So. I got myself a PSVR. Here’s my thoughts on the future of gaming.
One of the reasons I got a PS4 rather than a XB1 was the promise of Project Morpheus. I’d used an Occulus dev kit and played a few demos and was impressed by what I experienced. So when it was announced I was straight onto Amazon with my pre-order.
I later cancelled my pre-order because sense kicked in. Then I went to Insomnia and tried one out (I played Battlezone and loved it). My pre-order was back on!
So it arrived and, because the gods of gaming were smiling on me, I had a Saturday to myself. So I started installing the American demo disk (because they had more games) and setting up my new bit of kit.
Setting up the PSVR is its first major hurdle in getting VR into the living room. It’s a major faff. In case you didn’t know it uses a breakout box that sits between the headset and the PS4. This needs its own power supply and annoyingly needs power even when your not using the headset and it’s louder than the PS4 base unit. If you like tech and cables the setup wont bug you but if you like a tidy entertainment centre then it may be more of an issue.
The headset itself is remarkably comfortable to wear. The cabling attaching it to the breakout box is pretty hefty though and there is a control box on this cable to plug your headphones into / control volume. I have been surprised at the amount of people who thought it would be wireless. We’re not quite in the future yet folks.
Once your setup the feeling of immersion is remarkable. The illusion of depth is something you cannot convey in words it does have to be experienced. At one point after Kate arrived home. I know she was standing in front of me but my brain was still saying I could basically see through her. Amazing stuff.
So, onto the demo disk!
I’d been looking forward to Rigs but the reviews had been coming out and saying people felt sick. I have experienced motion sickness in my life, I was a pain in the backside to travel with as a kid and even felt sick the first time I played Doom. So I was worried about some games. So I booted up Battlezone – I had tried that already and it was great to blast around shooting things at my own pace.
Next was Thumper. This was getting a lot of buzz so I was looking forward to it and it didn’t disappoint. I couldn’t wait to strap some people in and watch them play. I lost an hour to Thumper instantly.
Then I tried Drive Club VR. Oh dear. I have always wanted to be able to play a driving game from the view within the car. Games have tried to cater for me by using the right stick to look around – or Forza using the kinect to move the camera to where your looking (this was stupid and didn’t work btw). I really like Drive Club. I got it well after launch so had none of the issues experienced by some but Drive Club VR was a real dissapointment. Everything apart from the car felt washed out and fuzzy like I needed to crane forwards to see out of the fogged up windows. It made me appreciate the loud neon world of Battlezone even more. Clearly they had designed for the hardware where Drive Club was trying to match it’s beautiful counterpart. If someone took that engine and made it neon I think it would be great (I’m thinking about Far Cry Blood Dragon to Far Cry 3).
After wiping the tears out of the headset with my snazzy PSVR cleaning cloth I moved onto Until Dawn – Rush of Blood. I like horror films. I like gore. And this scared the shit out of me. When one of the undead appeared to my left it spooked me. But when it became animated and reached for me I flinched and made a noise. A real girly noise. Luckily I was alone in the house. Blasting zombies is as much fun as it’s always been but if you don’t like scares this is not for you.
Tubmle was up next. I didn’t expect much from that, I have a child who has stacking blocks. But I was surprised. The tactile nature of the game felt great but it was also the game that showed up the flaws in Sony’s approach to VR. They re-use the PlayStation camera and move controllers from the PS3 era. This is telling in Tumble. I couldn’t quite hold the blocks still, they would wiggle about a bit as I tried to place them. I imagine this would become frustrating later on. It also had a problem with knowing what was infront of me – at one point the game turned me 90 degrees and I could no longer play it without reseting the whole.
Next was Super Hyper Cube. With a name like that this should be the game for me. Unfortunately the ‘demo’ was a link to the product page. You cheepskates.
So onto Eve Valkarye. I swooshed into space in a convincing cockpit – chased around some other ships, got the hang of the controls and that was it. Demo over. You cheepskates.
I then started to download The Playroom VR – the free game you can download and tried out Rigs. Luckily there was no sickness and it was really entertaining. The sports atmosphere was great but hopefully the full version doesn’t get so repetitive with the commentary- I know I need to jump in the goal! On the whole really entertaining though.
It was Playroom VR that really struck me though. Very Nintendoesque in that it showed of what the tech could do. The camera can also track your gamepad in 3D space and the sensation of holding something that you can ‘see’ is fantastic. In one game the touch pad on the controller opens up and robots jump in. The sight accompanied by the vibration is wonderful. At another point the gamepad is connected to the world with rope that your character can jump onto, so you can control the character and move the controller in 3D space. This felt like a real step forward.
After another go at Thumper it was getting late so I tried The Kitchen. The Resident Evil 7 ‘experience’. I don’t want to spoil it but this also uses the motion tracking to great effect as you can see your hands, which are bound together moving where your own would be. It’s scary and very effective.
That night I didn’t sleep to well. And it wasn’t all down to The Kitchen and Rush of Blood. At the end of the evening I was going to just add a bit more gaming – and I didn’t want to play anything in VR. It was all setup and ready to go but I just wanted to play GTA. I put it down to VR fatigue but couldn’t shake the feeling that I might have wasted my money. The next morning I came downstairs…. and played some GTA. Right next to me was the VR headset I’d wanted months for and had some fantastic experiences with the day before but I didn’t feel like putting it on. Crucially I didn’t feel like spending any money on full versions of the games either. If I felt like that now what are the chances of me getting this thing out when its in some kind of dust case?
Thumper – thumper is worth a few quid – and surly the experience is no where near as good on a boring old TV screen. But was it enough to justify the price of a PSVR? As it turns out, no. Not for me anyway. A few hours later the thing I had yearned for so long was on eBay. We had a pasionate day together but it was not to be.
Some people will love VR. But ultimately I realised that I was looking forward to showing other people VR more than actually playing it. Maybe after 2-3 generations VR will be easier and after PSVR I saw lots of potential with Hololens. So VR isn’t dead – just not quite ready for the living room.
Oh – and Thumper is just as good on a boring old TV.. Save your self a few hundred quid and buy it. Now.