PlayStation VR Has A Frustrating Camera Distance Problem

PlayStation VR Has A Frustrating Camera Distance Problem

Sony is making VR for the masses. To do that, the company has potentially skimped on important technology that could cause problems for a lot of people.

The PlayStation VR, which comes to the PS4 on October 13 for $400 – $500, has difficulty tracking some of its components when they are 10 feet away or more from the PlayStation Camera. PS VR is Sony’s virtual reality system that uses a head-mounted display, the PlayStation Camera, and PlayStation Move controllers to make players feel like they are surrounded by digital video game worlds. But when the headset or controller gets far enough way, all of that starts to break down. This is a major issue because it turns out that most people sit about 10 feet away from their televisions. For me, this means I have to put a chair between my TV and couch in order to take a load off while playing around in Sony’s metaverse.

I hate doing this.

The issue here is that Sony is still using the camera-and-Move-controller tech that it first built for motion controls on the PlayStation 3. This system works well a lot of the time, but it also has its limitations.

Sony previously confirmed that the PS VR “play area” comes up just short of a full 10 feet. In official documentation, the company says that the camera can track you up to 9.8 feet away.

If you start moving out of that safe zone, PS VR will give you a warning that you are not in the play area.

I can kinda get around that while sitting on my couch as long as I lean forward instead of relaxing into the back of the sofa — but that’s not exactly comfortable. But even if I didn’t mind that position, I’d still have to deal with the DualShock 4. At around 10 feet, the camera has a tiny window where it can actually see the gamepad. If I try to hold it in a natural position while on the couch, games will lose track of it and flip out.

Rearranging furniture is something users of first-gen VR hardware know a lot about. HTC and Valve ask folks to do it for the Vive. But that is for room-scale VR where I can walk around a relatively large space. Sony’s old camera wants me to move crap around in my living room so that I can sit in a spot that it finds more convenient. That’s not the same thing.

Sony’s VR hardware is definitely a product for the mass market, but a lot of those people might come away from the product frustrated that they can’t just sit in their normal chair while playing PS VR games.


This post by Jeff Grubb originally appeared on VentureBeat.

Virtual reality for the masses is here. But do the masses want VR?

The next six months are of crucial importance for the future of VR, if products such as Oculus Rift are to avoid being remembered as yesterday’s tomorrow

At an Oculus Connect event this week, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg announced a small change to the Oculus Rift, his company’s virtual reality headset, which will have massive repercussions for the technology over the next year of its life.

It wasn’t the news that the company is working on a standalone VR headset, nor that it’s now selling in-ear headphones for $49 to go with your rift. Instead, its a small technique added to the Oculus development kit with the odd name of “asynchronous spacewarp”.

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PlayStation VR review – there’s magic, but the mainstream is a way off

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

Since the phenomenally successful crowd-funding campaign for Oculus Rift in 2012, the idea of an affordable – and functional – virtual reality headset has obsessed the consumer technology industry. Afterwards, we saw video game publisher Valve partner with phone manufacturer HTC on the high-end Vive headset; we saw the smartphone-powered Gear VR and the budget priced Google Cardboard – and most recently the arrival of Daydream VR as a major element of Google’s own Pixel phone offering.

And of course, the games industry has been watching too. In 2014, Sony announced Project Morpheus, the codename for its own PlayStation 4-compatible VR headset, promising an affordable high-end and easy-to-use solution. Now named PlayStation VR, that headset is ready to launch, with an impressive range of games and applications. But can it really cross the difficult divide between specialist geek toy and mass entertainment proposition?

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‘Tumble VR’ Review: Fun With Blocks and Physics

‘Tumble VR’ Review: Fun With Blocks and Physics

I have three shapes in front of me: a small blue pyramid, a slightly larger S-shaped brown piece, and an even larger yellow cheese-wedge-like item. A floating metallic sphere called the “Test Supervisor Drone” snarkily states, “This puzzle is extremely simple. It is only intended to make sure that you understand what puzzles are.” I have to stack these odd shapes in a way that reaches a height of 51 cm. And so the permutations of configurations of these objects start running through my head.

