Gut-Check: What You Need to Know About PlayStation VR & How It Will Fit Into a Home Theater

Posted Fri Oct 7, 2016 at 03:30 PM PDT by Joseph Meli
PlayStation VR PS4 news

There is some nuance.

Virtual Reality for the PS4

It's been a long time coming, but virtual reality has finally become an accessible product for mainstream consumers — well, at least as far as released consumer products. With the incoming arrival of Sony's VR solution, the PlayStation VR, the most user-friendly (and sexy) headset in the current wave is nearly in our living rooms. But even with the backing of the PlayStation brand and logo, there is still a lot of details regarding the PlayStation VR that can trip up even the most strident early adopter.

PlayStation VR Headset

In this article, we'll be taking a look at the newest and arguably easiest device for video gaming fans to get their hands on: Sony's PlayStation VR, which will undoubtedly be one of the most talked-about electronics this fall and holiday season. With the headset comes lots of questions, and we've got answers: read on to find out what the device is, what you can play on it, every peripheral you need to make it work and, of course, how you can get your hands on one this holiday season.

What is PlayStation VR & What's Included in the Box?

PlaStation VR contents, cables Core Bundle

PlayStation VR (often abbreviated as "PS VR") is a new virtual reality peripheral that works with Sony's PlayStation 4 console. Using a special headset, players can experience a new level of immersion as their eyes become, in effect, "windows" into the game world. Strap on the headset, and you're able to see things as if they're right before your very eyes — and since your movements are tracked using an array of sensors in the headset, you can look around and get a look at the action around you.

Don't Turn Around

The PS VR has a 100-degree field of vision, and the user can rotate left and right, and tilt up and down. The reach really isn't quite a full 360 degrees as single camera, mounted on the user's display, is leaned on heavily to track the user's head movements. PS VR is meant to be played primarily either sitting down or a fixed standing position; you won't be moving around a lot as you might with other VR peripherals. Despite these apparent limitations, the vast majority of games seem to have been developed or adapted with them in mind, and the results should familiar with the long history of front-facing video experiences. There is just more to see in VR.

PS VR Purchase Options

The system will launch on October 13th with two different versions. The Core Bundle, which costs $399.99, is a fairly bare-bones package that includes most of what you need to get started: the VR headset, processor unit, headset connection cable, HDMI cable, USB cable, stereo headphones, AC power cord, AC adaptor and PlayStation VR Demo Disc are all included in this version. (Just add a PS4, TV, PS4 Camera, and one of the controller options, and the Core Bundle will work.)

The Core bundle is what prospective buyers can expect to find on store shelves come launch day.

PlayStation VR Launch BundleThe "Launch Bundle, on the other hand, runs a little higher at $499.99 and is ideal for people who do not have its extra peripherals and want to get the most out of their experience with PS VR: in addition to including everything in the Core Bundle, the Launch Bundle includes a set of two PlayStation Move controllers, a PlayStation Camera and a copy of the 'PlayStation VR Worlds' game.

Unfortunately, it appears the Launch Bundle may have been exclusively for pre-sale and in limited quantities," according to a statement by Sony — and since pre-orders are currently sold out, it's unclear when this specific version will be available for purchase again. (If eyeing a Launch Bundle, check stores on launch day.)

What Hardware is Needed to Experience PlayStation VR?

PS4 Slim Camera Dualshock4

At the bare minimum, the things required for PlayStation VR are as follows: you need a television, PlayStation 4 (the original model, the newly-released Slim and the upcoming Pro are all compatible), a PlayStation Camera (either the old square model or the new, more roundish version will work as they are functionally the same), a DualShock 4 controller, a PS VR headset and a pair of stereo headphones (earbud style stereo headphones are included with both the aforementioned bundles).

Since the Launch Bundle may very well not go on sale again, purchasing the Core Bundle means you'll have to buy the mandatory PlayStation Camera separately. And while they're not required for every game, you may want to get your hands on a pair of PlayStation Move controllers as well — certain games use them for more precise movement, while others outright require them. There is also the new Aim Controller on the way, which is detailed further down on this page.

PlayStation VR Play Area

As far as making space in your living room goes, the above diagram — helpfully provided by Sony — provides the measurements you'll need to get the optimal viewing and movement experience for PS VR. The Camera needs to be correctly positioned on the top of your television, and there has to be a clear line of sight between it and the headset.

As with previous game systems that involve motion, it's important to be aware of your surroundings; most people will probably remember some of the mishaps that occurred with the Wii remotes, after all, and that's not the sort of thing you want to duplicate.

What Are the Technical Specifications and Features of PlayStation VR? How Does It Connect?

The PS VR has a single 1920 x 1080 OLED display, which — when split between both eyes — works out to a final resolution of 960 x 1080 in stereoscopic 3D. Sony has said that consumers can expect latency to be 18 milliseconds. In addition, for those who may be wanting to take advantage of the PS4's HDR capabilities or the new Pro's 4K visuals, keep in mind that while the latter will continue to work with the PS VR hooked up, the former will not.

In fact, while the processor unit does take the PS4's HDMI out and split it into tow connections (one for the PS VR, and one for a display/AVR), the processor must be powered in order to pass along a signal at all. Couple that with not being able to pass HDR, and many users will need to frequently connect and disconnect the PS VR processer unit via HDMI.

