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I just tried the PlayStation VR and it made me deliriously happy

By Alvin Soon - 11 Aug 2016

I just tried the PlayStation VR and it made me deliriously happy

I’ve been a VR skeptic for the longest time. I’ve tried the both Oculus Rift and the Samsung Gear VR. A friend shoots 360 video and he keeps subjecting me to his company’s VR videos. I have to admit I’ve never tried the HTC Vive, which my colleagues say is the one to beat. But I’ve never bought into any VR experience so far. It always felt too fake to me.

Well, I’ve just tried the PlayStation VR, and it’s made me a believer. For the first time, I felt completely immersed into a virtual world, and by the end of the two demos, my palms were sweaty from how intense it felt.


What is the PlayStation VR?

The PlayStation VR is a headset combined with a processing unit, plus a camera attached to a PlayStation 4. The two Move controllers are optional; you can play some games using the PS4’s DualShock 4 controllers, but you’ll really want the joysticks for the full experience.

The VR headset is easy to put on, and comfortable. You can play with the sound coming out of the TV, or you can plug in your own headphones on the headset’s 3.5mm jack and enjoy 3D audio. The first thing that hit me is how many wires that adds up to, one from the headset and another from the headphones, but that’s the state of tech today. Only the Samsung Gear VR offers wireless VR because the headset uses a mobile phone within to power it.

The PlayStation VR’s processing unit, which comes with the headset.


What it feels like to play

The first demo I tried is still a secret, so I can’t tell you about it (although you can find it with a quick Google search). But it really made me feel like I was someone else (someone dark and emo), when I looked at my digital hands, they oddly felt like my own. When I pressed the Move controllers to close my fingers, I had the uncanny sensation that my real hands were doing the moving.

You can play some VR games using the DualShock 4 controllers, but the Move controllers really complete the experience.

The motion was smooth enough to convince my body that it was somewhere else, and the angle of view was natural enough to make the demo look real, not a grossly distorted wide-angle that breaks the illusion. Twisting my head around actually made something sound nearer or further away, thanks to the 3D audio.

Plug your headphones into the headset and you can experience 3D audio.

The second demo was a playable horror game, ‘Rush of Blood.’ Before I tried it, the Sony spokesman asked me if I was afraid of ghosts and ghouls, and I dismissed it by saying it all wasn’t real. That nonchalance quickly went away when the first ghosts appeared beside me and freaked me out. When the rollercoaster ‘I’ was sitting on sped down a steep edge I felt like I was falling off my chair. It was bloody fun.

Virtual reality makes gaming feel new and exciting again. Playing within a 3D world compared to playing on a flat screen is the difference between night and day. No matter how much fun the screen is, it requires some imagination for me to put myself into the game world. With the VR headset, no imagination is needed, I’m there.


VR needs to be really spot-on

Trying out the PlayStation VR also made me appreciate how delicate the VR experience is. Your hands, which are represented by the Move controllers, have to be spot-on calibrated. Any slight mis-calibration and the entire experience is thrown off.

At the beginning of my second demo, my VR hands and real hands were swapped around for some reason, left became right and right became left. It was extremely disorientating. And even when I fixed it by swapping controllers, the guns never really felt like they were pointing exactly where I was pointing my hands.


Let’s talk price

So will I be buying the PlayStation VR when it comes out? Probably not so soon, because it’s going to cost a pretty dollar. The VR headset, which comes with the processing unit, will retail at S$599. With the camera, which is essential, the package will cost S$649. One Move controller is S$69, two are S$138. And the PlayStation 4 costs around S$499.

If you’re going all in, the entire PlayStation VR setup will cost you S$1,286, when it goes on sale in Singapore on October 13th. PlayStation VR is fun, but it’s still a little early to tell if it can appeal to the masses at length and that's really up to the quality of VR games that will debut. To get a feel of what they could be like, check out the interview at GameAxis with Shuhei Yoshida, Sony’s global head of first-party studios.

You’ll need the PlayStation VR headset (which comes with the processing unit) and this camera for VR to work with your PS4. The Move controllers are optional, as most games will work with the DualShock 4 controllers.

To be fair, the PlayStation VR is the most affordable ‘serious’ VR set you can get, when compared against the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. The Rift is US$599 (approx. S$800), and the Vive is US$799 (approx. S$1,070). The Rift still doesn’t have motion controllers, and both prices don’t include the high-end PCs you’ll need to run them on.

With the existing number of PlayStation owners and its (relatively) lower price, it seems like the PlayStation VR is the best hope for VR to go mainstream in 2016. Will it hit the target? We’ll see on October 13.

P.S. VR is like the Matrix, nobody can really be told what it is, you have to see it for yourself. It’s not officially in Singapore yet, but you can experience the HTC Vive and VR right now at the new Harvey Norman Games Hub in Millenia Walk.

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