The game is called Tumble VR, from Supermassive Games, the developers best known for their horror title Until Dawn and its VR cousin, Until Dawn: Rush of Blood. It is focused on the physics of objects, stacking them ever higher. But the game does not make things that simple. Every object, besides having a shape and size, which influences how you grab and place them on the platform, is also made of a specific material that has a corresponding weight and friction to its surface. Stone is heavy and rough. Rubber is light and rough. Wood has a medium weight, but a smooth surface. And then there is glass, foam, plastic, etc.

The goal of stacking is to go as high as possible. But then you get other levels that change the goal, such as the aforementioned puzzle level where you have to get to a certain height with only 3 objects. Then there are destruction levels where you blow a stack, by placing mines and then setting them off, trying to send the blocks flying as far as possible. There are limbo levels with moving bars of different orientations and shapes where the goal is getting a certain of number of objects on the platform without them being knocked off from the limbo rod.

There are even puzzles in Tumble VR where you move objects that affect a laser, seeking a way to get the laser to go to a certain place. Then more esoteric goals come: build a bridge between two platforms, build a stack on a platform with a slanted bottom, destroy a stack in a way where the top piece flies over a wall. You get the point.

And these levels aren’t just about reaching the goal. There is usually goals. Plural. You get a bronze medal for getting a stack to say 40cm and then silver for 70cm and then gold for 100cm. And the objectives don’t stop after that. After you finish the level once, it will unlock additional objectives for more medals: get a Time medal for completing the puzzle quickly, or a Target medal for somehow putting a shape in a specific space above the platform. There are even hidden blocks with hidden medals.

So you are using your Dualshock 4 or Move controllers to carefully arrange items of all kinds. And you are earning all these medals. These medals unlock new zones with even more levels (with even more objectives and medals and more zones to unlock). There are 50+ levels with hundreds of objectives. It is a great variety of gameplay from such a simple concept. And if you get sick of one kind of level, skip it and just do another kind. After all, you may have accumulated enough medals in Zone 3 to unlock Zone 4 without playing Level 19.

Since you can play with either the Dual Shock controller or the Move, both methods are valid and both methods use the camera to track motion. With the Move, you have a virtual Move that you point at an item, highlighting it. You simply pull the trigger to grab an item. You twist the object in your hand to get it just right, moving around the platform to place it where you want.

With the Dualshock, you see a virtual controller and a beam of light coming out of it. You point that light and grab objects. You can then use the Right Analog to rotate and flip the item, and the Left Analog to rotate or change the height of the platform. Both methods show the material and the weight of the object on the virtual controller. I personally enjoyed playing with the Dual Shock more, because rotating the object in 90-degree increments felt like I had more precise control over it.

Beyond moving objects around in all of these levels of the single player campaign, there is a Versus mode in Tumble VR too. The player in the VR headset has to stack items, getting to a certain height by a certain time limit, say two minutes. The opponent looks at the television and controls a drone with a Dualshock. They can grab different machines and use them to influence the stack that is being built. Position a fan to blow off lighter items like foam, aim a catapult to pummel a wood block, or a blaster to shoot objects and destroy them.

As you beat certain levels in the single player campaign, you unlock additional levels in the versus mode. This game type provides even more value to an already sizeable puzzle game that will have you twisting and reaching. It’s almost like having two separate but similar games in one package.

Final Score: 8/10 – Great

Some players may not find the physics-based gameplay to be their cup of tea, but if you give it a chance you may be surprised to find that one kind of objective scratches an itch you didn’t know you had. That is the virtue of a game with so much variety in implementing a simple concept. There is an unexpected kind of play waiting with each level. Which one will be the level that stumps you? And which will be a joy to finish and to replay for more medals? Only one way to find out: jump in, smirk at another rye comment from the drone, and start stacking.

Tumble VR releases on October 13th exclusively for the PlayStation VR at a price point of $9.99.

Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrived at this score.

‘Wayward Sky’ Review: A Charming Adventure That Doesn’t Quite Soar

‘Wayward Sky’ Review: A Charming Adventure That Doesn’t Quite Soar

You are soaring through the air, a co-pilot to your father in the family biplane. A huge laser beam streaks through the sky, damaging a wing. You are forced to land at the source of the beam, a huge metallic fortress floating in the air. Leaving the damaged craft, a red robot four times your size flies in and kidnaps your father. You are left to explore this prison of machines and robots, helping whomever you can while searching for your lost parent. This is how Wayward Sky, an upcoming PS VR adventure game, begins.

