PlayStation VR – Initial Impressions

Tim and I were lucky enough to pick up our PlayStation VR headsets on launch, as well as a large portion of the launch games on the platform. Read on for our initial impressions on the hardware and the launch line-up.


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Tim – Having used the hardware before I had an idea what I was getting into, but am nevertheless pleased with the overall build quality and comfort of the headset. I have now used the headset for a few multi-hour sessions and the only real problem I have faced is the lenses getting fogged up and requiring frequent cleaning. It would be nice to lose the wires too.

Diarmuid – Similar to Tim, I like the build quality but do have to clean the lenses frequently. Additionally, in use, anything in the center of the view is clear but if you move your eyes to any side without moving your head, it gets more blurry. Despite these issues, I’m enjoying the headset quite a bit and can see myself continuing to use it regularly – so long as the number of quality games continues to increase.


Batman: Arkham VR (Diarmuid)

Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

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Since its announcement, I have wondered how Rocksteady were going to use VR with their Arkham series. The answer is to basically make you become Batman. I have only played the game for two short stretches, but so far the sense of immersion is superb. Obviously, they have reused the assets they have already created for the universe but it works seamlessly. The story is actually gripping too, which I did not expect. I have heard the game is short but Riddler trophies should add some replayability too.

Tim’s Second Opinion: Rocksteady continues its love letter to the Batman universe with a high quality VR game that shows both the benefits and limitations of VR gaming. A little short for those focused on just completing the game but a lot of value added for Batfans looking to explore and find the fanservice.


RIGS Mechanized Combat League (Diarmuid)

Developer: Guerilla Cambridge
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment

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RIGS is the only game I have played where I have experienced nausea, specifically with the full head tracking causing me to feel queasy. Thankfully, the right-stick-to-turn option makes this a non-issue so I can largely ignore this. Unfortunately, losing tracking is a rather persistent issue with the game for me. When I can get it to work, RIGS is a joy to play and truly feels like a deep game in VR, rather than another ‘experience’. The combat feels suitably fast and tactical, with multiple customization options as well as online and offline matches to play. If they can sort out the tracking issues (which could very well just be my setup) then this may be the best game on the format.


Job Simulator (Tim)

Developer: Owlchemy Labs
Publisher: Owlchemy Labs

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The price made me a little hesitant to buy and having played the demo I am now a bit worried as it does not seem as though the game has been ideally adapted for PS VR. When played on the HTC Vive there is little difficulty in turning around and carrying out activities with your back facing the main camera. Blocking the PS Camera’s view of the Move controllers created detection issues that had to be circumnavigated by some unnatural gymnastics. The sensitivity of the detection of the move controllers also may be an issue too. A shame as the demo was otherwise was a very silly and fun inaccurate simulation of office work.


Battlezone (Diarmuid)

Developer: Rebellion Developments
Publisher: Rebellion Developments

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In terms of full experiences, you will be hard pressed to find a better one on PSVR than Battlezone. The game just works – not only is it a fun, arcade-style tank shooter – it is also a game packed with deep upgrade and customisation options. There are excellent online 2, 3 and 4 player co-op and offline single player campaigns to play through, with randomly generated levels to keep things fresh. If you are thinking of picking up PSVR in the near future, Battlezone should be your follow-up purchase.


EVE Valkyrie (Tim)

Developer: CCP Games
Publisher: CCP Games

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The game that originally turned my head onto VR when strapping my face into Oculus at E3 in 2013. I am pleased to say that it has made a safe transition over to PS VR. Between this and Gunjack (see below) CCP have really cemented themselves as being at the forefront of VR game development. With not just arguably the most graphically impressive titles in the launch line-up but also the most fascinating and attractive UI and menu design. I am not sure just how competitive I will be online but I am having an enjoyable time both online and in the various single player modes.

This was the game I was expecting the most from at launch and has meet and exceeded my expectations in all departments so far. It is the only VR game that I have had a full-on blue screen style crash, which was a bit jarring, but so far that was a one off and barring that one minor hiccup it has been a smooth space-pirate sailing. This is one genre that massively benefits from being in VR, more so than any other game I have played so far, and the ability to track and target enemy ships anywhere in the view of your cockpit could not be replicated without it.


DriveClub VR (Diarmuid)

Developer: Evolution Studios
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment

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In the days prior to launch, the vast majority of early reviews mentioned the nausea-inducing tendencies of DriveClub VR. Having now raced multiple times in the game, in races, time trials and drift challenges, I can confirm I have experienced none of these issues. In fact, I am enjoying the game quite a bit. The sense of speed from the original game is still here and while the visuals do take a hit in the transition to VR, the game still looks impressive. At the end of events, you become stationary at the edge of the track and get to look around freely. Here, you notice the flat textures and lack of effects, but in motion, the game looks impeccable.

The game-play progression and controls are lifted directly from the first game so if you’re not a fan this won’t convert you, but the ability to judge corners better helps the game immensely.


PlayStation VR Worlds (Tim)

Developer: SIE London Studio
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment

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A collection of five smaller, tech demo style games designed to help show off the PS VR but may be better suited as a showcase to non-gamers. I am yet to play Scavenger’s Odyssey, mainly as I have heard it is not very good and I have enough other better space games to fill that void. I have only had a quick go on Danger Ball, but actually enjoyed this 3D take on Pong controlled with you face. Limited in gameplay but might be a good title to show to a non-hardcore gamer as it does not need a pad or controller to operate. This is also the case with VR Luge but I have had a few people I have shown that to coming away feeling uneasy, as hurtling downhill with little control aside from steering with your head might be prone to do anyway. My playthrough of the London Heist was a bit mixed, I really enjoyed the interactive cutscenes at the beginning but had some issues with the accuracy of the Move controllers when jumping into gunplay – not sure if this was partly due to my surroundings at the time but am yet to head back in to check. Ocean Descent is perhaps the least of a “game” but the best for showing to a non-gamer and demonstrates the potential for fully immersive cut-scenes.

