VR, one year later

I bought my Playstation VR later in the year than I recalled, but I got to try it and started thinking about it earlier. Thus, I feel I can start saying I have been playing VR games for a year pretty much any time I want between now and July.

The vast majority of my time in VR has been on said Playstation VR, but I have also had chances to try the Vive and can play as much as I like with Daydream and Gear VR on a Samsung galaxy S8+.

The Playstation VR is by far my favorite of the platforms. Not just because I have spent the most time with it (although that surely is a big factor too), but because it is so well built for what it is. It may have miles of cables, but it works well and provides a really good experience. When I use the Gear VR or Daydream, they feel in about equal parts like unrealized potential and limited by hardware. The Playstation VR threw in extra cables and demands a decently placed camera, but those things provide value. The Playstation VR is by no means made for walking around like the Vive, but the camera tracking along with the other sensors mean you can lean in to look closer, tilt your head and move to the sides to change perspectives subtly. I think those little things play a huge part in that magical feeling of looking at a miniature landscape which feels physical around you. With the mobile-based platforms, I always feel firmly stuck at one point. Sure, I can look freely in all directions, but the viewpoint remains jarringly stuck whenever I try to lean in. Sure, the feeling of depth is better than when watching a "flat" 360 video on Youtube (it fascinates me how much less immersive they feel), but the Playtation VR is another big step above and beyond.


When I play games, I like to be comfortable and efficient. I prefer tried and true controls with precision which let me sit in any way I like to fun gimmicks. Sure, give me wiimotes, shakes and tilts, but only when they really provide something extra. Thus, another thing I really like about the Playstation VR is the fact games have access to a proper controller and are using it in sensible ways to play really well. I was wondering right from the beginning how to best control first-person VR games, and Doom VFR has proven classic FPS controls work brilliantly and feel great. No need for awkward point-to-point teleportation or other strange limits, free movement works just as well as I always hoped it would.

Isolation mode

Yes, it feels a bit antisocial to shut myself in and play VR when other people are around, but the feeling someone is going to sneak up on you and scare you to death by placing a hand on your shoulder is never there. No more so than when listening to good music in headphones anyway. I almost always play wearing over-ear headphones as well, so I feel I have pushed that limit about as far as it will go.

Retro factors

The other day I found myself sitting on the carpet in front of the TV. Cross-legged, playing an amazingly cozy platformer. In VR. A sort of retro-present wonder-combination. Moss is really a great game, with slightly clunky controls, and totally worth adjusting your setup to play well. So yes, there is another exception to the rule of wanting to be comfortable. Again, sometimes it is worth it.

Polybius was the first game to push the retro-present amazement off the scale for me. It feels so classic, yet at once so totally perfect for VR. And despite being such a simple game at its core, it is undeniably greater and purer in VR than in any other mode.

But it is not alone. Moss is another example, Tiny trax another. Perhaps fear of motion sickness and complex controls brought these things along, perhaps it was something else. In any case, it is surprising how much VR adds even to experiences which are viewing a world from a static position, things which one might expect to play very much the same on a 2D screen. The combination of your head being tracked in 3D along with a proper sense of depth and scale is working its magic.

The mobile options

I probably have not given Daydream and Gear VR enough of a chance. They do have the huge advantage of not tethering me. It is pretty amazing to be able to stand, sit and turn freely. They also both have little remotes which I like surprisingly much.

Unfortunately, that is where the strong points end. I have found fewer things I enjoy, the experiences are clunkier (especially getting the phones in and out of headsets while trying not to hit any buttons), power is more limited, you get temperature warnings and feel the heat on your face … Oh, and no head tracking as I mentioned above.

Land's end was a great experience, very well suited to the medium. You should definitely buy it and play it. But I still would have enjoyed it more on a stationary platform with head tracking.

Is there enough?

I let some friends try VR the other weekend. One comment was "Well, I never want to play games in 2D again." I wholeheartedly agree to that. Given the option, I always pick VR, and I use VR availability as a quick, harsh filter for which games to consider. There are of course exceptions, but it works well for me. Happily there are definitely enough VR games to keep me occupied, especially during my all too frequent gaming lulls. That said, I do want many more. All games should have a VR mode, plain and simple.

Keep in mind that I write this as someone playing on a first-generation Playstation VR connected to a non-pro Playstation 4. With more power and resolution 2D will fall further behind, but even now there is no doubt which I prefer.

(Wipeout gained VR support while I was somehow looking in the wrong direction! And it works! Truly, there is no excuse for any genre not to go VR.)