For a few minutes this week, I was The Batman. The Dark Knight. The Caped Crusader.
I threw batarangs through the shadowy streets of Arkham City, I used a forensic analyser to search a crime scene for clues, I tinkled the ivories before descending into the bat cave. I was inside The Batman’s head – and it was awesome.
OK, confession time: I wasn’t really Batman, and I’m not likely to replace Ben Affleck/Christian Bale/Michael Keaton anytime soon, but thanks to PlayStation NZ and its soon-to-be released PSVR headset (which releases this week), I got to pretend that I was Batman playing Batman Arkham VR from developer Rocksteady, and that’s good enough for me.
I’m no stranger to VR headsets – I own a Samsung GearVR – so I knew what to expect in terms of comfort and experience, but despite its somewhat bulky appearance, the PSVR headset is comfortable and super adjustable, so it shouldn’t be a problem getting a good fit. It’ll also accommodate eye glasses, which most other VR headsets don’t cater for.
I did notice that I did sweat a bit while wearing the headset. Maybe that’s a result of all the padding, so keeping a cloth handy would be useful.
In my hour or so hands-on with the PSVR, I played Driveclub VR (it was probably my least favourite VR experience), watched my son’s friend Charlie play Rush of Blood (the on-rails shooter from the makers of the PS4 sleeper hit Until Dawn), watched my son Mitchell shoot pursuers in The London Heist, and I, of course, got to be The Batman, the game that sold me on PSVR being a viable VR platform.
It wasn’t a completely immersive experience: It was slightly disconcerting seeing my hands floating in space in front of me, cut off at the wrists, and when I looked down instead of a body I saw an empty space with a utility belt wrapped around it, but Rocksteady have pulled it off. Pulling the Move controllers triggers clenched my virtual fists, too, meaning that fighting games look a definite possibility with PSVR in the future.
Perhaps the most heart pumping demonstration, though, was Ocean Descent, part of the VR Worlds demos that come with the PSVR. Putting you in a shark cage as it descends the depths of a tropical ocean, it’s a serene scene at first: A turtle swims past, then sting rays glide past, impressively.
The cage descends further, the wreckage of a submarine suddenly appearing into view, resting on sea bed. I turn my head and realise that moving my head moves the headlamp attached (I’m assuming) to my dive helmet. Suddenly, a shadow looms into view: It’s a great white shark.
The shark circles the shark cage, it’s metal frame swaying as the creature buffets it in its wake. The creature disappears then suddenly it reappears, slamming into the shark cage, ripping a section of the door off. I take a step backwards towards the rear of the cage.
Now, let’s examine that statement for a minute: I’m in a room with five other people in an Auckland suburb near the city’s CBD, wearing a VR headset projecting me into a virtual world, yet my brain told me to take a step backwards because a VR shark attacked the VR cage I was standing in. Crazy.
I came away impressed with PSVR after the short time I spent with it. Ultimately, though, I’d like to spent more hours with it to get a real impression of how it is in a real-world environment (ie not in a controlled space).
Would I buy a PSVR based on my short time with it? Perhaps, but part of me still isn’t convinced quite yet that VR is the next big thing in gaming.
Besides, I’m never really a first-adopter of technology so I’d like to see how PSVR does once it’s out in the wild and user feedback comes through before I lay down several hundred dollars on hardware.
I did come away impressed with PlayStation’s answer to VR and I think will be the most accessible mainstream VR platform available but time will tell whether it becomes a must-have VR platform for console gamers. From what I’ve seen so far, it’s half way there.
This week, plenty of PlayStation owners will get the chance to see what it’s all about.
*Thanks to PlayStation NZ for letting me, my son and his friend enter the world of VR using the PSVR. It was much appreciated.