Developed by a small developer out of Washington named Uber Entertainment, the game is labeled as “A Look And Click VR Adventure” in its opening moments. It is an apt description, but what it really amounts to is a third-person platformer with puzzles and occasional first-person interactions.

Wayward Sky has a cartoony appearance, with colorful robots and clean environments. The camera is usually third-person, positioned above you, and somewhat distant from the game’s protagonist, Bess. You move her through a miniature world, exploring sections of this floating fortress, from a perspective similar to Lucky’s Tale for Oculus Rift.

There are moments of gameplay and during the story where it shifts to Bess’s point of view in first-person, where you actually feel the size of the robots menacing you and the enormity of the fortress around you. Those rare moments are where Wayward Sky feels like a game truly capitalizing on the potential of VR.

To control Bess, using the Move motion controller, you point to a spot and pull the trigger to have her go there. If you point to a machine, the machine will be highlighted with a white outline and Bess won’t just walk over there, but also interact with it. Visually in the game, you see your pair of Move controllers as something like steam-punk flashlights, though only one can be used to control Bess. There are puzzles to solve in these environments, moving platforms and activating ziplines, usually amounting to figuring out how to get to one place or another.

When you interact with machines, such as turning something on or dealing with an obstacle, that’s when the game switches to the aforementioned first-person perspective. Your gizmo Moves are now replaced with Bess’s leather gloves. In these situations, you have both of your hands, but it is hardly necessary; the puzzles in these moments are simple.

You can also play the game with PlayStation’s standard Dual Shock 4 as well, with the Camera picking up it’s light and using it as a less-accurate motion controller, which is likely why Uber made the game really only needing one hand.

In a larger sense, the flow of the game is moving Bess from one “room” to another, working with the machines there to either defeat an obstacle or find a way forward. In this way, you explore one section of the fortress at a time, making your way through five such levels. There are some collectibles to find throughout, which adds an extra layer of play as you traverse these environments. While you can look around for immersion, or hunt for the vaguely hidden secrets, the core gameplay is focused on what is right in front of you, amounting to not-quite 180 degrees of play space.

There is more to the story of Wayward Sky than Bess’ search for her father as well. There are flashbacks to life on the farm before the eventful flight that kicks off the game, where you learn details about their relationship and their past. In the fortress, you are facing the villain Thaddeus, the son of the inventor who built this fortress called Icarus. There are a few unique robots with names and personalities that either help or oppose you, different than the mindless robots that are obstacles in the levels. There are short sequences between levels akin to a machine puppet show revealing the history of Icarus and how Thaddeus became a villain. The dialogue is simple and charming, but the storytelling methods with the flashbacks and puppet shows are more developed.

There is a charm to the game, exploring this cartoon world, hearing Bess’s comments when she succeeds, and listening to the robots’ cute voices. The steampunk-esque machine-filled pulp adventure aesthetic is enjoyable, and the puzzles work. It is a title that is approachable, something for kids or for parents to play along with them — seemingly built with PS VR being a lot of people’s first foray into VR in mind.

There are moments that make you smile, whether it is a fun line of dialogue, when you beat certain puzzles, or from the machine-aesthetic, whether it is the inventive puppet show or even a steampunk arcade game present as an added distraction.

But, despite all of that charm, it feels like the game isn’t fully formed. There is no real combat or challenge in the game. The puzzles never get difficult and they feel repetitive.  And except for a few first-person interactions, the game doesn’t really use virtual reality well: there aren’t any 360 degree puzzles, the camera blinks from room to room, so you don’t have to look around much, except for hidden collectibles. And with only five levels, you will be done in about three hours — a bit longer perhaps if you really take your time or replay levels to get collectibles you missed.

Final Score: 6/10 – Decent

Wayward Sky feels like a competent, but unfulfilling launch title. Fun at times, charming throughout, but leaving you wanting more. If the game had a more eventful story with deeper dialogue, actual fighting with the robots, more variety in the puzzles, and some real challenges, it would be a more satisfying journey. However, a younger or less experienced gamer that is new to VR may enjoy the adventure never the less.

Wayward Sky releases on or near October 13th exclusively for the PlayStation VR at a price point of $19.99.

Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrived at this score.

