PlayStation VR Launch Bundle
- Street Date:
- October 13th, 2016
- Reviewed by:
- Brian Hoss
- Review Date:1
- October 19th, 2016
- Game Release Year:
PlayStation VR Launch Bundle reviewed using a standard PS4. The Launch Bundle includes the VR headset, Processor Unit, cables, stereo headphones, 'PlayStation VR Demo Disc,' PlayStation Camera (new style), two PlayStation Move motion controllers, and the 'PlayStation VR Worlds' game disc. As reviewed, the digital 'PlayStation VR Demo Disc' was used along with the 'PlayStation VR Worlds' disc and a mix of other launch software. Some 2D content was tested with Cinematic Mode on the PS4, and some just by hooking the headset up to other HDMI devices. Other headphones were also used for parts of the review session along with an older PS Move controller.
2016 has, in some ways, been the year of VR. With an assortment of major VR platforms being officially launched for consumer enjoyment, VR has arrived many, and there are both exclusive and shared aspects for each headset on the market. Sony's PlayStation VR is, as it was under the codename "Project Morpheus" meant specifically for use with the PS4 (as well as the slimmer PS4, and PS4 Pro). To go with the headset and the PS4, Sony has tapped into an assortment of PlayStation accessories to make their VR experience possible. Chief among these are the PlayStation 4 camera and the DualShock 4.
And in fact, the onetime PS3 hot flash, the PS Move, returns with the Move controllers functioning as touch style controllers in certain PS VR titles. The PlayStation VR Launch Bundle bundles the headset with a camera, two Move controllers, and two game disks. A stereo headset and a mess of cables complete the package, and along with a PS4 and TV, the Launch Bundle has everything needed to jump in feet first into the launch of the PlayStation VR.
PlayStation VR & the PS4
Both the PlayStation VR and the rest of this current wave of VR headsets have been a long time coming. I've been using this stuff at various events and other demonstrations for years, and have had my own hardware for almost as long. In fact, much of what comes with the PlayStation VR launch bundle in terms of software (and there is a lot), I had played in what feels like ages ago, and certainly in 2016. That puts me in line for being both less wowed and less caught off guard by this final hardware and launch slate. But before I go off onto too many tangents, I want to make clear that for owners and users of the PS4, the software side of PlayStation VR is basically a snap. Installing and running PS VR games is easily as familiar as running any countless number of regular PS4 titles. Whether off disc or from the store, PS VR games are bought, downloaded, and installed just like any other PS4 game.
So the PlayStation VR is, as it really always had been, a PlayStation 4 accessory. That in turn makes the Move controllers an accessory of an accessory, and the "optional" nature is too often quite clear. (Such as in the 'PlayStation VR Demo Disc' menu, which doesn't respond to the Move controllers.) But when bringing the software line-up into the equation, Sony has to be very happy. After years of public and private development, there are several highlights, and the sources include Sony's own development talent, indie developers, and long-standing big-name developers.
I am quite guarded, and I would recommend that any users be very guarded with future expectations for PS VR titles. Still, on the early edge of the holiday season, Sony has multiple PS VR compatible titles worth being excited about, and though the hardware price is steep for the console space, Sony and the partners have done a great job in making sure that PS VR buyers can at least get a taste of what is on tap softwarewise.
On its own, the 'PlayStation VR Demo Disc' includes several excellent vignettes. The PS VR compatible 'Thumper' and 'Rez Infinite' are only not respectively quite excellent, but by offering both 2D support and VR support, these games illustrate exactly how what is added with a Camera-tracked VR headset. I'm a big fan of fight sticks and steering wheels, among other important peripherals, but playing 'Thumper' in PS VR is so good that it not only banishes (momentarily) all the PS VR annoyances, it feels a bit like playing some kind addictive 1980's movie video game such as 'the Bishop of Battle.' I felt deeper into the game than I should expect to be for a rhythm title, or even anything shy of an intense RPG.
And speaking of steering wheels, the 'Driveclub VR' demo, was a shock. In PS VR, it comes across as blurry, and outright a ugly shadow of its 2D origins. And yet, with PS VR, and the realized ability to do what I had never managed to do in racing game- look side to side in a natural and helpful matter- had me enthralled. With that one addition, that change in effective prospective and depth, and suddenly 'Driveclub' isn't just another racing game to me.
Indeed, piloting some kind of vehicle, or even some king of mech, is a real go-to for PS VR. The 'RIGS' demo is another taste that left me wanting more. It isn't the best aim via eyesight experience I've played in VR, but it nevertheless had me feeling like I was controlling an agile machine while playing a violent but sporty team competition. In no time I was shooting opponents while running up in overdrive to drop through the ring and score.
Not every experience soared. Playing 'GNOG' was like some sad phone game. I felt embarrassed while walking and warping in circles in 'Here They Lie.' And I know I've played better demos of 'Wayward Sky.'
