The PlayStation VR both delights and frustrates me. I’ve already gone over how the device beats the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. Now, it’s time to talk about where Sony has failed.
PSVR is due out October 13 for $500. I think it’s the best headset for most people. At the same time, but it has some clear problems when you compare it to what HTC and Oculus have done with their devices. This comparison could help you understand PSVR’s position in the market.
Where Vive and Rift beat PlayStation VR
PlayStation VR uses the PlayStation Camera and light bars to infer your position in 3D space. This works a lot of the time, but it is far more finicky than the refined technologies in the Rift and Vive.
PSVR can only track you accurately in a narrow window. If you drift out of that zone, the virtual world will sometimes start slowly oscillating around the player. That is disorienting. If you are still in front of the camera, but sitting or standing too far away, tracking will begin to fail on both the headset and the controllers.
Compare that to the Rift and Vive. HTC’s headset can calculate your position in 3D space throughout and entire room. Rift is almost as capable and can track your position as long as you’re within a large cone-shaped zone. Both are more reliable and steady than Sony’s solution.
Move controllers are uncomfortable
I don’t like the Move controllers. They are accurate enough for most VR games, but I hate manipulating them. Their cylindrical design almost causes cramps in my hand when I need to hold them out like a gun or in any angle that is not perpendicular to my grip.
The Vive, however, has far better controllers that are designed to work in your hand in a number of different grips. They also have better tracking even when you turn around. The two base stations for the Vive can see those controllers in almost any position where the PS Camera would lose the Move controllers if they disappeared behind your back.
Rift’s Touch controllers still aren’t out, but I’ve used them before, and they are also much better than he Move controllers. They are shaped for you to hold them with a fist, and they even have analog sticks.
No built-in headphones
Every time I go to pick up the PSVR headset, I have to untangle the headphones from the other cables. I hate this. I wish Sony would’ve copied Oculus and built ear flap-style headphones into the sides of its headset. Instead, I have to deal with yet another cord.
Even the Vive, with its headphone jack on the top of your head, causes fewer problems than the PSVR, which has its input built into a small control panel that hangs around your chest. I’ve caught my arm in the headphones multiple times already because of this placement. It’s a needless source of frustration.
Finally, it’s too early to lock yourself into getting VR games and apps from just one company. Sony is going to control the PSVR ecosystem, which means you may miss out on some important interesting and thrilling experiments developers are only releasing on PC or mobile. This will have the biggest effect on the burgeoning adult VR software market, but PSVR is simply not going to get every weird side project that you’ll have access to with a headset plugged into a Windows 10 rig.
Sure, Sony is attempting to make up that difference by offering exclusive PSVR experiences, but those have left me disappointed so far. Batman: Arkham VR, Final Fantasy XV VR, and Star Wars: Battlefront VR are all novelties that exist because Sony is willing to pay a little bit of money for them. If the publisher gets conservative with its money, your PSVR exclusives could dry up.
Which VR headset should you buy?
Now that we’ve covered what PSVR does better (read that here) and worse than Rift and Vive, it’s time to put the entirety of the high-end headset market into perspective. First, you don’t have to buy any of these. We’re still early, and even $800 for a PSVR and PlayStation 4 is probably way too much money. These devices will come down in price, and they will get smart revision that will fix some of their nagging issues over the next couple of months.
If you really want to get in now, here’s how I feel about all of the headsets: The HTC Vive is the best VR experience on the market by a lot. Room-scale stuff is awesome, and developers already have a ton of wondrous experiments on the Steam store. But Vive is $1,600 all in with a PC powerful enough to handle it. That’s twice as much as the PSVR and PS4, and I don’t know if you’re going to get twice as much enjoyment from the Vive compared to Sony’s take on virtual reality.
So if you want to get in on VR and potentially already own a PS4 and don’t mind exchanging some of the more experimental apps for an easier, friendly user experience, then I think the PSVR is the one for you.
I’ll have more on this as I continue my review-in-progress.