbery snakes. Truly, I have never felt more at risk of accidental self-strangulation than when reviewing this thing.
But if I had to die all tangled up in something, it would almost certainly be a PlayStation VR. An affordable entry into the world of virtual reality entertainment, it’s an appealing proposition for those who’d rather not spunk top dollar on an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive.
Instead of requiring a beefy (and expensive) gaming PC to work, the £349 headset connects to your existing PlayStation 4 console. That works out £200 cheaper than the Rift and £400 cheaper than the Vive.
Additional Move controllers are required for some games and you’ll need the PlayStation Camera (around £50 if you don’t already have one) to get the thing working. So while it’s perhaps one of the more expensive ways to auto-asphyxiate, it’s still the cheapest VR solution out there (discounting the super lo-fi alternatives that use your smartphone as a visor, such as Samsung’s Gear and Google’s Daydream).
So what does the PlayStation VR actually do, and how does it feel? Slipping the headset on is like being teleported to another place, somewhere that isn’t quite realistic enough to be reality, but is just convincing enough to trick your brain into thinking you’re seeing physical objects.
Without experiencing it first-hand, it’s a tough concept to describe. PlayStation VR is like stepping into a lucid dream: the details are smudged and the visuals are a little wooshy, but you’re there. You’re actually inside a game world. It’s bizarre, imperfect but totally uncanny.
It remains to be seen how developers will fully utilise the new hardware. The current selection of games and demos all feel rather experimental, with a few stand-out ideas. Wayward Sky presents the game world in front of your chest, like a sprawling table-top board game, letting you point your action-figure-sized character in the direction you want her to go, and occasionally jumping down to her size to go hands-on with puzzles.
Other titles have you blasting around in spaceships or gunning down bad guys in car chases, all short lived experiences that don’t stand up to repeated playthroughs.
This is early days and burgeoning tech, but the PlayStation VR is currently lacking in games that are worth the expense and effort of setting the thing up.
Kudos to Sony for squeezing this kind of capability out of the PlayStation, but while the hardware impresses, it’s the software that will ultimately decide whether this generation’s stab at VR is anything more than a cool party trick.