The Motion of the Ocean
This brings me briefly to an interesting concern for PS VR, and that would be motion sickness. There's something about the camera moving me while I'm not in control, or else a combination of my own movement and a floating sensation that gives me an odd feeling. It's akin to that first jolt of a clunky elevator in real life, but in whatever PS VR title I have tried thus far, that sensation is there and gone so fast. I continued playing games like 'Battlezone' without any issue beyond that initial, momentary "oh" sensation. I realize that this is something that will effect everyone differently, but for me, it feels like I've been playing video games for so much of my life, I'm insulated from this potential motion sickness issue. For every excellent 3D space where I wanted to reach out my controller-less hand a grab at a virtual item, a crazy lets hop this mech around a no right side up outer orbit spaceship wreck ('PlayStation VR Worlds' – 'Scavengers Odyssey') wasn't able to give me any kind of motion sickness pause. This is immersion greater than what I am used to, but it's not too much to handle the relaxing confines of home.
And let me back up to those intangible 3D spaces. Here is another mark of progress. Playing something like the free 'The Playroom VR' and wanting to reach my hands out and grab the little bots, or bot mice, or cool figures from the prize machine, it's like, I have no doubt that I'm playing a game with very specific control methods (head movements, controller input), and yet I don't even feel that foolish when grasping for something in the game. As someone who plays games all the time, often with an extra helping of scrutiny, focus, and buying-into enthusiasm, I can't remember ever wanting to grab something in 3D with my bear hands. Not even with my first Oculus headset and the wow that was 'Minecraft.'
If it's not clear by now, using the PlayStation VR is typically done while sitting and using a normal PS4 controller. Even bringing the Move controllers in, it's is still typically a sitting down, face-forward experience. There are some exceptions, 'Job Simulator' has the player standing up and moving in a 360 direction. 'Headmaster' has the player heading soccer balls by way of the using the headset, but still sitting down. And 'Harmonix Music VR' allows for some free drawing in 3D space in its easel mode.
Even so, the PS VR could really use something like the Vive's Chaperone system. This would allow the user to get an overlay of the surrounding physical environent. (This would be especially good when putting down the PS4 and picking up those Move controllers while they are all plugged in and charging.)
Still, by keeping the PS VR experience closer to an augmented PS4 experience, the PS VR feels more grounded. It's something that in a long weekend of playing on the PS4, there could be sessions with the PS VR titles mixed in with regular PS4 games. It isn't a VR or nothing approach, and that may make big games that have a bonus VR mode, more attractive.
Using the headset does require a mess of cabling. The Processor Unit requires that six cables be connected in order to use PS VR and that doesn't count the camera which is connected straight to the PS4, the stereo headphones that are connected to the PS VR incline controls, or any of the USB charging cables needed by either the DualShock 4 or Moves. The Processor Unit connects to the PS4 by way of a micro USB cable and a HDMI cable, to a power outlet by way of small AC adapter, and then to the TV by HDMI. That leaves a large two into one cable which connects by HDMI and a proprietary connector from the front of the Processor Unit to the headset's own two into cable.
Where these two mighty cables connect there is square box (its fixed on the end of the big floor cable). This little box is great for me in that I can disconnect the headset from it, and then roll the big floor cable out of the way. Assuming that I don't plan to use HDR on the PS4, I can leave everything else connected. (Except for the headphones, of course.) What I hate about this little box is that it tends to get caught on things.
And wow, was it a long and a tricky road from opening the box to getting comfortable with PS VR. I wrote about many of my issues here, so I'll skip ahead to some conclusions. First up, my headset required some break-in. What that means is the forehead pad in the front, and the rubber retention bands in the headband were much more stiff than what I was used to with demo units. I would even have the cable bunch up on left when donning the headset, and this never happens now. (It just seems to work as intended now.) The fit issues had made getting a clear picture difficult and frustrating. Ultimately, I needed to clean the lenses (a cleaning cloth is included), and do the eye measurements via the camera and PS4 settings, move the camera below the 65" display and in front the center speaker, and get a chair so that I could sit closer to the camera than my couch. Also, while bright, intense lights and reflective surfaces will throw off the camera, a completely dark room (or lit via TV) won't work well either. The camera needs some overhead, out of view light in order to work best.
For anything that really makes use of the VR, I would insist on connecting headphones to the headset's 3.5mm jack, which is located on its inline control. I tried using a few cans, like an Audio-Technica ATH-M50x, but I disliked how the earpads need to go over the headset's headband. To help me focus on one issue at a time, I used the included stereo headphones (which are equivalent to $15 Sony earbuds) for a time. Eventually, I grew tired of the inexpensive sound, and the short left ear, and swapped in a pair of beyerdynamic iDX 120 iE.
