Productivity in the Spotless office took a nosedive last Monday afternoon when a mysterious package was delivered from Amazon. The package in question contained the PlayStation VR headset as well as a bunch of accessories and VR games. Shamelessly abandoning what we were doing, we set about hooking up the new peripheral in one of our labs.
The first thing that strikes you as you open the box and begin sorting through the contents is the massive amount of cables that are needed. Luckily, the included setup guide breaks down the steps very well and we were up and running in no time (well, after the sizable system update had finished installing).
After a brief argument over who was going to be the first to try it out, I found myself with the headset on and headphones in. Despite looking like quite an intrusive piece of equipment, it actually fits very comfortably on your head, even for a glasses wearer such as myself. The in-VR tutorial walks you through the steps to properly adjust the headset to your head via an adjustable head strap at the back and visor adjustment at the front. One early grumble is that it seems that no matter how well you configure the device on your head, light from a well-lit room will creep in through the sides of the visor. We were able to remedy this quite effectively by switching off the lights in the lab, but this unfortunately meant that the observers had to sit in the dark.
Within the VR environment, the first ‘wow’ moment was being able to see the DuelShock controller appear in VR space. It’s perfectly represented in both orientation and depth and allows you to reach out and grab it in the real world without having to remove the headset – very cool!
Next it was time to play a game. Having acquired the VR Worlds game (which is a collection of short experiences designed to show off the potential of PlayStation VR) it was decided that I would try a scenario from the Into the Deep experience called Shark Attack. This game places you in the role of a deep sea salvager as you are lowered in a cage to the sea floor in order to loot a foundered submarine.
Immediately, the sense of total immersion was amazing! I have experienced virtual reality before (we also have an Oculus Rift in the office), but I was totally blown away by how thoroughly convincing the experience was. I was able to move freely around the cage, looking over the edge to the sea floor and crouch in order to get a better view of a passing turtle. In retrospect, Shark Attack was a great game to try first as it was easy to imagine that the weird contraption that I had on my head was a diver’s helmet.
As the cage sank lower and lower below the surface, an incredible variety of marine life passes by. On more than one occasion I forgot the limitations of the simulation and tried to reach out and touch the passing fish. Predictably though, this calm sense of wonder was not to last. As we reached the remains of the submarine and determined that the cargo was of salvageable value, I realised that I was not alone. It seems that the submarine wreck was now home to a sizable shark, who wasn’t too happy with me invading his personal space. A genuine sense of peril ensued as the shark circled the cage, causing real panic when it would briefly go out of sight in the dark depths. When it inevitably attacks the cage, I found myself moving around in the cage (which was translated perfectly to my movements in the real world) in order to distance myself from the shark’s continued assaults. When the cage was finally lifted and I was free of the shark I felt an enormous sense of relief.
Naturally, the remainder of the day was spent bullying everyone else in the office to try out Shark Attack and film their reactions. We witnessed everything from Hitchcockesque screams to our office manager curling up in a ball on the floor in a futile attempt to hide from the shark.
Overall it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, albeit an expensive one. A lot of kit is necessary in order to use the PlayStation VR to its full potential and annoyingly, not all of it comes in the box. Based on the assumption that you already have a PS4 console at home (the upcoming PS4 Pro will set you back £350) then you will have to spend an additional £350 on the headset itself, £40 on a PlayStation Camera, £70 on a set of PlayStation Move controllers and then around £40 per game. So overall, you are looking at spending a whopping £850!
This is not a purchase to take lightly, especially considering the early reports of the headset causing nausea in some users and the lack of any ‘must have’ titles at launch. It might be a good idea to wait for a month or two before committing to a purchase (it’ll probably take you at least that long to save up for one anyway!). Nevertheless, with PlayStation VR we have undoubtedly witnessed the first step in a new exciting era of video games and we can’t wait to see what developers will do with it!