PS VR: Hands… er, eyes-on

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Remember around eight or so years ago when Sony and Microsoft were ploughing tons of cash into the PS Move and Kinect respectively because Nintendo was making money hand over fist with the Wii? How did that work out for everyone?

Here we are in 2017, and despite the millions dropped on motion control interfaces, I have yet to meet anyone who can recommend a PS Move game with a straight face. Microsoft, for its part, abandoned Kinect last year.

The reason I mention motion-control’s fortunes on Sony’s and Microsoft’s platforms (or lack thereof) is because I’m having a hard time being sold on VR gaming.

This isn’t to say that Sony’s new PS VR headset isn’t an impressive piece of kit or that the games I have been able to get to grips with aren’t enjoyable. It’s to say that, after sinking a few hours into a collection of tech demos, it’s impossible for me to recommend the new PS4 gaming peripheral unreservedly.

PS VR: Size & space

Remember that this piece of kit lands in the South African gaming retail market with an eye-watering price tag of R6 500 attached to it, depending on which outlet you buy it from. It costs around R700 more than that if you never invested in a PS4 Camera to begin with. The upside to all this is that if you bought PS Move controllers, you’ll now have a use for them (and if you didn’t, don’t worry, they’re not essential for every single game).

The PS VR is pretty light – it doesn’t feel like you’ve strapped a tank to your head – and even after a couple of hours it doesn’t feel uncomfortable thanks to the padding on its inner ridges. It might be worth playing in a room with air conditioning and the set up can make you start sweating pretty quickly.

You’ll also need a bit of space around you – particularly if you’re going to use the PS Move interface. It’s possible to play many of the PS VR games in a seated position, but you’ll have a better experience on your feet; in one game, for example, I had to stand up because from my seated position I couldn’t target opponents over a counter.

PS VR: A whole new world

By now, it probably sounds that like I’ve being overly critical and – let’s be honest – a bit harsh on Sony’s gaming VR rig. So let me make one thing absolutely clear; only the most churlish curmudgeon could fail to be utterly blown away by the PS VR experience.

Whether you’re taking part in a robbery and subsequent car chase (London Heist – part of PS VR Worlds), blasting TIE fighters in a dogfight above a Star Destroyer (Star Wars: Battlefront), or simply gazing at aquatic life at the bottom of the ocean (PS VR Worlds again), you can’t fail to be impressed.

Not only are the visuals and motion superb (even though dogfighting in an X-Wing is initially a disorienting affair, I suffered no motion sickness), the sound really sells the experience. This is particularly true when action occurs off camera – such as a captor talking from behind your head when you’re strapped to a chair, or your R2 unit squeaking at you from behind the X-Wing’s cockpit.

PS VR: More time required

So what you receive for a rather massive financial outlay is a device that can obliterate all traces of the outside world (provided you have a decent set of headphones). The only complaint I have about my time with the PS VR is the length of the different games – which was largely due to the paucity of time I had with the device.

The games I played – Battlefront, EVE: Valkyrie and several of PS VR Worlds’ mini-games – were impressive but short; great tech demos, but not enough to justify the device’s hefty price tag.

That having been said, there are full experiences available – Resident Evil 7: Biohazard being one I was able to enjoy (for around 10 minutes) – and time with one of these may convince me. Resi Evil 7, incidentally, was even more terrifying in VR than it was on my original playthrough; even though I knew where many of the jump scares were coming, the soundtrack made the game all the more unsettling in full surround.

More time with this device is certainly required… and desired.



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