Sony Playstation VR Review

The new PlayStation VR is incredible immersive fun, fulfilling a promise that’s as old as the video game industry itself.

Sony Computer Entertainment of America

In the early days of home video game consoles, advertisers for Atari and Commodore computers hawked their wares under a recurring theme: Immersion. The wording of the promise varied from game to game, but the message was always clear: If you buy this, then you get to inhabit the world we’ve built for you.

Print ads filled comic books with pleas for players to answer important calls to action:

E.T. needs YOUR help!

Raiders of the Lost Ark, Starring You!

Become a Jedi Master without ever leaving your home.

The imagery that accompanied these ads depicted wide-eyed gamers surrounded by pixelated spaceships, dragons, and race cars. Look! They really are in the game!

With home video game systems being a relatively new commodity at the time, it made a lot of sense to advertise them this way. Before the Atari age, most gamers had to get their fix in arcades where you had to wait your turn to hop on the stick and could play only as long as you had quarters in your pocket. The prospect of being able to play in the comfort of your own home, and being able to do so indefinitely, was revolutionary. And if you’ve ever embarked on a gaming marathon that stretched into the wee hours of the morning, you know that those ads weren’t exactly misleading; there is a kind of immersion that happens over the course of time, where the real world fades away and your mind is focused only on the screen in front of you. It’s the same kind of truly great escapism that happens when a novel sinks its hooks deep into your bones, or when a movie captures your imagination, or when you binge watch four seasons of a show in one weekend. For gamers, getting to control the action added to the immersion and escape, even if the images on the screen at the time were quite crude.  

But as technology has improved with alarming speed and triple-A games tell stories with production values that rival or surpass much of what Hollywood has to offer at the movie theater, that’s not the kind of immersion or escapism we’re talking about anymore. In short, we’re still after the original promise of those early advertisements. We want real immersion.

Enter the world of virtual reality, where a headset that provides 360-degree views of the gaming environment while blocking out all light from the outside world can create just such an immersive illusion. You know you’re still sitting on your couch or standing in your living room, but your eyes are telling your brain a different story, and it creates a whole other level of involvement. VR technology isn’t new, but its proliferation is. And this week sees the release of the most affordable mass-market VR headset to date, the PlayStation VR, or PSVR.

Compatible with the PS4, the PSVR retails for $399 for the headset itself. If you don’t yet have the necessary PlayStation camera and a pair of Move controllers (the original ones from the PS3 are compatible), you’ll need to get a bundle of all the necessary hardware which will run you $499.

To cut to the chase: Yes, the PSVR is an incredible piece of hardware and playing most of the games on its launch lineup will give you some memorable moments. But to help you render a final verdict as to whether or not the asking price is worth it, here is a breakdown of everything you’re getting yourself into when you jump into the world of PSVR.

The Hardware/Setup

Sony Computer Entertainment of America

The PSVR headset itself is a lightweight band of white plastic with a soft foam interior. To slide the headset on, you just press the release button on the back of the band and stretch it over your head. As you release the button, the band shrinks to your head. You can then tighten it for a perfect fit with a turn of a dial. The visor, which houses all of the optical tech, is surprisingly lightweight. Its outer edges—and the little nook where you nose rests—are rimmed with thin black rubber to block out light.

Since the PS4 wasn’t built with the necessary processors to create VR experiences, the headset comes with its own processing unit, which resembles a “baby” PS4 that will need to sit next to your console. This processing unit comes with its own power supply, an HDMI cable to connect to your TV, a USB-to-micro-USB cable to connect it to your PS4, and a thick cable to link it to the headset. The connector cable houses the headset’s power button, volume controls, and headphone jack. If you haven’t done so already, you’ll also need to hook up the PS camera and charge up those Move controllers, though many games give you the option of playing with a standard Dualshock.

The setup isn’t the most elegant-looking thing in the world. Besides the extra processing unit and connector cable, your PS4 will need to have a USB cord sticking out of its front every time you want to use VR. It’s a minor gripe, but it’s something to be aware of.

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