PlayStation VR Preview - Greatness Truly Awaits


PlayStation VR is close. In less than a month, Sony's introductory virtual reality headset will be in homes around the world. For the most part, people are genuinely anticipating the system's release. Most console gamers, including myself, are counting the days until “affordable” console VR is introduced to the market. I was finally able to get my hands on the unit, and I was absolutely blown away. For all intents and purposes, greatness truly awaits. Here's what I thought:


Design


PS VR is already a pretty costly investment, but when you compare it to the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, it's certainly the cheapest unit in the market. Having said that, the device itself looks to be much more expensive than what its actual price tag would indicate. Visually, it's exceptionally attractive. The style is kept simple and sweet, with a head-mount made out of black and white matte plastic pieces. Seven blue lights shoot out of the display in order to be picked up by the PlayStation eye, as a way to track position and head movement. In short, it's very elegant and slick.

When it comes to user-friendliness and comfort, my expectations were also exceeded. Once it finally was my turn to experience virtual reality, the PlayStation rep gave me the headset and allowed me to adjust it myself. Doing so was fairly easy, even if finding a perfectly clear visual spot took around half a minute. After strapping it on, it remained tight and didn't wiggle for the entirety of my 'hands-on' preview. Although the system felt relatively heavy in my hands, weight distribution is done in a way that keeps you from suffering any kind of unease. Following that, the headphones smoothly slipped in, and I was suddenly ready to see what VR is all about. It's worth mentioning that my partner, who wears glasses, had the same exact verdict: comfortable, light, and efficient.


Games


Even if PS VR will launch with more than 50 titles, I only got to try three. There were massive differences in the way they each looked, played, and made me feel. Now, I'm sure you've heard this dozens of times, but you owe it to yourself to go out there and see why people are so excited for this project. You simply won't fully know if VR is for you until you give it a shot. Anyways, I'll do my best to describe the games.

My playtest began with 'Ocean Descent'. This one definitely felt like a demo, since there were no real gameplay mechanics. As the name indicates, you dive into the depths of the sea inside of a suspended shark cage. From beginning to end, you're only allowed to look around. No controllers are needed. Nevertheless, it's absolutely a graphical showcase. Developers were able to put everything into the 'visuals' department, and it clearly shows. When attacked by a white shark, it actually looks like the enormous creature is in front of you, ready to rip you apart. To say that I was tense would be a humongous understatement. As a whole, it's a fun trip that you can easily show to friends and family who aren't fans of video games.


Then, I was transported into London's gritty underworld with 'The Heist'. A lot more interactive, this is the typical VR experience. However, it didn't seem like a finished product. That might sound disparaging, but it really isn't. For the first couple of months post-release, you can expect most of the titles available to be short 'episodes'. If you're expecting a GTAVR alongside your bundle, you'll be heavily disappointed. As long as they're cheap and fun, I'll buy them all! Back to Heist, it's a first person shooter. The version I played was only 15 minutes, but it was enough to display the levels of interactivity the platform can offer. As you're driving alongside your criminal colleague, you're assaulted by a gang of motorcyclists and bad guys.

Even before the bullets start flying, I was amazed by how many things I could mess around with. Unlocking compartments, increasing the radio's volume, switching stations, opening the door in order to look outside, etc. The shooting mechanics were entertaining and equally intuitive. Every time your ammo runs out, you must grab another clip and stick it up the gun. Again, all the little details help build a realistic happening. When it comes to graphics, my jaw was dropped. See, the visuals themselves were just 'fine'. Nothing spectacular and soft of PS3-ish. Still, I was uncommonly immersed. Don't quote me here, but I believe that the combination of virtual movement and stereo sound being blasted through your ears manage to deceive your brain. In your head, the game's artstyle is your optical reality. So even if you know it's not the real deal, you're suddenly inside the title's world. Very impressive stuff.


Finally, my demo ended with Eve: Valkyrie. To be honest, this is what truly sold it for me. Valkyrie is a space combat dogfighter using VR and the regular DualShock 4. It's a religious experience. Starting in your space station, preparing for launch in the middle of a dark tunnel with rows of flashing lights. As the countdown to blast-off begins, you become aware that you have the freedom to look around the cockpit without using the right stick. You can view at your legs and see an amazingly complicated set of controls and sticks that look lifelike. I spent a few seconds blowing my mind with those before getting blasted out into space, where I had an action-packed encounter with enemy ships. This is why virtual reality deserves everyone's attention. It delivers a significant enhancement to gaming, which hasn't been seen for at least 10 years.

PS VR launches on October 13. You may very well find me in a dark corner, playing Eve: Valkyrie until my eyes bleed.

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