PSVR Review: Do We Really Want This?

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PSVR Review: Do We Really Want This?
October 10, 2016

Playstation VR Review: The Virtual-Reality Future Is Here, But Do We Really Want It?
 
Sony's just introduced the most affordable and accessible way to experience virtual reality. But it comes with some questions.
 
Remember that movie Her? You know, the one about what it would be like to have sex with Siri, if Siri was voiced by Scarlett Johansson? Her is a beautifully earnest film but also an uncomfortable one, because it took existing technology to one possible end that meant people had to ask themselves really weird questions, like would they have phone sex with Siri if Siri was advanced enough to seem like a real person. (Turns out, yeah.) The ultimate point of the film—or at least, one of them—being that maybe we should ask ourselves uncomfortable questions about technology long before shit gets really weird.
 
To that end, it's now time for me to tell you whether or not you want a virtual reality device in your home. Specifically, Sony’s Playstation VR, which is out next week and likely the most affordable, accessible virtual reality setup you can get right now. The short version is maybe you do, and maybe you don’t. The long version is, well, you’re going to have to ask yourself a bunch of questions first.
 
Because, look: Playstation VR works. It is possibly the most ergonomic and comfortable headset on the market, it is remarkably simple to set up (although four extra cables it comes with will provide quite possibly the greatest aesthetic challenge your entertainment center has seen to date) and you don’t need an expensive computer to power everything—just a Playstation 4.
 
The experience of using the thing, however, is a bit more dicey. You’ve got to make sure you’ve set up the required camera at an angle that captures your full range of motion. You’ve got to be ready to tinker with that camera endlessly if you go from a game that asks you to sit to a game that asks you to stand. (There is often no indication whatsoever as to which option is ideal for each game until you’ve started it up, i.e., you’re wearing the headset. This is frustrating.) Things get a little hairy when using the often-recommended motion controllers, and the images you see are sometimes a little fuzzy, because the Playstation 4 is three-year-old hardware that can not push it to the limit.
 
But man, it’s really damn cool, and it works unbelievably well. VR is here, ready for you to take home, and that is kind of incredible.
 
For most people, Playstation VR will cost $500. That’s how much the headset costs, along with the necessary camera and two Playstation Move controllers, three bits of pre-existing hardware that round out Sony’s VR setup. If you already have the Playstation Camera—the only truly necessary peripheral the headset needs—you can just buy the headset for $400. Of course, if you don’t have a Playstation 4, you’ll need one of those too. That’s another $300. Depending on what you need, things can add up.
 
This is is important to know, because Playstation VR—and VR in general—requires a huge buy-in for a series of relatively brief and sometimes disappointing experiences. Sony has sent a chunk of their launch lineup to reviewers in order to provide a well-rounded glimpse of what the platform has to offer, and how much you’ll enjoy it all depends how much value you place on novelty and how much faith you have in Sony and developers to continue to make interesting experiences for it in the future. (Oh, and also how prone you are to throwing up from motion sickness. Certain VR games, particularly the sort where extensive in-game movement is required—like the tank-battle game Battlezone, or the mech-basketball insanity of Rigs: Mechanized Combat League—are a one-way ticket to vom-town. There’s also the low-key headache I found myself nursing after extensive use, but you shouldn’t really VR for more than an hour without some sort of break anyway.)
 
Perhaps the biggest hurdle to enjoying Playstation VR is how much you’re willing to suspend your disbelief. One of my favorite VR launch titles is Batman: Arkham VR, a game that understands the intrinsic coolness of how VR feels when it asks you to play the secret piano tune to trigger the elevator that takes you down to the majestic-as-hell Batcave, and how rad it is to reach forward and grab your Bat-cowl and physically put it on.

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