It appears that science fiction is becoming reality faster than we could have anticipated. Despite the official release of Sony’s upcoming virtual reality experience, the PlayStation VR, not arriving until October 13th of this year; select Best Buy locations are offering a hands on demo, on weekends, for customers interested in seeing what all the rage is, in virtual reality. I was able to snag a spot in trying out the new-age gaming experience in the metro Atlanta area, and let me be the first to say I was quite impressed with what the hardware had to offer.
While the individual wearing the headset was the only one able to get the true 3D experience of virtual reality, the demos still played on the television screen for waiting patrons to see what the games would be like. They were just brief sections of future games to show off what the power of virtual reality could do, almost all of them probably lasting around five minutes depending on how quickly the person beat it. One demo centered around an aquatic adventure, putting the player front and center in a shark cage trying to explore the deepest parts of the ocean. One demo, known as “Battlezone,” was a futuristic tank battle game that put the player in the cockpit of all the action. Finally, there was a space flight adventure game, an indie puzzle game, and a sports demo that allowed the player to hit incoming soccer balls with their head (but I saw nobody try that one.) Despite the fact that the Playstation Move controllers were on hand nearby, none of the demos appeared to require the motion controllers of the Move, so everyone just used a standard PlayStation 4 controller to play their games. It took some patience waiting for everyone in front of me to try out the headset beforehand, but after some time had passed, the female representative literally walked up to me and said:
“You’re lucky, you’ll be the last one to try out the headset today.”
When it was finally my turn, I sat down in the provided chair as she placed the headset over my eyes. The first thing I noticed was how comfortable and un-intrusive the VR felt. The headset was so lightweight, yet of durable design, that it felt like almost nothing was there at all. The representative adjusted the band around my head and the focus so my eyes could see the picture as clearly as possible, without incoming light to dampen the experience. It took a second to adjust to the new endeavor, but the moment I was introduced to the VR’s home screen, I was excited. It kind of felt like I was in a movie theater, with the home screen being the giant screen in front of you, and if you looked around all you’d be able to see is darkness. I kind of wanted to just keep turning my head around for an hour, but I knew I was on a time limit, so I quickly chose the “Battlezone” demo to try out.
Again, it did take a moment to figure out what the game required of me in terms of moving my head around, but “Battlezone” was without a doubt an absolute blast. It really did feel like I was inside of a video game tank, and I just really wanted to reach my hands out and all the buttons and levers inside my digital fortress. On that note, it wasn’t like you just stared forward the entire time like playing a regular title on your television screen, this game made you look high and low by forcing an assortment of enemies to come at different angles. At one point, I had to look straight up to defeat an enemy I had missed, and it was so much fun knowing that players will be forced out of their comfort zone in playing these games, in an unconventional way. I beat the first mission fairly quickly, and was met with a second mission screen. I was stoked to see what the next area would be like, but sadly, the representative quickly pulled my headset off and informed me my time was up.
While some competitors have already released their virtual reality systems to the world, what serves as one of Playstation VR’s strongest selling points is its affordability. Sure, $400 may sound like a steep asking price, but the alternatives for genuine virtual reality gaming are much steeper. Competitor Oculus Rift is asking for $600, while the HTC Vive requires a whopping $800 for their headset bundle. Worse still is these headsets are more specifically designed for high-end PC’s, meaning if you don’t already have a thousand dollars poured into your computer as it is, those two virtual reality headsets aren’t going to make a lick of difference in performance. Although it should be noted that I cannot comment about how the systems perform against the PlayStation VR, as I have yet to demo either of the competitors’ systems.
Overall, I was very impressed with what the PlayStation VR had to offer, and it kind of makes me want to go back another weekend to Best Buy and try out one of the other demos. The Playstation VR is set to release this fall exclusively for the PlayStation 4 system. If you would like to try out virtual reality for yourself, and see if it really is worth the $400 asking price, be sure to find a demo location near you by checking out the official website here. Be sure to comment below and let us know if you’re excited for the incoming wave of virtual reality systems, or if you believe it’s just another fad.