#EGXRezzed: An hour with PlayStation VR
I had already made my mind up. I was firmly going with team HTC Vive. Before that I was an Oculus Rift fanboy. But now? I don’t know. After a trip to London yesterday to Eurogamer Expo’s (EGX) Rezzed event, my emotions have been put in dizzy spell as I *think* I’ve fallen in love with PlayStation’s new virtual reality headset.
To adopt a phrase “I’m a PC”. I own an Xbox One also, but I’d say 95% of my gaming is done sat at my desk with a keyboard and mouse. The recent virtual reality boom has always been a personal computer exclusive kinda deal (up to now), so in my mind it has involved multiple USB ports, video cables, graphics drivers, power supplies, patches etc. I’ve owned an Oculus Rift Developer Kit 1 and spent a substantial amount in the DK2 to build up an idea as to where this technology was going – until I spent time with PSVR. So why do I think this is so darn special? Many reasons, but it has two big factors that I can put a finger on; PSVR is a pleasure to wear and it has games that I would actually want to play for more than 5-minutes whilst using it.
In the hour trying the device at the event, I found PSVR considerably lighter than any other VR headset I’ve worn before. Other headsets employ elasticated straps that go around the back and the top of the noggin to support the hefty weight of the device and keep it firmly in place. Sony’s sits very softly around the head, like a halo of sorts, than is cushioned (for pleasure) around the eyes. From what I understand from speaking with the representatives, although it features many of the same gyroscopes and sensors as other headsets, to deduce the wearers movements it utilises the same technology as PlayStation Move, getting the consoles camera to track the neon lights located all over the headset. I’m unsure how much weight this has shaved off of it, but it certainly didn’t distract me or make me feel like I was wearing something alien. The actual screen and lenses sit on a sliding arm which allow for perfect positioning as to how close to the face you want it. This is perfect for my mate who wears glasses, as with other headsets it was perhaps a little too snug around the eyes and specs to be enjoyable. Because the weight is also around the circumference of the head, and with this adjustable arm, the visor is not harshly sealed around the face allowing for some skin breathing. Another feature is that the equipment only has one slim cable that runs from device to the console, so at no point did I feel a “tug” as the wires moved around me. The video fidelity (refresh rate and resolution) was sharp and smooth, with latency (the lag between head tracking and the game) being pleasantly minimal to further add to the experience.
Coming back to the second worthy point to mention is that Sony appear to have some fully realised games to play. At my recollection of previously introduced new gaming tech (Kinect, Wii and PS Move), at launch these have never had a great game to really sell it. Sure you can pick up a “sports” title, but these have been nothing but glorified tech demos to show off features. On PC we’ve got exclusive VR games like EVE: Valkyrie and Lucky’s Tale, but the best ones available now are existing games with the functions patched in (Elite: Dangerous, Project CARS etc.).
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I’m going to call it now; RIGS Mechanized Combat League is going to ship a metric f-bomb-ton of headsets. Playing this against bots, it wasn’t just a fun VR game, it was fun: period – but with virtual reality it pushed the enjoyment up to eleven. I’d describe RIGS as Rocket League in mech suits. Controlling your giant robot with two AI bots as company (real players can fill these slots in the final game) you double jump and slide around an arena of tunnels and ramps. Destroying the enemy team allows you go into “overdrive”, and at which point you can attempt to score a goal by climbing the map and jumping through a large hoop. Movement controls are handled via the DualShock 4 controller with the headset not only controlling your view but also gun reticule. It was overall exhilarating and it really sucked me in – so much so it I didn’t want to stop playing it!
During my time I also played Rez Infinite. Now some may be familiar with the title as it is in fact a remake/reimagining of the original Dreamcast and PS2 title. If you’re not aware of it, you may have heard of the video game designers other game, Child of Eden. Rez Infinite is essentially an on rails shooter which has you spiraling through space (we’ll call it that) and shooting things to a trance beat. Simple enough concept however add in some VR and it makes for a super-trippy and quite relaxing experience. All you do is fly, shoot and listen to the rhythm. Certainly an experience well suited to PSVR.
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All-in-all my time at this indie showcase event was greatly monopolised by a tech titan. I feel dirty for saying this, but without a shadow of a doubt, the time with Sony was the highlight of my day.
PlayStation VR will be released October 2016 for £349. RIGS Mechanized Combat League and Rez Infinite will be released in 2016.
Special thanks go to @liam_billington for the photos.