|Amazon (customer reviews)||4.5/5|
Virtual reality has long been mooted as the future of gaming. What could be better than donning a headset that transmits a game world directly to your visual sphere, making you feel as if you’re actually in the game? Technologically, however, VR is tough to pull off. Headsets must be light and flexible enough to allow players to experience games in comfort, while motion sickness was a major problem in early manifestations of VR.
Since Facebook purchased Oculus Rift in 2014 VR has gained momentum. With the release of the Rift and the HTC Vive earlier in the year, virtual reality headsets entered the home entertainment sphere for the first time. However, the high-end prices of both headsets ($799 for Oculus Rift before the cost of the gaming PC required to run it) proved beyond the reach of most consumers.
PlayStation VR, at the notably lower RRP of $399, has been earmarked by industry insiders as the first VR headset with mass market potential and now it’s here. So is PS VR a product with the potential to revolutionise gaming and bring VR headsets into homes worldwide? Let’s take a look at how major critical outlets have reviewed the project.
IGN: “It can’t quite match the quality of its more expensive rivals, but Sony’s headset brings affordable VR to your livingroom.”
IGN were impressed with PlayStation VR. Awarding the headset a score of 8.5 out of 10, they felt that it had successfully met its goal of bringing “good-quality virtual reality to the masses.” They confirmed that PlayStation VR is comfortably more affordable than its main rivals the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, even with the mandatory purchase of the PlayStation Camera and the suggested purchase of PlayStation Move controllers thrown in, and were impressed with the visual quality delivered by PS VR, despite a lower resolution than both its main competitors. PS VR’s motion tracking capabilities were, however, notably poorer than its competitors, while the plethora of wires required to rig up the various components for PS VR was, for IGN, a significant drawback. Despite this, the reviewer noted the joy people encounter when experiencing VR for the first time and the “mindblowing” effect of the new technology.
Time: “Sony’s VR device is the friendliest, visually clearest, most affordable of the initial raft of headsets”
Time.com were even bigger fans of PlayStation VR, awarding it a score of 4.5 out of 5 stars and praising its design. Not only did Time find the headset exceptionally comfortable, they lauded its visual appeal, noting that “contrasted with HTC and Oculus’s anodyne-black plastic, PlayStation VR looks like a proper pulp sci-fi visor.” While Time join IGN in noting that tracking of the player’s head movements wasn’t as swift as on the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, they wrote that “PlayStation VR’s visuals feel the clearest and most consistently focused” and experienced less issues with motion sickness than with the other headsets. Overall, Time found PS VR the “friendliest, visually clearest, most affordable” of the initial VR headsets and recommend Move controllers to get the most from the experience.
Digital Spy had some reservations about PlayStation VR but still awarded it 4 out of 5 stars and pronounced it “already the most rounded virtual reality experience out there,” albeit still a “niche product.” Like Time, Digital Spy were impressed by the design of PS VR, finding it comfortable even when wearing glasses, and enjoyed its “futuristic” look. Digital Spy echo observations about tracking issues with the product, noting that PS VR suffers notably in comparison to the HTC Vive, but were impressed by the roster of games available for PS VR – better than for the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift combined, they felt.
Gamespot declined to score PS VR but had substantially more reservations about the product. They noted that PlayStation VR delivers some “incredibly immersive experiences” and praised the comfort of the headset, but had concerns about the set-up of the device. Along with the plethora of wires required, they found the device to be quite fussy about where players stand and noted that Move Controllers could become “occluded if you turn completely around,” preventing 360 degree movements in gameplay. Much of the reviewer’s negativity towards PS VR seems to stem from the fact that they experienced motion sickness when playing. They noted that propensity to motion sickness varies from person to person, but would have liked Sony to put more guidance in place on how to avoid it. All in all, they concluded that PS VR offers glimpses of quality, but that issues with motion sickness and a lack of essential games at launch meant it was far from a mandatory purchase.
The Guardian: “Sony’s entry into the world of consumer virtual reality is an impressive start but it’s not yet the affordable high-end VR experience some are dreaming of.”
The Guardian’s Keith Stuart was also slightly underwhelmed by PlayStation VR. Awarding it 3 stars out of 5, Stuart praised the “striking…Star Wars space helmet” design, but noted that wearing glasses under the headset was a “tight fit.” Stuart found the console easy to set up but again highlighted the number of wires in play and was wary of tripping over them when using the device. PS VR was technically “very impressive” for the most part, but did suffer visually in comparison to the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift and didn’t track player movements as well. Stuart also found the games “mostly demo experiences” so didn’t feel PS VR was a Christmas must-have, but felt that it offered a tantalising glimpse of where VR may go in the future.
The Observer, sister paper to the Guardian, neglected to give PlayStation VR a score but were hugely impressed by it. “If this is the future of virtual reality,” they stated, “sign me up.” Noting that PS VR was the first headset to offer a mid-range entry point into a market dominated by the highly-priced Oculus Rift and the cheap simulation of VR provided by some smartphones, the Observer reviewer found the headset easy to set up and felt that Sony had “licked” the motion sickness problem. While noting that the resolution developed by the headset doesn’t match the quality of Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive, framerate delivery was good enough to provide a fluid playing experience and the all-important feeling of “presence” within a game.
PlayStation VR generally scored well in reviews, with an average score of just under 8 out of 10 among the reviews sampled above. Reviewers were impressed with the comfort and stylish design of the headset and felt that it delivered a good quality VR experience, though players familiar with the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift would probably notice a decrease in graphical fidelity and the reliability of motion tracking.
The spectre of motion sickness wasn’t entirely absent from reviews, but for the most part reviewers were able to use the device without significant problems. All reviewers of PS VR noted stand out moments in games when the immediacy of VR took their breath away and provided new experiences, but it seems telling that the games provided quality only in flashes. The lack of a true “must play” title, combined with the significant cost of PS VR, prevents it from being an essential purchase at present.
PS VR does, however, seem like a major step forward for virtual reality and may well be the start of something special.