Friday, 7 October 2016

PlayStation VR - hands on

PlayStation VR - hands on

In case you've been living under rock, it can't have escaped your attention that PlayStation VR launches next week.

The headset is set to revolutionise your way of gaming and immerse you into worlds that used to be so flat and one-dimensional.

Getting some time with the VR headset and demos of a few of the titles available at launch was a great boon and allayed some fears that VR may have held within the market-place.

First off, the comfort of the headset is obvious.

Like any glasses user, there's a bit of misting up, but it's momentary and soon passes.

Pads on the front and adjustability of the headset means that the whole thing sits comfortably on your head and doesn't give you the outward feeling of an old school Japanese robot. It feels like it's been designed for comfort, though the idea of anyone sitting there wearing it for some 5 hours in a row seems a little alien right now (never before have the warning messages over taking breaks during gaming been so important, one suspects)

Let's get one thing out of the way first up though - and that's Driveclub VR, which I have to confess, gave me motion sickness and meant I couldn't complete the racing. One suspects that's not going to be an uncommon feeling amongst other gamers for this title, but others I played gave me no sense of wanting to show everyone my lunch. It's possibly due to how realistic the game feels - it is utterly incredible and reminds me of the racers you used to get in arcades, where you'd step into a chair and then be enveloped by the game. Thus it is with DriveClub, one of the most beautiful titles on the PS4.

We already know how visually impressive this title is, and it shows in the execution. Just glimpsing to the passenger seat as the game began, there was so much detail around. And because of that I missed my start and fell to the back of the pack.

As the race progresses, the bumps and the knocks mean everything jiggles and the shock absorbers don't quite fulfill their promise; but as you watch it speed in front of you, the pull of the game is tangible. While my experience was less than perfect with DriveClub, one suspects it's more a personal issue rather than a developer problem - but it does make me wonder if any other games will proffer the same issues.
Batman: Arkham VR

Batman Arkham VR is seriously impressive in terms of scope.

There's no denying that the WB titles of Arkham have made the world feel so expansive and the thrill of being the Bat comes to the fore in this demo.

Whereas the Telltale Games series has started to carve a niche out with being Bruce Wayne, the thrust of Arkham VR is to put you into the Bat-suit, travel in the Bat-cave and put those investigating skills to test on the streets of Gotham. And to say it's thrilling, is a major understatement; this is the environment that brings the world of the Batman to life. From gearing up to testing the Batarangs and equipment available, the scope is epic.

Anyone not turning around and taking in the level of detail of the Bat-cave as the platform ascends and descends is truly missing the point of the VR world. This is as 360 degree immersive as it gets and as incredible as your eyes can cope. The cave literally feels like it goes on for miles into the distance as it expands before you. I can't wait for more in the Gotham world and I'm hooked from the second it started.

Taking on your old carny thrill-ride in Until Dawn: Rush of Blood is a simply effective MO.
Like those old games where you shoot as stuff comes towards you, jumping from left to right as the threats head your way or as you try to score points, Until Dawn: Rush of Blood's demo level is literally a blast. Effective jump scares and a terrifying thrill rollercoaster ride all combine to make a level that feels like it wouldn't be out of place at the fair. There's so much detail within that I even forgot to look at my cart as it hurtled around the tracks. Like a rollercoaster, there's some definitive feeling of motion in this - but it's simply an experience and a blast.
Ocean Descent

The most interesting part of the VR demo experience personally is Ocean Descent which is part of VR Worlds.

It's a simple concept- you're in a dive cage lowered under the sea and get to marvel at the watery world around you. Sort of like a Finding Nemo experience. And yes, there's a shark in there too.

What truly genuinely excites me about the VR Worlds is the possibilities of opening up worlds to those who are never going to experience it or be able to. Immersive, expansive and wrap-around, this under the sea experience has a breathlessness that's rife with possibility.

Granted, PlayStation is about the gamers, but imagine giving a child who's disabled or never going to go under water, or many of us who will never go into space, or on an African safari - the potential for VR Worlds is enormous and without limit.

From tours of museums on the other side of the globes, to a virtual tour of the Space Station, the potential here is nothing short of limitless. I know VR is about the gaming as well, but it's great to think that possibly the educational value of the VR headset can inspire a generation.
Ocean Descent

I was relatively cynical about the enveloping of our worlds in a headset and the fact we'll all look relatively anti-social in these headsets (albeit very comfortable) but this VR Worlds development is one of the most exciting parts of the VR experience for me. Masses of next generations could be inspired and literally worlds could be opened up to those who would never seen otherwise. If that's not enough to make you reconsider what VR could do altruistically, I don't know what will work.

Ultimately, the VR revolution is coming - it's about experience as well as immersion and with some exciting demos on the horizon, it's clear that come October 13th, the virtual revolution is going to make a difference in many lives - and could be doing so much more than perhaps you'd necessarily have expected.

Thanks to PlayStation NZ for the hands on time with the demos and the tech.

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