IGX 2016: The PlayStation VR headset’s potential is wasted on the PS4

The Indian Games Expo (IGX 2016) made its way to India last Saturday, but more importantly, so did PlayStation VR.

With all this hype surrounding VR and hearing tales of it being the best thing to happen since sliced bread, we just had to check out. Luckily for us, Sony brought the PSVR to India and demoed it at IGX.

Let’s start with the headset itself. Looking at the spec sheet, it’s easy to dismiss the PSVR as the budget alternative to the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, and it is exactly that, but it has surprising potential.

Unlike the Rift and the Vive, which are festooned with sensors and require fancy tracking cameras to function, the PSVR uses simple LEDs and the PS Camera to track orientation. If you’re familiar with TrackIR, the PSVR uses a similar system.

The tracking wasn’t as fluid as I’ve experienced on the Vive or the Rift, but it was more than enough for the kind of games on offer.

Tracking aside, my second concern with the PSVR was the screen resolution. The Rift and the Vive both use 2K screens and even then images aren’t very sharp. If you’ve ever tried Google Cardboard with a Full HD screen, you’ll have noticed severe pixellation. The PSVR uses a Full HD screen.

Interestingly, I saw no pixellation whatsoever, which was a pleasant surprise. Sony did say that the PSVR uses three subpixel per rendered pixel vs the two subpixels per pixel on the Rift and the Vive. In effect, this means that Sony’s PSVR is actually rendering a denser image than the Rift and the Vive, making for a perceivably better VR experience.
Sadly, the PS4 itself doesn’t seem to be able to do that amazing headset justice.

Oculus and HTC recommend a pretty beefy system for handling VR. In comparison, the PS4’s graphics capabilities are very tame. In VR, that performance difference is very apparent.

We tried a bunch of games on the PSVR: Drive Club, Batman VR and Resident Evil 7. In all those games, the one factor that stood out was the low resolution of the game. Jaggies and low-res textures were everywhere. It was so bad in fact that it felt like we were watching something like a 360p video on a 1080p screen.

Barring resolution, the experience was pleasant enough. We did have controller and tracking issue in Batman and Resident Evil, but those issues were more down to set up issues than PSVR issues. We also couldn’t try the Move controllers in-game because they weren’t properly set up at the time of the demo.

I only spent a grand total of 20 minutes at most with the PSVR, but those 20 minutes convinced me of two things. The first is that Sony’s done a better job with games and with the headset than either Oculus or HTC. The second is that the PS4 is the wrong console for VR.

I hope the PS4 Pro manages to render higher resolution VR gaming because it would be a shame to waste PSVR on just the PS4.

 

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