I’m just going to come right out and say it, I think the PlayStation VR (PSVR) is the best overall consumer VR headset out at the moment. In this review I’ll explain how I came to that conclusion.
The PlayStation VR originally launched on October 13 2016, there has since been a second revision which this review is focused on. I will be reviewing this used with a PS4 Pro.
- Display Resolution of 1920 x 1080, which is 960 x 1080 per eye
- OLED Display Type
- Approximately 100 degree Field of View
- 120hz, 60hz refresh rate
- A Processor unit which converts VR feed into a TV view for people watching, as well as 4K HDR pass through.
- A 3.5mm audio jack at the back of the headset, comes with some nicely integrated earphones
- It weighs approximately 600 grams, which is heavier than the competitors headsets, but the weight distribution is so well done that you don’t notice it.
When opening the box for the first time it was a little overwhelming seeing all of the cables, so many cables!
Once unpacking everything and following the easy to follow instructions, all of those cables can be hidden away.
The aesthetics and quality of the headset itself has Sony written all over it. It’s a great looking hardware piece for sure.
For me the number one feature about this VR headset is the comfort, after using the first version for over a year, I haven’t once had an issue with comfort. It is designed to put no pressure at all on the front of your face, but to distribute it at two touch points, one by your forehead, and the other by the lower back of your head.
The front of the headset is designed to be moved towards your face. This works especially well for people with glasses like myself. Especially when you are demoing it to someone, it’s a very simple process. The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are very awkward to use with glasses compared.
Unlike the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift the material that touches your forehead is not foam, this is great for when you’re sharing Super Hot VR around and some people sweat in the headset, it is very easy to wipe away, where as a foam liner just absorbs and is harder to clean.
There is a single display used in the PSVR, the issue with only using one display instead of two like the Vive and Oculus is that there is no physical IPD adjuster (which adjusts the optics to the distance between your eyes)
The resolution of the headset is lower, and it is very obvious how low it is in some cases, but in some games where some wizardry is going on in the background you sometimes forget there is a resolution issue at all.
Games like Astro Bot are made in clever ways to work around the low resolution by having larger items closer to the player, large text prompts etc
I’d say the PSVR has the best optics compared to the Vive and Oculus Rift. It has quite large Optics, a very generous sweet spot (still looks good when you’re off center), and none of the bloom issues the others have with a black background and white text.
The Lenovo Explorer I previously reviewed has very small optics, and a very small sweet spot which highlights the lack of Physical IPD adjustment, something software couldn’t compensate enough for.
Field of View
The field of View doesn’t seem like much of an issue, seeing a hard straight edge doesn’t seem to be a problem. It’s the usual case of it feels like I’m wearing ski goggles
The PSVR supports a cinematic mode, which is like a giant floating movie cinema screen, you can play all sorts of content on it, whether it be regular 2D video, 3d Blu-ray, or a normal 2d PS4 game.
You can choose between three different viewing modes (following info taken from Sony website):
Small: equivalent to 117 inches from 6-10 feet away
Medium: equivalent to 163 inches from 6-10 feet away
Large: equivalent to 226 inches from 6-10 feet away
Coming from say a 4k UHD TV to the PSVR Cinematic Mode really highlights the low resolution of the display, but it gets your imagination flowing as to what the next higher res version will be like. Imagine having the equivalent of a 226 inch 4K screen in the comfort of your VR headset, perfect for people who can’t afford such a big TV, or just don’t have the room for it.
The 3D blu-rays have had mixed reviews, personally I tried Iron Man 3 and didn’t find it too different to watching 2D blu-ray content. Others have been very impressed by 3D movies like Judge Dredd.
Overall, the intention of this mode is great, but the resolution is just too low for it to really shine.
Version 2 differences
Before I got this headset, I had spent a lot of time with the version 1 headset, it is great to see the following Quality of Life improvements. All the little things just add up to an even better headset.
The original version had the 3.5mm headphone jack, controls for volume, power and mute on the wire coming off the headset. V2 now puts the volume and mute controls on the bottom of the front of the headset to the left, and the power button centred near the same place. The earphones it comes with nicely sits attached to the headset, and the ear pieces themselves can fit into a little holder on either side of the headset, this is great as there is much less time finding your earphones, and then trying to figure out which is left and right channel, as the earphones are right beside the ear you need to put them in.
Headset movement button
The button to move the front of the headset forward and back has shifted from the bottom of the headset to the top.
Those with an HDR TV now have the signal pass through the processing box into the TV with V2. This is for when you aren’t playing VR and the signal is simply getting passed through from the PS4 to the TV.
The processing box is a bit smaller and redesigned to almost look like a little PS4 Pro.
The amount of cables hasn’t changed, but the cable itself coming off the headset is now smaller, lighter and more flexible. Generally don’t feel it as much as you did with the first version.
The video output that is sent to the TV and also captured while streaming or video recording is from the right eyes perspective, so you’ll notice content is slightly off center.