Thumper (Diarmuid)

Developer: Drool
Publisher: Drool

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One of the primary goals of Sony when creating PlayStation VR was to successfully nail ‘presence’ – the sense that you actually exist in the world they are creating. Thumper is one of those experiences. The world is dark and all you see in front of you is a long track with a metallic beetle-like vehicle in front of you. You must use the X button and left analog stick in time with the music to avoid obstacles and defeat bosses as you hurtle down this track. Eventually, you get into a zen-like state and forget everything else other than the beetle and your constantly moving goal.

The soundtrack is fantastic, the visuals are mesmerising and the game-play is ridiculously addictive.


SuperHyperCube (Diarmuid)

Developer: Kokoromi
Publisher: Polytron Corporation

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Looking back, I’m not sure what I expected from SuperHyperCube. The game itself is simple – you are moving along a track and have a series of conjoined blocks in front of you. You have to rotate them to fit and a quickly approaching hole. When you succeed, you move onto the next hole with new blocks added to your shape. There are also power-ups to slow down time etc.

And that’s it. While I enjoy the game-play and visuals, I’m just not sure there is enough here for the price.


Ace Banana (Tim)

Developer: TVR
Publisher: Oasis Games

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I was interested in Ace Banana after reading an article in which the CEO, Yuhui Wang, stated that the Chinese publisher was releasing a succession of five games on PS VR in an attempt to ride the wave of popularity of VR as a way to make Oasis Games a household name in the West. I hope the next games to be released will be of higher quality. There are some redeeming features, partly in the bonkers default game of being the “Banana Archer” tasked with defending your piles of banana from waves of thieving monkeys. However, a large source of the entertainment I have had so far has not been deliberately fabricated. Japanese games have all but eliminated Engrish and I could not help but be amazed and amused by my first introduction to Chinglish!

I would say that this was a good game for Children (as they are thin on the ground in the PS VR release line-up) but the rounds probably last too long (this could be more of a tired old man complaint) and the game and crazy intro mini-game are too glitchy for any age gamer. Also, children’s games are perhaps a bit redundant on a device only advised for use by those over 12 years old. Not without its zany charm but needs more polish to best the West.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes (Diarmuid)

Developer: Steel Crate Games
Publisher: Steel Crate Games

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Since it was announced for PSVR, I have been looking forward to Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. The premise is simple; the user in VR sees the bomb in front of the and has to describe its make-up to his teammates who have a guide in front of them detailing how to defuse it. As bombs become more complicated, the pressure on each player increases. Game-play is fun and relatively different from other games on the platform as it includes people outside of VR more.


EVE: Gunjack (Tim)

Developer: CCP Games
Publisher: CCP Games

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Limited in scope but laser-focused with a competent level of polish. Can not help but think that this stationary space based gun turret defence games feels like a modern day interpretation of Space Invaders. I can see how others may not take to this, and the one other person I have shown this game to did not like the way the cockpit follows your head’s movements but I really like the way this works – as this really helps rapidly moving aim from target to target. There are only a handful of levels but with a variety of tasks, mostly shoot the pirates or shoot the asteroids, it helps mix things up a bit. Each level can be replayed to achieve a better star rating or score and subsequent levels need a requisite number of total stars to be unlocked. Not sure how much replay value there will be beyond that but I feel I will be satisfied with what I have played for the comparatively low price of entry.


Loading Human: Chapter 1 (Diarmuid)

Developer: Untold Games
Publisher: Maximum Games

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Loading Human is an episodic, narrative driven adventure game set in the distant future. Being the only game I have experienced in VR that asks you to virtually walk around the environment, the controls feel a little clunky. However, puzzle solving is enjoyable and the story so far is interesting so I will need more time with the game to render a complete verdict.

One thing I can be quite decisive on though is the fact that, oddly, it works far better with a Dualshock controller than two Move controllers.


Harmonix Music VR (Diarmuid)

Developer: Harmonix Music Systems
Publisher: Harmonix Music Systems

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The biggest point to get across here is Harmonix Music VR is not a game. Instead, the entire experience involves you selecting a location, some music tracks and then chilling out while an explosion of colour is released in front of you. You come look at triangles on the map to transport to different areas and then focus on circular icons to trigger ‘overdrive’ like events but that is the extent of your interactivity. While it looks trippy and different, I lost interest in the title quickly as there were other, more involving games to play but if you feel like relaxing but want something strapped to your face, this may be the solution you need.


Other VR Content on PSN (Tim)

Developer: Various
Publisher: Various

I was caught by surprise was just how much other content was available at launch, especially as the amount that was free of charge. Playroom VR was the included game that I knew was coming and so far seems like a good way of having fun with multiple people while playing VR. Allumette is a free game that I have yet to try and Invasion! is a free VR animation that is short but cute and shows off the potential for animation in VR. There was also a few demos for the The Kitchen and Hatsune Miku but was more surprised that the demo disc in the UK box had been superseded by a downloadable demo collection with a bunch more games.

The most surprising addition was that of Littlstar’s 360 and VR Cinema, which I have used previously on Google VR. The effectiveness of the videos was a bit hit-and-miss, I watched a few boxing matches which were so-so, but also a visually impressive Slam Dunk contest. The best thing I have watched so far was Mythbusters blowing up a postal van and showing it back in full 360° slo-mo. A good showcase for what we can expect to see from video content going forward too.


Please note that a number of titles were provided to us by their respective publishers, namely Battlezone, Loading Human: Chapter 1, Harmonix Music VR, EVE Valkyrie, EVE Gunjack and Ace Banana.

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