‘PlayStation VR Worlds’ Review: Just Another Demo Disc

‘PlayStation VR Worlds’ Review: Just Another Demo Disc

PlayStation VR Worlds is, for those not in the know, a confusing package of content. When you buy a PlayStation VR headset, you already get a multi-game demo disc packed full of short glimpses for some of the PS VR’s biggest and best games. It’s appropriately named the Demo Disc. That’s literally what the box says.

Naturally, people might be a bit confused when they hear about PlayStation VR Worlds, a collection of five short experiences intended as introductory moments into the possibilities of VR. That sounds an awful lot like a demo disc, right? Well, it kind of is, except there aren’t full versions of these games waiting on the other end of a price tag and this disc isn’t free. Instead, you pay for a small collection of unrealized or unfinished games and experiences with a mixed bag of results.

Since each of the five games is a standalone experience, let’s look at them individually.

The London Heist

This is likely the one you’ve heard of or seen before. Originally, people assumed it would become a full game, but as it turns out, it was rolled into the PS VR Worlds package instead. It’s an enjoyable romp through London and lasts about a half hour from start to finish. You’re in what appears to be a gang or mob of some kind and are planning to steal a very special diamond. What ensues consists of couple fire fights, some light interactive moments, and a grueling interrogation scene.

The gunplay itself is fun and the voice work is top-notch, but I was ultimately left wishing for more. It feels like an abbreviated version of a larger story with a lot of potential, but in its current state I’d hardly recommend ever playing it more than once. It’s certainly the only one that actually consists of a narrative.

Ocean Descent

This was originally known as Into the Deep and changed its name following the inclusion in this package. You’ll go down underwater in a cage, get harassed by a big ol’ shark, and probably get a bit nervous from time to time. Since you can hear and see the shark coming from roughly a mile away, it’s not as terrifying as some of the reactions you might have seen online would leave you to believe.

It’s visually stunning and makes me want a fully-featured VR scuba diving game really, really badly. There’s also a more passive viewing mode as well.

Dangerball

This is, surprisingly, my personal favorite of the bunch. While it’s basically just Pong, but with your face, the excitement comes from the fact that each of your opponent’s has a different paddle with different abilities. Some can blast back multiple balls, others can slam them at super fast speeds. By banging your head forward you can send the ball flying with force, or by sliding your head to the side, you can enact a special curve ball.

Panels of the room come flying off the walls as the ball makes contact, making it a visual splendor to watch. Gameplay is fast, fun, and satisfying. I just really wish there was multiplayer.

Scavengers Odyssey

This one feels a bit like a scrapped game idea that never got a whole lot of traction internally. Sony didn’t bother talking about this entry in PS VR Worlds very much, frankly because many the other three I mentioned are more enjoyable. This plays out like a mixture of a mech-combat and space shooter game, with you exploring space and structures in a unique ship.

There are more thrills to be found in the free EVE: Valkyrie demo on your demo disc than in this one.

VR Luge

Last and least is VR Luge. You’ll tilt your head from side-to-side to steer your street luge as breakneck speeds as you dodge and swerve between cars. The sense of speed is great, but the limited courses, lack of real challenge (hitting cars doesn’t do much other than give you a slight time penalty) and disappointingly shallow gameplay keep this one from breaking away from the pack.

I can see why this didn’t evolve into a bigger game, but it would have been nice to see it at least polished up a bit more.

Final Score: 5/10 – Mediocre

PlayStation VR Worlds feels like a poor attempt at creating a bundle game collection that could stand toe-to-toe with fully-developed games on retail shelves. The PS VR itself comes with a demo disc that’s frankly better than this collection, but if you’re getting the bigger bundle that includes Worlds already, or really want to check out The London Heist, Dangerball, or Ocean Descent, then it’s worth a quick run through. Three of the five games are pretty solid, but it’s hard to recommend as anything other than a nifty bundle purchase.

PlayStation VR Worlds will be available for PlayStation VR on October 13th, at the price of $39.99.

Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrived at this score.