Video recording has an issue where a large part of the bottom of the screen is cut off, this is highlighted when recording racing games as it tends to cut off your dashboard.
You can see in the image below, the light blue section is what is not shown on the screen, the recording by default is favouring the top section of the screen, and cropping off quite a bit of the bottom.
I’m a sim racer at heart, having played sim racing games since the Papyrus in the 90s, such as Indycar racing, Nascar racing, and Grand Prix Legends. And more recently Richard Burns Rally, iRacing, Assetto Corsa, Project Cars, Dirt Rally and Formula 1 2018.
I had my first real Virtual Reality sim racing experience when I tried iRacing with the Oculus Rift DK1, that completely blew my mind and I was instantly sold on this going forward.
On PS4 there is a very short list of racing games that support Virtual Reality. It’s a pity there is no VR support for Project Cars or Assetto Corsa, as the implementation on PC is fantastic. Project Cars 1 with the Super karts in VR is a wild ride and must be experienced on the PC if you have the chance.
I’m reviewing the following games with this equipment:
- Thrustmaster T300RS Steering wheel
- Thrustmaster TH8A Add-on Shifter
- Thrustmaster T3PA-Pro Add on pedals
- Next Level Racing GT Ultimate V2 Cockpit
The following are the top racing experiences PSVR in which I’ll be scoring their PSVR implementation:
Dirt Rally – Score 4.5 out of 5
- The whole game can be played in VR
- PS4 Pro gets a fidelity upgrade with the PSVR
- The whole game can be played in VR (yes it deserves two points)
- Feels right, even though I have my H Shifter gearbox mounted on the opposite side of some cars in VR, everything feels right
- Convinced me to get a PSVR, even though I have this on PC, I like the ease of use of the PSVR.
- VR Mode is a separate purchase to the main game
- Seems to run at a lower resolution then other racing games, as ‘jaggies’ are quite noticeable
- Some very strange manual launch options are put in place when the PSVR is used
GT Sport – Score 3 out of 5
- Great implementation, fidelity seems good
- Large array of cars to choose from to race in time trial mode on the high quality laser scanned tracks. Some highlights for me is racing the Mercedes Benz F1 car around Nordschleife – Nürburgring and the Honda NSX around Suzuka with the H Shifter.
- The times of day are limited in the VR time trial, I imagine this is for performance reasons.
- The head is not fixed to the rotation of the car, so if you go up a hill, and the car pivots to go up the hill the head rotation stays the same, it can be very jarring, and should hopefully be patched out. As just that can make you feel a bit nauseous the first or second time as your brain is expecting something else to happen.
- Major lack of content in VR mode, there is only Time Trial mode, a challenge mode which just puts you up against another very slow AI opponent, and a showcase mode. You can not play GT Sport in VR multiplayer, or in any of the campaign. Pretty disappointing considering how good the time trial mode feels.
DriveClub VR – Score 2.5 out of 5
- Even though the graphical fidelity has been turned down for the VR version, this really shows off the incredible detail that the guys at the now defunct Evolution Studios put into DriveClub, the cockpit view for example is fantastic.
- It’s like a large amount of anti aliasing at a lower resolution is used, I found the experience to be quite blurry
- Implementation feels a bit rushed, just doesn’t feel ‘right’, hard to put my finger on what it is though
- Playing this with a VR headset, a steering wheel and pedal set, with difficulty all set to the most realistic it really highlighted for me how strange the physics in DriveClub are.
Wipeout Omega Collection – 4.5 out of 5
- The sensation of speed is incredible
- The cockpit view feels right, and really puts you on edge
- One of the best VR experiences you’ll find
- The only negative would be not to show new people who are building up their VR legs, as the fast paced motion might be jarring.
Non Racing Games
PSVR has a fantastic lineup of games, i’ll give you a quick summary of some of the games I’ve played
Resident Evil VII The only game that has made my hands sweat when playing a game, this is such an immersive experience that any little noise in the room you’re playing will freak you out. I’m not a horror fan myself, but I had to try this, and so do you, you won’t regret it.
DOOM VFR The sense of scale of the demons gives this game new life, with all new levels and campaign this is a must buy for any Doom fan. Teleporting just in-front of a demon to use the double barreled shotgun on them is so satisfying
Superhot VR I’d say this is the best experience to show someone to sell them on VR, this game is like being in the matrix. It’s low resolution but it matches the art style so it seems right.
Skyrim VR If you’re a Skyrim fan and you dont mind playing it for the hundredth time, playing it in VR really brings new life to it, the sense of scale when wandering around the mountains is inspiring. And those giants have never seemed so big before. It isn’t the nicest game to look at, but it’s one of the best to be immersed in.
Using with PlayStation Move
This isn’t a review of the PlayStation Move itself, that’ll come in another post, this is more about how well it works with the PSVR.
Using the PlayStation Move with the PSVR is hit or miss. Some games work very well with them, while others seem like an afterthought, and other games just flat out do not support them.
