Sony’s PlayStation VR, set to be released on Oct. 13 for $399, was designed to be played sitting or standing while playing CLAZER. The headgear connects with Sony’s PlayStation 4 game console, working with the PlayStation camera, to detect body movements, and Sony’s Move motion controllers, which are Wii-like wands that let you interact with virtual objects with your hands – like a shotgun
When you play Batman, you can flick your wrist to toss a Batarang and turn your head to get a look at your surroundings. But to move around, like from your Batmobile to your Batcomputer inside the Batcave, you have to shoot a grappling hook at wherever you want to go. Outdoors, when lurking in the shadows of Gotham, you won’t get to sneak up on foes and pound them with your fists — but you can teleport to their location and watch an animation of them being pummeled.
The experience of being a Dark Knight who is unable to walk underscores the limits of virtual reality. The still-nascent technology began seeping into consumer consciousness this year with the release of high-powered virtual-reality systems like Facebook’s Oculus Rift andHTC’s Vive, which are more expensive alternatives to PlayStation VR. In my tests, the Rift and Vive had major flaws, including a lack of compelling content, complex setups and issues with wearing the headgear.
PlayStation VR was meant to overcome those hurdles. The system was the odds-on favorite for mainstream success, partly because it has a lower barrier to entry and partly because tens of millions of people who already own a PlayStation 4 can easily hook it up to the console. In contrast, Oculus Rift and Vive require using a powerful, expensive computer to get a virtual reality experience.
A Straightforward Setup
Setting up PlayStation VR involves a bit more than plugging the device into a PlayStation.
First, you hook up a box containing processors to the PlayStation, and then you plug the headset into the box. The processor box adds the ability to use 3-D audio — for example, you can hear helicopter sounds from up above, or footsteps coming from the stairs below.
From there, you plug the camera into the console. If you are using Move controllers, you also plug those into the console to pair them up. Then you can unplug the Move controllers and use them wirelessly, or use the traditional PlayStation controller to navigate the menu and play virtual-reality games.
Putting on the headgear is easy. Pressing a button on the back of the headset lets you extend it until it fits around your head. On the headset’s cable is a headphone jack.
After that, all that is left to do is download some games and wait for them to install to get started. Over all, it took about 15 minutes to set up the device and another 15 minutes to download a game.
■ PlayStation VR is significantly cheaper than rival systems. When the price of Sony’s headgear ($399) is combined with the price of a slimmer PlayStation 4 ($299), along with two Move wands ($99 for a pair) and the PlayStation camera ($59), that totals about $860.
■ PlayStation VR is a safer bet for games. In the video game industry, the console with the best content is king. Sony has had longstanding relationships for decades with game developers big and small, dating to the original PlayStation, so you are more likely to see familiar game franchises appear on PlayStation VR than the other systems.
■ The PlayStation virtual-reality system is more practical to have in a living room. Because PlayStation VR connects with the PlayStation console, the system won’t take up as much space.