PlayStation VR is its own worst enemy.
Sony's new-fangled head-mounted display and the bits and pieces that make it run feel like a forced collision between the past and the present.
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The headset is definitively a product of the Now: it's sleek, it's space-age, and it's lightweight in your hands and on your head, but not in a cheap or flimsy way.
The peripherals that the headset relies on, however, are firmly rooted in the Before. The PlayStation Camera — which tracks your physical movements — got a refresh with the PlayStation 4's launch, but it wasn't built for VR... and it shows.
The Move controllers that serve as your virtual "hands" have the same problem. They're the just the old PlayStation 3 controllers that launched in 2010, repackaged and sold for VR. They don't play nice with PS4 in a variety of ways, and aren't even recognized as controllers.
Sure, the head-mounted display is a pretty piece of technology. It also accommodates glasses-wearers better than any of the other available headsets, which is no small thing.
Put it on and the inner elastic straps form a snug, reasonably comfortable fit around your dome. The sliding eyepiece — which pulls away from your face with the press of a button — is a lovely touch, making it easy to step out of VR and peer back into the real world. In 20-minute-or-less bursts, PSVR puts on a good show.
In short: it makes a killer first impression.
Image: Mashable/Dustin Drankoski
Stick around for longer sessions, and the faults start to manifest. The HMD's tension-based straps dig in uncomfortably. The rubberized forehead padding, while easy to clean, doesn't breathe well and is a magnet for sweat.
Really, PSVR is like any other VR headset in 2016. It's comfortable enough at first, with some unique perks that help it to stand out against the competition, but it doesn't hold up very well over long play sessions.
That's okay; you're not meant to binge on VR the way you do with Netflix or Destiny . But the time you do spend on the inside should at least be pleasant. Unfortunately, PSVR's two key peripherals disrupt that.
The camera is inconsistent, and too reliant on ideal lighting and positioning. Where the two chief competitors are relatively plug and play with regards to their sensors, with PSVR you've got to recalibrate before and even during (when you switch games) virtually every session.
Even when properly calibrated, the camera isn't reliable. At one point during a Batman: Arkham VR session, I stood motionless and stared into a virtual mirror while my virtual arms twitched and bent back on themselves as the camera struggled to locate the Move controllers I was holding.
During another session, at a different time of day — important to note, since too much natural light can influence the camera — I was playing Destiny inside PSVR on a virtual 2D screen. The game itself ran well enough, but the virtual screen kept shaking and shifting as I turned my head. It was the camera, struggling to locate the HMD.
That sort of inconsistency shatters the sense of immersion — what VR nerds call "presence" — which is so vital in a virtual space. You are constantly being shaken out of the illusion and, worse, those disruptions pave the way to eye strain and nausea.