This week I’m dedicating RRC Digest to the Playstation VR. I’ve had the device for a week and a half now and I have some thoughts! First up, I’d like to talk about the hardware from a perspective I think a lot of people can relate to — going from a Gear VR to a PSVR — rather than comparing it against a Vive or Oculus.
The Hardware – Before getting a PSVR, the majority of my VR gaming was done on a Samsung Gear VR. In the world of VR headsets, the Gear VR is a great way to show people what VR looks like, but it doesn’t leave a lasting impression. The controller situation on Samsung’s device is a mess — I own a million controllers and none of them work, and last I checked, the decent Android controllers were marked up to $80-100. That influenced my game purchasing decisions quite a bit, leaving me with a handful of forgettable experiences that were fun to show off to friends and family members. Beyond that the device sat and collected dust, supporting the notion that VR could be a passing fad like the Wii or Kinect.
That’s the big difference with PSVR, and the biggest positive I can award it — when I’m not playing PSVR, I want to be playing it. I haven’t had nearly as much time to use it, because to be frank it’s not always ideal to completely submerge yourself in another world for a while. But that doesn’t change the fact that when I’m not playing it I’m thinking about it. I want to dive back in, and it’s that stickiness that gives me confidence that VR’s future is very bright. This is a new way to play, not a gimmick.
It helps that Sony’s headset is not only usable with glasses, but comfortable with them. Once you get the view into that sweet spot and clamp the PSVR headset’s crown design onto your head, it stays there. That — and the fact that the 3D effect is substantially better than it is on a Gear VR — led me to enjoy far more engaging experiences than I’ve ever had in VR.
Coming at it from the cold, hard angle of an objective review, though, Sony still needs to do some work. The steps to get PSVR working flawlessly are obfuscated in the interest of simplifying the initial setup. If you start having tracking issues, the system offers very little in terms of troubleshooting. Those who don’t frequent forums may never know that features like fine-tuned calibration and IPD settings are hidden within the PS4 settings menu. Even then, there are deep-seeded issues that can require hard console resets, rearranged furniture, lighting changes, camera adjustments, and more. The PSVR subreddit is filled with anecdotes of tiny fixes for big issues, none of which may work for your specific arrangement.
There are times when the PSVR tracks my movements flawlessly, but the experience always seems to deteriorate. Is this a limitation of the hardware? It’s hard to imagine that being the case when the device CAN often work great. For now, I sincerely hope Sony releases a software update that fixes these issues. As much as I love the device, I hesitate to recommend it without warning that it can be very temperamental.
Rez Infinite – I expected Rez Infinite to break me. I’ve played the original Rez about a million times and I love it. I’ve never taken a trip to Rez land before. I’ve never existed inside that world. The idea of going there sounded strange, exciting, but familiar and welcome in a way that I suspected would make me a bit emotional. In practice, Rez Infinite is just a really cool way to control and play Rez. The simplistic graphics can only go so far, and I think in VR they are stretched to their limits. Rez is great in VR, but it wasn’t made for VR.
Area X is different. Rez Infinite’s bonus level is designed from the ground up for VR and it’s the absolute best thing about the package and one of the best VR games I’ve played. I will probably play Area X again and again, at least until there is a proper Rez 2. It got me to that emotional place I expected Rez to take me to. It’s a beautiful, stunning experience that should not be missed — even if you have to buy the full package and play through the main game to unlock it.
Thumper – In Thumper you play as a beetle hurtling down a psychedelic highway that operates more or less like a lane of notes in Rock Band. As your beetle hits each obstacle you must react in time, stomping on buttons, grinding along walls, and leaping through the air. It’s a rhythm game at its heart, but the speed and intensity sets it apart. Marketed as a “rhythm violence” game, Thumper combines an intense soundtrack with unsettling visuals to build tension. 15 minutes into each Thumper session I start to feel my hands cramp up because I’m gripping the controller tight and hitting the buttons as hard as possible.
Is it necessary to play Thumper in VR? Not at all, you can play it right now. That said, I wouldn’t play it any other way. I’m five stages into it and I can’t wait to see what they throw at me next. I just need to let my hands recover a little first.
My writing time is short these days. As it is I usually crank these articles out in an hour or two each week — they’re not my best work but I hope you enjoy reading them all the same. That said, I’ve debated messing around with the formatting, breaking these sections into shorter articles to post throughout the week, and maybe turning RRC Digest into more of a recommended reading post a la Patrick Klepek’s “Worth Reading” articles on Kotaku. If you have any thoughts, please reach out or comment below!