PlayStation VR Review: The Future of Console Gaming Has Arrived

PlayStation VR Review: The Future of Console Gaming Has Arrived

Did you know that the PlayStation was born from a botched business deal with Nintendo? Sony and Nintendo were all set to release a collaborative game system known as the SNES-CD back in the 90s as an add-on device for the Super Nintendo. The deal went south, we were eventually treated to Zelda-based nightmare fuel via Nintendo’s replacement deal with Philips instead, and Sony eventually went on to create the PlayStation as a result. The best-selling console of this generation, the PlayStation 4, which has moved well over 40 million units since release in 2013, was all made possible by the Big N’s change of heart over 20 years ago. Funny how that works out, isn’t it?

Sony helped usher in the era of disc-based console games on the PS1, added DVD-playback support to the PS2, built the PS3 using the now-dominant Blu-ray disc format, and is once again at the forefront of technology with their rapid adoption and ferocious endorsement of virtual reality. Next week, the PlayStation VR headset (formerly known as Project Morpheus) will release to the world on October 13th and tens — perhaps even hundreds — of thousands of gamers will have their hands on a device with the power to transport them to fantastical worlds never before possible, all from the comfort of their tried and true PlayStation 4 game consoles. No beefy, expensive PC required.

Timeline of PlayStation hardware since 1995.

That may seem a bit long-winded, but that was intentional. The “Reviewers Guide” for the PlayStation VR headset Upload received from Sony a week ago includes a timeline (shown above) of the console manufacturer’s history, including blips for not only the PS1-PS4, but the PlayStation Eye Camera, the Move wands, and more. It’s been a long time coming and now Sony is finally putting all of its wacky peripherals to use in one immersive experience.

The PS VR headset is admittedly weaker in power than its higher-end competitors, the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, but its also more affordable and is squarely focused on the established marketplace of PlayStation 4 console gamers. A defined market with ease of access shouldn’t go understated.

Now that we all know of what’s inside the box, it’s time to see how it all shakes out once it’s actually on our faces.

The standard, core PS VR unit box.

Table of Contents

Setup

Ergonomics and Design

Display and Optics

Sound

PlayStation Camera Tracking and Controllers

The Games

Other Features and Topics

Greatness Awaits

Here’s what’s inside. Click here for our full unboxing.

Setup

The PlayStation VR is relatively easy to setup. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll assume you already own a working PlayStation 4 that you use on a semi-regular basis if you’re reading this review. If you don’t and you’re woefully unaware of how home video game consoles work, let me break that down for you: you plug it into the wall, then into your TV. Probably into your modem or router directly as well. That’s pretty much it.

Back of the PS VR Processor Unit.

Once your PlayStation 4 is up and running, it gets a tiny bit more complex. Inside the PS VR packaging you’ll find a little breakout box, called the Processor Unit, that looks like a miniature PlayStation 4. One end of this unit you’ll plug it into your TV — essentially moving the HDMI cord from the back of your PS4, to the back of this device. Then you’ll also hook the device to your PS4 using another HDMI cord.

From there, you just plug the unit into the wall for power, then plug the headset into the other side to complete the connection. All of the cords are labeled clearly and it’s a simple system. The most complicated part is just making sure your cable management is good, since all of the added wires can lead to a lot of clutter. I set my breakout box directly on top of my PS4, but you’re free to place it somewhere else if you’d prefer.

Size comparison between a standard PS4 (right) and the PS VR Processor Unit (left.)

It doesn’t stop there, though, as you’ll also need a PlayStation Camera for the headset to function at all and the core unit packaging does not include one. A different, more expensive bundle does, or you can purchase one separately. If you don’t have one already, it just plugs into your PS4 system directly and sits on top of your TV. It’s relatively hassle-free overall. The box includes detailed instructions for setup if you get confused and there are already videos online.

Following that assortment of wires and cables, you can finish the setup process with a bit of software bootup. Click through the prompts on your screen and you’ll eventually start the calibration process. This is where things can get a little tricky, as Sony actually recommends sitting approximately 5-feet away from the camera with up to 5-feet of space behind you. This is partly to ensure you don’t hurt yourself by moving around blindly, but also partly due to the necessities of the camera to make sure it doesn’t get confused trying to keep up with your movement.

After all that, you’re good to go. The PlayStation 4 will handle updates, so downloading and installing new firmware isn’t necessary.

Front-facing view of the PlayStation VR headset.