Doom VFR which I thought would be perfect for the Move Controllers felt quite clumsy, with no analog stick on the controllers it meant smooth moving didn’t work. The Dualshock 4 controller is the preferred method.
Superhot VR requires PlayStation Move controllers. This game is an absolute spotlight on how great Virtual Reality can be when paired with the right controls. Great and not so great things are both tracking related, when the tracking is working it fades away and you are purely focused on the game. When the tracking doesn’t work it directly affects game play, for example on quite a few occasions I was unable to reach a gun that was in front of me with my hand glitching out.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR, yes that’s right Skyrim on another platform, but this time it is worth it. Playing this in VR gives a very grand and impressive scale that a TV can not deliver. Using the PS Move seemed to work pretty well for the most part, with little issues to be found.
Until Dawn: Rush of Blood as an on the rails shooter this game works very well as it doesn’t rely on the player moving with the controls, just pointing and shooting.
Tumble VR this game is a must play with the PlayStation Move controller, for the most part it works pretty well, but sometimes when reaching high or low it can lose track of the controller and glitch out a little bit. But for the most part it is fine.
Can the PSVR be used on the PC?
Technically yes, with third party software it can be used on the PC.
I tried Trinus PSVR however the quality of the experience isn’t great. it takes quite a lot of fiddling to get even non-positional tracking working. However if you have a good enough graphics card you can run the PSVR at full 120hz, which is a higher refresh rate than both Oculus CV1 and the HTC Vive.
I would not recommend trying this. I’m still hoping Sony will bring official support to the PC platform as per an interview in 2016.
Why I think it’s the best Consumer headset
Easy to buy for someone or yourself
Here’s a situation. You have someone you want to buy a VR Headset for their birthday, they primarily play on PC. The issue is that you have no idea if their PC is compatible with the VR headset you’re looking into. You don’t know whether they have the 3 x USB 3.0 ports recommended for the Rift, the minimum GPU or CPU, a USB C 3.1 port for the Vive Pro … also what version of Windows are they running?
Sure you could send them a compatibility checker, but that would ruin the surprise of the gift.
This I feel is one of the reasons why the PSVR is doing so well. Does the person you’re buying for have a PS4? Well then you know instantly they can use the PSVR
I could buy it in store
In little old New Zealand it takes a while for things to get shipped here, this also makes shipping quite expensive, we get charged import duties for goods over a certain price and buying overseas makes it difficult dealing with refunds or replacements.
Having a local store to buy from means you can just quickly go to the store and sort the issue out. You can not buy the Oculus Rift instore here, while you can buy the HTC Vive at select stores there is a large markup on price.
Great price when there’s a sale
I purchased this bundle for $265 NZD, which is roughly $180 USD.
To buy a headset right now the prices are as follows:
- PlayStation VR Bundle – in store – $419 NZD
- Oculus Rift – Oculus Store – $574 NZD
- HTC Vive (non pro) – in store – $968 NZD
- HTC Vive Pro – in store – $1378 NZD
As you can see the price dramatically drops when the PSVR is having a sale, and the HTC Vive local price is ridiculous.
Some of the best VR games
You might have the best hardware in the world, but it doesn’t mean much if you don’t have a good software catalog. Here are some of the great games available for PSVR:
- Beat Saber
- Astro Bot (Exclusive)
- Resident Evil VII (Exclusive VR Mode)
- The Persistence
- GT Sport (Exclusive)
- Dirt Rally
- Doom VFR
- Superhot VR
- Firewall: Zero Hour (Exclusive)
- Skyrim VR
- Rec Room
There are a few key titles missing, but overall the software catalog is impressive.
It just works
Setting up is quite easy. Sure it’s not as easy as a Windows Mixed Reality headset, but following the instructions to setup the camera and connect the cables is straight forward.
Where the PSVR shines is with the software integration. There is a global recenter button, which in itself is a blessing especially when coming from the PC scene where each game had a different recenter key, with some games not even having one (Frustrating!)
A big plus is that the VR interface is mostly just the normal PS4 OS, meaning you already know how to navigate everywhere, no need to learn a new interface to get to your games.
Games work and have been tested! Multiple times on the PC I’ve had to look around as to why a game just doesn’t work or performs poorly, sometimes it’s a driver issue, sometimes it’s because it’s not supported for the VR headset you’re using, sometimes steam assumes your GPU is better then it really is and puts the down sampling up too high, it can be time consuming going through all of this when all you want to do is play a game.
What this piece of hardware does is show the world what potential Virtual Reality has, sure it isn’t perfect, but it will be one day. Being the only VR headset in the console market (other than the newly announced Labo VR for Switch) means it has the opportunity to learn from its mistakes, to build market share, and solidify its future in this new platform.
- Great Software Catalog
- Can be extremely cheap on sale
- Can be found in almost all places that sell the PS4
- No need to see if your hardware can run it, if you have a PS4 it’ll run
- Tracking has a lot to be desired at times
- No physical IPD slider
- Resolution could be higher
- Slight drifting can occur sometimes