Tech

PlayStation VR: An addictive gaming experience

The newly launched PlayStation VR system has positional tracking, which follows the movements 
of your head and body

Launched here yesterday, the PlayStation VR (PS VR) heralds the arrival of a new immersive video gaming experience that will attract the attention of the curious onlooker, while threatening to burn holes in the wallets of gamers who want the ride.

While smartphone-based virtual reality (VR) systems such as the Samsung Gear VR and the Google Cardboard have been here for over a year, these rudimentary systems have not really taken off because of their lack of positional tracking - where the game follows the movements of your head and body.

That means that you couldn't use your head to knock balls into a goal, duck and dodge, or pick up a gun with your hands and start shooting at the enemy - which you can now with higher-end VR systems like the PS VR, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

Of the three, PS VR is the first to launch in Singapore. Now available in limited quantities here, it consists of a head-mounted display.


PHOTO: SONY INTERACTIVE ENTERTAINMENT

A long cable from the head unit is connected to a processing unit, which in turn is connected to the Sony PlayStation 4 (PS4) game console.

The PlayStation Eye camera is a necessary accessory as it uses the light sources on the head unit to track your head movements.

The camera can also track the PS4 gamepad's movement through the latter's light source. This means that in some games, like the London Heist shooter, there is the option of using the Move light stick controller, which feels like you are shooting from a gun.

The headset looks incredibly futuristic. The curved white frame of the VR headset pairs nicely with its jet black panel in front. The strap is also not an elastic rubber one you would expect to find. It's a solid ring, that you unlock and pull open to place over your head, much like a sophisticated and sturdy helmet. The head unit fitted comfortably over my head, even with my glasses on.

Because I was testing the unit ahead of its launch, there weren't a lot of games available to test it out with. The tank battle game Battlezone was really fun as I entered into the cockpit and looked around the controls and panels in 3D view before shooting my way through an entire battalion of enemy tanks, planes and turrets. Ending the chapter with a powerful electromagnetic pulse shockwave was a blast.

ADDICTIVE

In another game, I had to pilot a mechwarrior. The left thumbstick let me control my mech's main movement while the right thumbstick let my mech look around. Aiming the weapons, however, simply involved using my head, offering the look-and-aim experience that would not have been possible in the non-VR world.

While the new gaming experience was addictive, using the PS VR for more than an hour tired my eyes. Sometimes, when I was taking the corners at high speed in a driving game or trying to aim and shoot at enemies charging at me, caused some minor motion sickness but I got used to it over time.

The PS VR requires you to have an existing PS4 console to work.

The $649 bundle comes with both the PS VR system and the Eye camera. For $599 you get just the PS VR system.

Over 30 PS VR titles are available at launch, though most of them are only available as digital purchases through the PS Store.

If you don't own a PS4, getting the PS VR and main console at the same time will set you back $1,000, which would then be comparable to the more expensive HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, though both are yet to be launched here.

But if you already own a PS4, the PS VR offers the best value for your VR-money.


Aiming the weapons, however, simply involved using my head, offering the look and aim experience that would not have been possible in the non-VR world.

–​ Zayne Seah

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