Ergonomics and Design

When compared to the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, the PlayStation VR looks similar at first glance. There is a large hunk of material on the front that obscures the face of the user almost entirely, delivering a design that’s reminiscent of science fiction literature and films from years’ past. Sony continued that lineage — especially considering its original Project Morpheus moniker — and even made sure to include some fancy LED lights right on the headset itself.

However, the biggest difference between this and other headsets on the market is that it’s based on a headband design, rather than a strap that clamps the unit to your face. In the case of the Rift and the Vive, you’ll use a combination of velcro straps to tighten and loosen the headset to your face, with a cushion covering you that can often be difficult to get just right. As someone that wears glasses, it’s often uncomfortable and frustrating to use those headsets for more than a few minutes. I’ve discovered ways to make them feel comfy, but it’s not always easy.

In the case of the PS VR, you simply place the ring of the headband on top of your head, slide the back part downward so it sits on your cranium at an angle, with the forehead pad gently resting atop your face. The material feels similar to a reptile’s skin, but it’s much softer and glossier. It also doesn’t soak up sweat as easily. Press the button on the back to loosen and tighten, twist the nob to fine-tune, and then press the button underneath the headset to slide the actual lenses closer or farther away from your eyeballs. That’s it.

That all adds up to one of the most comfortable and easy to use VR headsets created to date. The simple sliding of the lenses makes it beyond easy to peak out from the VR world to check your phone, inspect your surroundings, or just let your face breathe a bit. Much easier than having to unstrap or rip off the other headsets on the market.

A quick look at the insides of the PlayStation VR headset.

In terms of comfort, long sessions were never an issue for me as long as I put the headset on correctly. Since the headset weighs about 12.9oz, if you don’t slide the back part down and keep it adjusted on your face, the pieces at the back where the two halves connect can press against your temples and become uncomfortable.

But that wasn’t an issue if I, as I said, put it on correctly. It never bothered my neck, despite the fact that it’s incredibly top heavy like other headsets.

I did notice that the lenses tended to fog up more frequently than the Rift or Vive, which is likely due to the fact that when not in use, the headset got cold while unplugged from my game console. It didn’t sustain a constant warm connection. But since it comes with a microfiber cloth and the sliding lens design makes it so easy to reach up and wipe the lenses, it didn’t really bother me much. After about 5 minutes of use, fogging stopped being an issue.

A close look at the lenses of the PlayStation VR headset.

Display and Optics

The PlayStation VR uses a single 5.7” 1920 x 1080 resolution full-color OLED RGB display split between two eyes to deliver stereoscopic 3D content. The display refreshes at a rate of either 90Hz or 120Hz, depending on the application itself, with a latency of less than 18 milliseconds.

That’s the nitty gritty details, but what you really want to know is what it’s like to actually use. In my experience, the visual fidelity was great. Obviously, you can tell a difference between the clarity of the PS VR when compared side-by-side with the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, but the difference is, overall, not very dramatic. Objectively, the PS VR is a lesser experience, but subjectively, it didn’t equate to a noticeable impact on my entertainment.

That being said, there are areas that present a downgrade in terms of overall resolution and FOV. The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive both feature a 2160 x 1200 display with a 110 degree field of view (FOV,) whereas the PlayStation VR is only 1920 x 1080 with a 100-degree FOV. To put that more plainly, the Rift and Vive both have more pixels in their screens and a wider area for viewing content. That means sharper images and less black space on the outskirts of the viewing area. Clearer imagery and larger vision add up to increased immersion.

After spending time in the PS VR, the decreased FOV and lower resolution stopped bothering me, but coming from the higher-powered headsets initially, it was apparent enough to point out.

The HTC Vive (left) and Oculus Rift (right.)

Depending on the application, resolution become a bit of an issue. When playing DriveClub VR on the provided demo disc for example, I had a lot of trouble reading the gauges on my car’s dashboard. Even if I leaned in to get a closer look, the numbers were fuzzy and it was difficult to decipher. The same goes for street signs I passed during a car chase scene in The London Heist on PlayStation VR Worlds. None of these things were really necessary for my enjoyment of the game’s in question, but the lack of fidelity was relatively obvious.

At the end of the day, when I wasn’t examining aspects of games to see how their clarity holds up and I instead decided to focus on playing the games and having a good time, my eyes glossed over the inefficiencies.

Side view of the PlayStation VR headset.