Opting for the in-ear headset, I went ahead and used my AVR's standby passthrough. That left my display with little to do as I was immersed in the headset, but there is another wrinkle. While it's easy to write off the traditional home theater roles, there were plenty of times when I had spectators and even local co-op and versus players (using controllers and the TV). So even with my insisting on using the 3D audio function to increase my immersion and enjoyment, there were times when I needed both the sound of the room and the home theater speakers in addition to the headphones.
Sony was very wise to encourage a simple spectator mode called the Social Screen. For the most part, this is just a 2D version of what the headset is showing being simulcast on the TV, but in some case, the TV has a more tailored function, such as in the 'The Playroom VR' games. This really helps because not only are kids 12 and under a no-go for the headset, but really anyone who can't handle 3D or IMAX or other trickier formats can watch and when necessary turn away.
There are other things to note about PS VR. For one thing, I would really like it if games that support PS VR and games that support Move controllers stood out better on the PS4. Taking out and powering up two PS Move controllers, only to find that the game in question doesn't use them, is a bit annoying. Meanwhile, games that do support Move seem to prompt that option (if optional or mandatory) at different times. (Like after and long intro, such as in 'Until Dawn: Rush of Blood.')
I made great progress in getting comfortable with the headset, but it still falls short of ideal. I still have random drift, and at times I can't correct it just by holding down the Options button. The edges are always less sharp than the center of the screen, but the upper left corner is extra troublesome. I don't wear glasses, but the headset allows for it. That is a good thing, but I can't help but wonder if I would get a clearer picture with a more specific fit.
When using the headset and wanting to check my phone or even peek out and grab a tipped soda, the front part of the PS VR can quickly be loosened, which grants some visibility. This opening doesn't really let me say, drink from a cup without it being awkward, but fortunately a straw fixes that issue. (Again, PS VR could really use something like the Vive's Chaperone system.)
I can now see that Cinematic mode is for more than just using the menu. It's a workable way to use regular 2D games and other media on the PS4. It's not at all sharp enough for me to want to do this, but at least with PS VR, the headset is light and breathes well. I did circumvent the PS4 and use the PS VR with my Uverse cable box to watch some NFL Redzone. The result was, I suppose, even better than just workable. No audio is carried to the headset this way, but surely another workaround for audio would be possible any number of ways, such as the optical out. (I did have to connect the PS VR Processor Unit directly to the cable box. Connecting the Processor Unit to the cable box by way of the AVR did not work.)
The PS VR has its own firmware, and my first working connection prompted me to update the headset from 1.50 to 2.00. The update worked much like when updating the PS4. I mention it here because it is possible at some future point that firmware update might prevent this other HDMI 2D functionality.
In addition to not being able to pass HDR, it's galling that PS VR headset doesn't support 3D Blu-ray or 3D display games. I did watch some non-game VR content on the 'PlayStation VR Demo Disc,' which was interesting and showed some potential, but couldn't really hold my attention versus the game content. (In contrast, the free 'Hatsune Miku' concert snippet was another surprise.)
I'm going to go into the 'PlayStation VR Worlds' content more in a separate review (see here), but I can certainly say that I'm glad it was included in the bundle. The extra $100 of the Launch Bundle gets the buyer a new style camera, two new Move controllers, and 'PlayStation VR Worlds.' The camera is a must, but the Move controllers and 'VR Worlds' disc are only good value for those ready to go all-in. Aside from some different text in the small print area, the PS Move controllers appear to be identical to the one I've had since way back in the PS3 era. I wouldn't want a questionable Move controller from a second hand junk bin, but my old controller works just as well as the new ones, which still use mini-USB for charging. (Too bad the Nav controller isn't also supported. Its analog stick and d-pad are much missed.)
Another slick choice with a big payoff by Sony is the implementation of the Share button. It works just like in regular PS4 content, and it captures in 2D. On the Move controllers, the Select button on the left side serves as the Share button.
The PS4 ecosystem, PS VR ergonomics, and some wonderful and accessible (free) launch titles and demos have made the PlayStation VR a success at launch. Sony has a sizzling product for those among us who are desirous of new tech, and yet, it's a try-before-buying situation in large part because of the unsteady screen, finicky camera tracking, and big buy-in. The Launch Bundle proved to be a smart choice for me, but as with the headset itself, long term success will require a steady stream of games for a hungry audience.
- 5.7” 1920 x 1080 OLED RGB Display with 960 x1080 in stereoscopic 3D
- 90Hz or 120Hz (app dependent)
- LED tracking
- Motion sensors
- 3D Audio via 3.5mm stereo headphones
All disc reviews at High-Def Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More
about our gear.
Puzzled by the technical jargon in our reviews, or wondering how we assess and rate HD DVD and Blu-ray discs? Learn about our review methodology.