What About 3D Audio?

Immersive 3D audio is available, although it doesn't work with wireless headphones — including gaming headsets produced by the likes of Astro and Turtle Beach, as well as Sony itself unless they are connected by 3.5mm stereo to the PS VR. In order to take advantage of positional sound, you have to plug wired headphones in. The 3D audio, which Sony states is handled by the processor box, is not compatible with any virtual surround sound options. Thankfully, a pair of earbuds will come included with each bundle.

What About Movies and Normal PS4 Games?

If you're interested in playing regular non-VR games or viewing movies on a virtual screen, you can do that using PS VR's Cinematic mode, which supports all current PS4 software — except those that require PlayStation Camera — and non-3D movies in digital, DVD and Blu-ray formats. Three screen sizes are available, with the largest being the virtual equivalent of a whopping 226 inches! (Why 3D movies, such 3D Blu-rays aren't supported is one of those modern day Sony mysteries.)

What Will I Have to Play on PlayStation VR?

PlayStation VR

The current launch lineup for PlayStation VR is a truly massive one, encompassing both games that support the platform as an option and games that are totally exclusive. At the time of this writing, there are 30 titles that have been confirmed as available to play at launch on Oct. 13, making for a large and diverse slate of software. Purchasers will also get to jump in right away: a free digital download of 'The Playroom VR' will be included with each unit, as well as a demo disc that allows players to try a small portion of the following titles:

'DriveClub VR'
'Eve: Valkyrie'
'Harmonix Music VR'
'Here They Lie'
'Job Simulator'
'PlayStation VR Worlds'
'Resident Evil 7'
'Rez Infinite'
'Rigs Mechanized Combat League'
'Tumble VR'
'Until Dawn: Rush of Blood'
'Wayward Sky'

When it comes to full software, a title of particular note is the aforementioned 'Thumper,' developed by two Harmonix alums who describe their game — and accurately so — as "rhythm violence." Though it doesn't require PS VR, the mind-bending visuals and thundering soundtrack are all the more effective when beamed directly into your eyes.

New PS VR owners might also want to look into Sony Interactive Entertainment America's slate of games specifically built for the platform: 'PlayStation VR Worlds' is a minigame collection that demonstrates the possibilities of the platform; 'Super Stardust Ultra VR' has a special first-person space-blasting mode exclusive to VR; and 'Hustle Kings VR' will let you head to a series of cool billiards tables right from your living room.

Batman Arkham VR

A slight word of caution to the consumer, however: since virtual reality is still a burgeoning medium for video games, it's worth mentioning that many of the launch titles are perhaps better described as VR "experiences" rather than full-fledged games in the traditional sense. 'Batman: Arkham VR,' for example, is a short 1-2 hour experience, compared to the 30+ hour titles that make up the rest of the 'Arkham' franchise.

Other VR "experiences" will come bundled with other non-VR games, such as the 'Jackal Assault' minigame that will come with 'Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.' (See impressions here.) Larger, deeper games are on the way too, though. This past E3, first-person shooter 'Fairpoint' drew many visitors in with its triple-A polish. It's also the only announced game so far to support the special 'PlayStation Aim' gun peripheral. (See impressions on 'Farpoint' and Aim here.)

Our own Brian Hoss got to take a crack at 'The London Heist' at CES 2016 earlier this year, and reported that it was a huge hit even among those who don't usually play video games. "Seeing so many non-gamers tackle this demo, ducking and shooting with such enthusiasm," he wrote, "goes a heck of a long way towards making the PlayStation VR seem like an eventual success." Hopefully such enthusiasm really is an indicator of the broad-based appeal of the platform's games, even for those who might not traditionally call themselves "gamers."

How Can I Share PlayStation VR With My family?

PlayStation VR Family

One important detail about PlayStation VR, it's meant to be shared with others. When using the headset, the game is usually also output on the connected TV, which makes it easy for others to watch. In some cases, like in local multiplayer the TV shows something else. Likewise, only one PS VR headset can be used with a system, so there won't be any need for two headsets on one system. And yes, the Share button works with VR content. At the very least, if you have little ones who are disappointed about not being old enough to use PS VR, you can share the experience through these special features.

Like any technological breakthrough before it, such as 3D visuals and the aforementioned Wii remotes, it's important to keep in mind some important safety precautions before using PS VR. As outlined in the "What are all the things I need to experience PlayStation VR?" section above, it's particularly important to create a play space around you while using the VR headset and Move controllers. Since you won't be able to see anything but what's on the headset, it's crucial to make sure your movements aren't going to interfere with any nearby people or property.

Secondly, Sony has recommended that PlayStation VR be used only by children ages 12 and up. Similar to age restrictions suggested with 3D products, these recommendations are purely out of concern for how the technology might affect the visual development of a child. It is, of course, up to parents to decide what may or may not be right for their kids.

Taking a Test Run

We hope this guide has been a helpful introduction to Sony's new virtual reality platform. Stay tuned as we cover the launch of the hardware and games. And if you're interested in trying PS VR out before committing to purchasing the device, be sure to see if Sony's holding a special trial event near you.

Source: PlayStation Blog

Tags: games, HDR, Slim, pro, core, Launch Bundle, List, specs, Demo, trial, impressions, Review, Preview, 3D Audio, processor, HDMI, Camera, playstation vr (all tags)