Sound

While the concept of virtual reality may seem like a primarily visual experience, the truth is that sound is just as important in delivering an immersive piece of content. Through the usage of audio cues in games, developers can get you to turn in certain directions, or video producers can make you feel even more immersed in a space than ever before. The sound of the wind at your back, howling beasts in a distant direction, and more are powerful tools at the disposal of content creators.

The power of 3D spatial audio is impressive and while it seems similar to just surround sound generally, when paired with an immersive 360-degree digital world that reacts to your head’s movement, it feels like you’ve truly been transported somewhere else.

And as an added bonus, the headphone jack on the PlayStation VR’s inline button unit is quick and easy to use. Just plug any headphones you have — whether they be the pre-packaged earbuds, or a comfy set you have lying around — and the 3D audio is baked in. The Processor Unit and headset itself transmit the 3D audio signal, so all you need to do is plug some headphones in. The inline unit also lets you power on and off the headset, as well as adjust the audio at the press of a few buttons. That is, as long as they’re wired. Wireless audio signals don’t carry 3D audio well.

Finally, yes — the PS VR does have a built-in microphone. The sound clarity is great when playing multiplayer games and it delivers a crystal-clear sound to your headphones of choice.

The lights on the headset and controllers are how the PlayStation Camera keeps track of everything’s location.

PlayStation Camera Tracking and Controllers

The bright lights might seem distracting at first, but rest assured you won’t even notice they’re there when you’re inside the headset. The PlayStation Camera, while having a normal lens, can’t accurately track your movement based on its vision alone. Instead, it tracks the LED lights found on the front and back of your headset, as well as the ones on the top of the Dualshock 4 controller and the PlayStation Move wands.

The camera sits at the top of your television and should be pointed directly at the center of your playspace, squarely on the headset itself. That orientation helps the camera establish your location in relation to the rest of the environment.

Ultimately, it gets the job done for the most part, but is a far cry from the Vive’s lighthouse base stations, or even the Rift’s tracking cameras. Simply put, the PlayStation Camera is dated and likely wasn’t created necessarily with VR in mind. After an hour or two of play, I noticed my orientation started to ‘drift’ to one side, causing me to slowly shift my seating position. After removing my headset, I noticed I was facing at an approximate 25-degree or so angle to the left of where the camera actually was located. It’s like the entire VR experience was slowly shifting over-time.

The PlayStation Camera.

Additionally, it had trouble keeping up if I turned around while standing or in a swivel chair. Some games, such as Job Simulator or even Batman: Arkham VR, encourage standing, so I wasn’t exactly pushing the device outside its limits. If I had my back turned to the camera, it tracked my headset fine, but would occasionally lose track of the controllers while obstructed. This happened if my hands were out in front of me and not to my sides — it seemed like my body was shielding the camera’s signal. I’ll be curious to see how — or if — Sony can address that at all.

To be clear: these bumps in the road weren’t frequent and they didn’t actively disrupt my ability to play games. The Vive and Rift have tracking hiccups all the time, so this is far from an isolated issue.

Placing those unfortunate concerns aside, everything worked well when it needed to. When I was sitting upright, in the middle of my room, in normal conditions holding a controller in my hand for gameplay, the PS VR experience was at its best. The more sophisticated I tried to get — using motion controllers, moving around, turning, etc. — the less accurate the tracking became over time.

An interrogation scene from The London Heist in PlayStation VR Worlds.

The Games

As they always say, software sells hardware. The PS VR headset, as impressive and nifty as it is, is frankly quite useless without software to use. Luckily, we’ve been promised approximately 50 titles to be released with PS VR support before the end of the year and we’ve been counting down to the release of the headset, highlighting a different game each day, for almost two full months in our article series.

The analysis in this section of this review will be light, as you can read the specific game reviews for more detailed thoughts, but this will provide an overview of the general landscape. We also haven’t had the ability to go hands-on with every launch title, but we do have an opinion piece about the headset from the POV of a hardcore console gamer’s perspective you should check out.

Cover of the PlayStation VR demo disc.

