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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

First Impressions: Playstation VR Skyrim Bundle

For a limited time, you can get the Playstation VR Skyrim Bundle for $334.89. My brother got me one as a late birthday present. This is the bundle to get, because unlike other SKUs, it includes the second generation VR headset, which features HDR passthrough for the day when I get a HDR-capable TV. The move controllers are also improved over the ones I got for the PS3, since they take a microUSB charging port instead of the older mini USB model. It also comes with a camera.

When I built my PC this summer, my initial thinking was that I'd eventually get a VR capable GPU and then run VR through the PC. This didn't pan out, because the cryptomining craze has driven GPU prices beyond what I'm willing to pay. Furthermore, recent announcements (such as for the Fallout 4 VR) now specify that the minimum system requirements are such that you'll need at least a GTX 1070 to run them, with the GTX 1080 as the recommended requirement. The price of such video cards is such that you can buy a PS4, and the PSVR for almost the price of just the GPU alone. And of course, things being the way they are, the requirements will keep ratcheting up. By contrast, the PS4 is a stable platform and content released for it will not require better hardware until the PS5 shows up.

I bought a few games in addition to Skyrim, so I'd have an interesting collection of content to play. All of them cost around $10 or so during the black friday season. And the nice thing about buying discs is that you can resell them if the content isn't what you want. I picked up VR Worlds and Eagle Flight. My Playstation Plus subscription also gave me RIGs and Rush of Blood.

VR Worlds was surprisingly fun, with London Heist being the centerpiece. I think I finally realized how my reaction to a VR goggle was different when I started dodging bullets and flinching. I wonder if that goes away with exposure, but definitely felt different from watching a video. Rush of Blood was surprisingly hard, but also gave me a great sensation of actually being in a roller coaster. While the graphics are definitely dialed back from what the PS4 is capable of when displaying on a regular TV, it's definitely "good enough" for presence.

Eagle Flight was surprisingly disappointing. I felt less like flying than like operating a remote drone. That's because the UI is in conflict with the game design. The UI wants you to turn your head, but the idiot game designers at Ubisoft decided that the game would be more fun if the challenges required you to make tight turns. Because to do so would hurt your neck, they encourage you to tilt your head instead of turning your head to make turns, which is unnatural and difficult to train yourself to do, and results in you not feeling like you're a bird in the sky.

Rush of Blood was fun, but too intense to play in more than short bursts. Skyrim looks like an ultra-long RPG and will take me a while to get around to doing.

I also found the page on the best free apps on PSVR. Both my wife and Bowen enjoyed Invasion (also viewable as a youtube video), the Spiderman: Homecoming experience, and Alumette. What's very apparent with these VR videos is that if something comes within reach, human beings wearing VR goggles will want to try to touch it. Which means that the best true VR experiences are games using the move controllers, not VR videos. There's also apparently a ton of VR videos on YouTube, so lots of free content.

The PSVR social screen is also great. You can have a conversation with the VR user and comment on what they're seeing, since what they're seeing is also projected to the TV, etc. (And as a parent you can monitor your little kid's VR use, not that Bowen's allowed very much of it)

Regardless, the device, while expensive, seems to have a lot of content that's available fairly cheaply, and is surprisingly comfortable to wear and use. If you already have a PS4, picking this up is far cheaper than even buying the cheapest GPU + VR headset available for the PC platform. Clearly this is the way to go, until GPU supply catches up with the apparent infinite demand generated by cryptomining.

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