Contrary to 2015, this year’s gamescom was truly flooded by chances to try virtual reality. I can exactly remember last year’s small PlayStation VR booth with only two promotional girls, telling everybody that they shouldn’t even try getting a slot for this highly inquired hardware demo. Fortunately, Sony has put an unspeakable amount of money into exhibition presence, so that this year, almost every single booth of Koelnmesse was provided with the upcoming VR headset. Thus, it was literally impossible to leave the event without actually getting a personal hands-on – or rather a heads-on.
Comfort over all
Revisiting my gamescom Wednesday, it was ridiculous how many VR slots I have booked. Almost all of my appointments needed me to put on a VR headset – something I would have wished for years ago. VR fatigue is a thing, as the experience of entering virtual reality space obviously wears off after some time, especially within the same day. However, this marathon provided me with valuable information for a question I was asking myself all along: Which VR headset is the comfiest? Jumping back and forth from these appointments, I always noticed the heavy pressure when putting on the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift. With the focal point in the front, your forehead is put under a considerable amount of pressure. PlayStation VR uses a clever system featuring a customisable ring, which equally spreads the weight around your head. This can most likely be compared to wearing a hat – no pressure around your eyes. Additionally, I was sweating much less, due to PSVR being that comfortable to my face. Personally, I can see myself having a hardcore VR session with PlayStation’s hardware – using a competitor’s headgear for more than one hour would kill me.
Even though being so comfortable to wear, hardware obviously needs supporting software to persist on the market. This shouldn’t be a problem, as the current software catalogue is amazing. Various companies provide short VR experiences, perfectly tailored for getting into this new form of media. Within a mere hour, I became Batman, visited a Hatsune Miku concert front-row, fought an arena battle inside a mechanic combat unit, travelled back to the dinosaurs, and was chased and murdered in my personal nightmare – now that is something that I wouldn’t have believed a few years ago. The best thing, however, is that don’t necessarily have to pay real money for all of this cool, but short experiences. Many of them come as an extra, so you might already have PlayStation VR games in your collection. Without purchasing a single title, I can anticipate playing Star Wars Battlefront when PSVR launches, while playing free VR parts of Final Fantasy XV and Rise of the Tomb Raider later this year.
I am Robot
There’s two kinds of virtual reality: experience and games. Latter offer value even after multiple uses, so this is where the longevity lies. I’ve had a lot of experiences at gamescom, but only few of them were games. RIGS: Mechanized Combat League is one of the full-priced titles coming to PlayStation VR, and the horror game Here They Lie felt also like it could last a bit longer than the usual VR demo. Both of these actual games almost had me at conceding defeat. I have a pretty strong stomach, but if the match of RIGS hadn’t ended in this very second, I would have removed the glasses and stopped playing. And Here They Lie might be the stupidest concept ever – who uses weirdly altering corridors for a medium that has a history of making people sick? The same goes for RIGS – why does scoring require you to drop from the highest point of the arena to the very bottom of the floor? Don’t get me wrong – I love atmospheric horror and the idea of battling my friends inside of mechs, but weird gameplay decisions make or break the game, especially when it comes to VR. As soon as a game makes you feel nauseous one time, you will never pick it up again. I hope that there’s some kind of learning process involved, so that getting used to these motions is possible. After all, RIGS was my best VR experience yet, so I’m definitely willing to become a better mech pilot.
The future of VR
Many of you might criticise PlayStation VR for its low resolution compared to its competitors, but I’m pretty happy with the decision of making it affordable to aim at a broad audience. Most of the people will have a PlayStation 4 anyway, requiring now major additional purchase or upgrade to a better hardware. PlayStation VR provides a comfortable, affordable and beginner-friendly experience, paving the ground for future iterations and financing development in this regard. I’m happy to back this system by myself, and I’m excited what the future of VR will hold after the last big system’s launch on October 13 of this year.