The Demo Disc

The demo disc is a forgotten art in today’s game industry, but Sony didn’t follow that trend. Instead, for US consumers, they’ve packed in over two dozen short demos to give you a varied and robust taste of what the headset has to offer. Headsets in other territories come with fewer demos. On this demo disc, you can take flight in the cockpit of a space fighter in EVE: Valkyrie, get behind the wheel of some of the world’s fastest cars with DriveClub VR, fire away at enemies in your tank with Battlezone, and even experience the torturous Kitchen demo from Capcom.

While it’s not saying much, it wouldn’t be an understatement to rank this as perhaps one of the best demo discs ever created. There is a tremendous amount of variety and enough content to keep you busy for literally hours on end just to see everything the disc has to offer. If you fall in love with something on the disc, going to the full game’s store page for a quick purchase and download is just a single button away. This should be the starting point for all new PS VR owners.

The Playroom VR will also be a free download for anyone to grab off of the PlayStation Store, but it wasn’t playable yet as of the time of this review.

Promotional image for PlayStation VR Worlds.

PlayStation VR Worlds

If you get the launch bundle that includes the headset, camera, Move controllers, and PlayStation VR Worlds, you’re in for a treat here as well. This bundle game contains five short experiences that are each a step above being ‘demos’ but not quite worthy of being released as fully independent titles. The London Heist is an excellent action-packed adventure that features heavy violence, first-person shooting, and a gripping interrogation scene. Dangerball is just like playing Pong, except your face is the paddle. VR Luge is one of the most intense racing games I’ve played in VR yet, rocketing you down busy streets as you dodge and weave between vehicles. Ocean Descent lets you get up close and person with a shark and, finally, Scavengers Odyssey is part mech-combat and part space shooter.

As stated, each of these games on their own wouldn’t warrant much, but as a package, it’s a deeper dive into what more complete games and experiences could look like. If the Demo Disc is your introductory course in what the PS VR can do, consider this your intermediate course before you graduate without training wheels.

What About the ‘Actual’ Games?

There are a lot of games coming to PS VR this year — remember, we said around 50 — and we frankly haven’t had time to play them all yet. In fact, many of them haven’t even been provided to media yet for review. As of the time of this writing, we at UploadVR have only been provided review copies of Allumette, Batman: Arkham VR, PlayStation VR Worlds, Battlezone, Harmonix Music VR, Job Simulator, SUPERHYPERCUBE, Tumble VR, Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, Wayward Sky, and Thumper. Heavy hitters like RIGS, Robinson: The Journey, EVE: Valkyrie, DriveClub VR, and more haven’t been provided as of the time of this publication.

However, we’ve played the listed games quite a lot. In fact, if you’re reading this right now, then many of our reviews for those PS VR games are live and you can see them either at the hyperlinks above, or by visiting the site’s Reviews tab.

Suffice it to say that if you’re interested in getting a PS VR, then yes, we think that the launch lineup of games is strong enough to warrant the purchase. And if you already have the required PlayStation Camera and/or optional Move controllers with your PlayStation 4 now, then that decision should be even easier to make.

Other Features and Topics

The analysis doesn’t stop there. In addition to playing dedicated PlayStation VR games like the ones mentioned above, you can do a whole lot of other stuff inside Sony’s flagship headset as well. For example, Cinematic Mode lets you access anything else on your PS4 within a private cinema. This is great for watching movies on a large, virtual screen, or playing non-VR games inside the headset. The PS VR will also function perfectly fine while others in the room are using the TV for something else.

And whilst you’re inside VR, everyone else around you can still see what you’re seeing if they want, albeit on a downgraded, flat, 2D screen. This is nifty so that everyone else in the room doesn’t feel completely left out. Plus, some games such as The Playroom VR or Tumble VR, utilize this feature for local multiplayer.

You’ll also be able to share and stream content that you’re seeing inside the PS VR headset using your PS4’s built-in Share button functionality.

Greatness Awaits

The PlayStation VR headset is far from a perfect device. Tracking has its issues with the dated PlayStation Camera and Move controllers and the visual fidelity is lower than that of its primary competitors, but what it lacks in technical prowess it makes up for in accessibility, affordability, and a streamlined focus on quality content.

This may not be the most technologically advanced headset on the market, but for console gamers that want a taste of the power and potential of virtual reality, it’s hard not to recommend what Sony has created. I don’t think VR will completely replace traditional video games, but it’s a format that is finally matured enough to stick around.

With PlayStation VR, the future of console gaming has finally arrived.