By William Bonaddio
London. 12th October 2016. 6:30pm. The night before PlayStation VR’s release, trendy Shoreditch hosted The Future of Play Tour and I was there to give Sony’s latest hardware a test run, gun and ride.
I only got to play 2 games in my hour slot, but it was still enough to get to grips with the tech and report back on the main headlines which I’ve split out based on the things I think you’ll want or should know. Got more questions about PlayStation VR? Comment below and a member of the TMG crew will get back to you.
Is it any good?
Yes. Yes it is. Let me start by saying I’m a VR convert and have been ever since the crappy polygon-people experiences of the 90’s. Even so, I went in to the trial with expectations set low after reading some of the online grumbles. PlayStation VR has shortcomings (as we’ll delve into here), but for its price point it certainly delivers… with caveats.
How does it feel?
The headset’s light and very comfortable. Once you’ve put it over your head there’s a button under the panel that rests against your eyes which you can press to move it right up against your face and a dial at the back helps you get it extra snug with little to no rocking if you quickly jerk your head mid-game. Maybe it was helped by the dark warehouse in which I was playing, but the light coming through from the room and into the headset was minimal if any.
What games did you play?
London Heist (from VR Worlds) and Until Dawn: Rush of Blood were the two games I got to play, both of which are on-rail shooters. The people working there told me that London Heist was the best game they had, but I was most excited about UD:RoB which is why that was my next choice. It concerns me that two of the most hyped games for PlayStation VR are on-rail shooters (a genre that fell from grace in the 90’s), but I’ll go into more detail for both below.
What are the graphics like?
I was surprised and initially quite underwhelmed that the graphics in PlayStation VR aren’t up to the PS4’s standards. I was welcomed into PlayStation VR via the passenger seat of London Heist’s getaway car, but the graphics were a little more Virtua Cop than Grand Theft Auto V. I was told that the demo of Until Dawn: Rush of Blood was still unfinished, but graphically it was more impressive.
Did you suffer from motion sickness?
However, while Until Dawn’s cart stops and starts with shooting inbetween, London Heist’s driving scene is constantly moving and did leave me feeling slightly dizzy. I don’t normally suffer from motion sickness (Cloverfield is one of my favourite films), but after surviving the car chase I did feel a little queasy. The recommendation to give yourself a rest after every hour could be more a necessity than suggestion.
How was London Heist?
I enjoyed London Heist, but it’s certainly not without some major shortcomings. Sitting in the getaway car’s passenger seat I did feel transported, with lovely little intuitive touches like being able to pick up a drink on the dashboard, open the glove compartment or even turn on the air conditioning. The first time you use your PlayStation Move controller to open the moving car’s door and stick your head out behind you is a real “holy shit!” moment.
Enemy bikers soon appeared and the path needed clearing with firepower. I loved picking up another clip of ammunition before acting out the motion of slamming it into the butt of my Uzi to reload, but any realism in that action soon disappeared as I looked at the blocky buildings in the background and regularly saw enemies die via the same repeated animation. It’s 2016 and this is the latest in video game technology, so even if we’re playing a retro on-rails shooter, identical character designs and death animations are pretty unforgivable.
How was Until Dawn: Rush of Blood?
I normally refuse to go on any sort of ghost ride at a theme park so I’m not sure what I was thinking when I willingly tried a horror on-rails shooter. The moving rollercoaster elements are fun, but it’s the extended pauses when you’re sat in darkness waiting for the carriage to start moving again that are the most terrifying. The first delay just goes on that little bit too long and I was tempted to shout out to the staff member that the game must have broken, but then I heard a nursery rhyme being sung in the distance before a pair of female zombie twins suddenly appeared at my left shoulder, reaching out to touch me before I blasted them away with my handguns.
The rollercoaster takes you through various themed rooms, with a pig-sawing abattoir being particularly disturbing. If you suffer from coulrophobia (fear of clowns) this game probably isn’t for you, although shooting their heads off may be just the cure. The gunplay in this game felt great, with my virtual hands following every move I made with the Move controllers.
Unlike London Heist, this play-through required me resting the wires from the back of the helmet over the front of my shoulder and in-between my legs. It was a little uncomfortable and did take me out of the game somewhat, but maybe doing this meant I didn’t have to constantly realign my headset as I’d read I would online. People have said that PlayStation VR needs constant realignment, but in the 30mins I played the aim and alignment was spot-on.
Should I get PlayStation VR?
Not yet, no.
I have no doubt that Virtual Reality is going to be an established entertainment technology in the future, I’m just not convinced that its future necessarily lies in gaming. Not yet, anyway.
Based on the games I’ve played so far, this still feels like a gimmick and I can’t imagine putting loads of time into it while sat on my sofa in my spare time after a long day in the office. Instead, I can totally see myself getting friends over, telling them “You’ve got to try this!” and having them play it for a bit and blowing their minds in the process.
I don’t just say that because it still seems weird to be sat at home with a screen stuck to your face while others can watch via a TV screen; but based on what I’ve seen, read and played so far, PlayStation VR is still crying out for that one killer app that makes it a must-have. Passé on-rail shooters aren’t going to do that, no matter how fun they are, but with 70 games set for release before the end of January I’ll be keeping an eye on the situation and my fingers crossed.
Until then, I’ll just be keeping my £500 thanks.
Editor's note: PSVR retails for £349.99 and requires the £39.99 camera in addition.