2016 was supposed to be the year of VR (I’ll be the first to admit I bought into the hype), but we’re now well into the fourth quarter and it has yet to take a firm foothold. Dedicated systems like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are expensive and have been plagued with launch issues (not to mention you have to own a supercharged PC just to run them), while smartphone-based headsets have proved little more than a novelty act.
Sony’s PlayStation VR, which launched on October 13 worldwide, falls somewhere in between the two. Working with your existing PS4 console and offering affordable access to an immersive virtual reality gaming experience, it sounds exactly like the VR product we were promised and have been waiting for all year. If you’ve been thinking about getting into VR but haven’t taken the plunge yet, the PlayStation VR may well be worth a look.
The headset itself is chunky and durable; enough to withstand the odd impact from being bashed or dropped. The headband is made from solid plastic and foam cushioning, which feels more restrictive than the elastic materials used on other devices, but ensures a snug fit and consistent visual clarity. In terms of games, there are plenty of launch titles worth checking out, including Rez Infinite, Eve Valkyrie, Battlezone, SuperHyperCube, and Rigs.
Then there’s the price tag. At $399, the PlayStation VR is a highly affordable alternative to the ridiculously expensive Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Even its most expensive $499 bundle — which includes the PlayStation Camera and Move controllers for depth-sensing motion control — comes in at least $100 cheaper than either of its current competitors. When you factor in the price of the high-end PC components required to run the Vive and Rift, you could actually get the full PlayStation setup (console and VR system) for a fraction of the cost.
Of course, the PlayStation VR is not without its drawbacks. It’s still expensive compared to a mobile VR system, but like I said, those are more of a novelty anyway. In order to come in cheaper than its competitors, however, the PlayStation VR necessarily compromises on hardware slightly.
The 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution is lower than that of the Rift and Vive (2160 x 1200), which can lead to fuzziness and a noticeable downgrade in appearance compared to normal games. Sony’s upcoming PlayStation 4 Pro promises to bring enhancements that will improve the VR experience, but that’s another $400 investment again.
Despite its limitations, the PlayStation VR has the potential to be the most popular and accessible home VR system yet. It sold 50,000 units in Japan during its first week of release, and would likely have sold a lot more if Sony hadn’t decided to artificially limit supply of the headsets to test early adopters’ responses. If you’re a console gamer looking for a cheap ticket to a high-end virtual reality experience, it’s definitely your best option right now.
Q: Will you be picking up a PlayStation VR system? Tell us why in the comments below.