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PlayStation VR – PAX East 2016 Hand-On Preview

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This year marked Sony’s largest presence at PAX East as they showcased their highly anticipated PlayStation VR headset. During my brief demo, I was able to play 4 different titles, all of which are said to be included in PlayStation VR’s launch window, later this year. But, do any of these games justify that hefty $399 price tag? In my opinion, not really.

Job Simulator

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(Job Simulator, Owlchemy Labs)


Job Simulator
intends to be comedically self-aware and mundane, but it’s misses the mark as it’s both cumbersome to use, and aggressively more boring than it should be. My entire demo consisted entirely of performing insultingly simple tasks given to you by a nearby, floating screen. Unfortunately, nearly all of these tasks, especially “plug in the computer” were frustratingly difficult  to perform with the PlayStation Move Controllers. After spending a full 2 minutes attempting to pick up a plug I accidentally dropped behind the coffee maker. I lost interest and began tossing small objects around the cartoon office. I did appreciate the few obvious nods to Office Space, however the most entertaining part of the demo was that no one seemed to care when I tossed scalding hot coffee into every nearby cubicle.

Rez Infinite

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(Rez Infinite, SEGA)

This was the only demo I played with a PS4 controller and I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that it was the only PlayStation VR demo that made me queasy. Rez Infinite is similar to past Rez titles as the camera floats behind your polygonal protagonist as they highlight targets and string them together for combos, influencing the game’s soundtrack. The only difference in Infinite that I noted was that you could move the cursor around simply by looking around with the headset, in addition to using the left stick. Once I stopped using the left stick and stuck solely to the headset, the feelings of nausea went away. It was kind of neat, but the on-rails formula of Rez felt dated and wasn’t that impressive in VR.

Harmonic Music VR

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(Harmonix Music VR, Harmonix)

While every title I played was more of a demo than a full game, this was more of a glorified interactive Winamp plugin. While the initial menu allowed me to choose a song, I was informed that the final game would allow players to create full playlists and even import their own music. After selecting Darude’s Sandstorm, the obvious choice, I found myself sitting in a desert environment where, by looking around and highlighting a handful of different objects, I would “activate” some different colorful display that would move and gyrate to the music. At any point, I could then look to the side, back out of that particular display, and pick another. Within about a minute I’d already viewed every different type of light show the environment had to offer and found myself more bored than I thought possible while listening to Sandstorm. Unless Harmonix decides to include a bong peripheral, I’d recommend skipping this one.

Headmaster

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(Headmaster, Frame Interactive)

In this demo I found myself standing in front of a goal tasked with heading incoming soccer balls into the goal, or at targets with varied point values. Using no controller at all, aside from the headset, this was obviously one of the more simpler demos, but I found it to be the most enjoyable, perhaps because of my soccer-filled youth. My only complaint with this title was that because of how light the headset was that I had to keep my hands on the headset whilst thrusting my head forward to hit the incoming ball to prevent the headset from sliding off of my head.

(PlayStation VR, Sony)

As I mentioned earlier, none of the demos I tried felt even remotely close to being full, fleshed out games. At best, they felt like proof-of-concept projects, reminiscent of Wii Sports. The headset felt very light and comfortable, but even in each short, 10 minute demo, my face was left sweaty, making me wonder how in the world anyone could wear it for an extended amount of time. And even after adjusting the view slider to every possible position, I was unable to make a completely sharp image, leaving a slight blur over everything. After trying out Oculus, HTC Vive, Samsung’s Gear VR, and now PlayStation VR, I’d rank the experience in 2nd place, just under Vive. I won’t be an early adopter of PlayStation VR, but it does seem to have potential as a viable VR experience, once it finally has it’s killer app, and the price comes down a tad.

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