- The PlayStation 4 is the most popular game console in the world, with over 91 million units sold.
- PlayStation VR, a $US200 package that turns your PS4 into a virtual-reality gaming rig, is easily my favourite accessory for the system.
- Sony was kind enough to send me a PlayStation VR to try out, along with a handful of games, and it has blown me (and everyone I’ve shown it to) away.
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Over 91 million people own a PlayStation 4. You might be one of them.
If you have a PS4, and you’re looking for a way to add a new dimension to your gaming experience (literally), I can think of no better accessory than PlayStation VR.
You’re probably already thinking: “Ugh, virtual reality? How many times has this tech been tried, and how many times has it failed? I have zero interest in anything VR-related, thanks and bye.”
But before you go, let me assure you, dear reader: The reason VR has failed time and time again is a lack of content.
Not only does VR content need to be high quality, but it also needs to justify:
1) the extra expense of buying into VR
2) the need to put a headset over your eyes, effectively blinding you to the rest of your surroundings, and
3) entertaining you beyond what could be offered on a competing device.
PlayStation VR nails all three criteria.
First, PlayStation VR is relatively accessible. Of course, it’s way more accessible if you already own a PlayStation 4, which itself costs about $US250 right now, but if you already have that game console, buying into PlayStation VR costs as little as $US200, and it often goes on sale. That’s pretty cheap as far as entry-level VR systems go.
To the second point – VR needing to justify wearing a dumb-looking headset that blinds you to the rest of the world – PSVR offers more than just the games themselves. You can actually play anything on your PlayStation 4 in the VR headset, including other games, and apps like Netflix and Hulu! Though the picture isn’t super-sharp, it still makes it feel like you’re watching your content on a big movie screen.
What’s cool is you can also re-align the “center” of the screen in your VR headset at anytime, which makes it so you can play games while laying down, or facing toward the ceiling, if you’d like. This is something you can’t do with the PlayStation 4 by itself, so the PSVR actually adds a unique value, if that’s something you’re into.
And to the third point, that VR needs to entertain in a way that other devices can’t: This is where PlayStation VR really shines.
The games I’ve tried for PlayStation VR include “Skyrim,” “Tetris Effect,” and “Astro Bot: Rescue Mission,” but I’ve spent the vast majority of my time in the latter two games. While I appreciate being able to experience “Skyrim” in virtual reality, the graphics and the odd speed of movement made me feel dizzy. The other two games, “Tetris Effect” and “Astro Bot: Rescue Mission,” are much better designed for VR.
“Tetris Effect” is like normal “Tetris,” where puzzle pieces fall slowly onto a playing field and creating solid horizontal lines makes them disappear, which makes more room for more puzzle pieces to fall. But “Tetris Effect” takes advantage of VR: the environments shift and become more lively as you progress. In one level, you start playing in a quiet ocean environment; by the end, you’re playing as dolphins and fish jump to the beats of the music playing in the background. It’s a thrilling experience I wish everyone could try.
But the best game I’ve tried for PlayStation VR is easily “Astro Bot: Rescue Mission.” Don’t let the generic-sounding name fool you: “Astro Bot” is, for VR, what “Super Mario 64” was for the first generation of 3D games.
The game is simple: You travel to massive virtual worlds, and you direct a tiny little robot through each level, collecting hidden robot friends along the way. But the execution of this game is masterful: The level designs are fantastic, the music is catchy, and it’s the first truly excellent game that feels like it could only be made for VR.
One example of how “Astro Bot” takes advantage of VR: Many of the robot friends you need to find in each level are hidden in ways you couldn’t appreciate in normal 3D games. Some robots are hidden above, below, or behind you – and spotting them actually requires moving your head, or turning around in your seat.
I played this game with my wife and her family, with each of us taking turns, and everyone was spinning around on the sofa trying to find every last robot as they progressed through the levels. Everyone had a great time playing the game and watching others try it – and keep in mind, this family includes a wide range of ages, and most people had never tried virtual reality before. “Astro Bot” was accessible, and sometimes challenging, but never punishing, and always clear about what you need to do. It’s an extraordinary achievement for VR, and video games in general.
VR has been around for about 50 years, but the reason it’s failed so many times before is because it couldn’t satisfy the above requirements for it to be worth it to a normal person: It wasn’t cheap, it didn’t justify wearing a dorky headset, and the games weren’t better than what you could play elsewhere. PlayStation VR changes all of that, and it’s an easy recommendation to make for any PS4 owner. If you want a taste of the future of gaming, or a novel experience to entertain friends and family, this is it.