The PlayStation VR headset is an incredible piece of technology, although some of its games may be a bit too simplistic so far.
PlayStation VR was on the floor at PAX East this weekend, and many gamers eagerly awaited their chance to go one-on-one with the futuristic hardware for the first time. Standing in line for my turn, I watched a variety of virtual reality games play out before my eyes. One involved scouring the murky deep in a sea-floor submarine vessel, while another focused on a blistering gunfight in the middle of a high-speed car chase. I had never tried any sort of VR hardware firsthand before, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. But seeing everyone’s heads turning this way and that while dual-wielding Playstation Move controllers, I knew it was going to be something special.
I ended up getting to try a game called Harmonix Music VR. Well, I wouldn’t call it a game exactly, but rather a music and rhythm-based relaxation experience. Basically, all you do is pick a song (or a whole playlist in the finished version) and then settle back and observe your surroundings while listening to your soundtrack selection. So I queued up “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie and was whisked away to a rendering of outer space that quickly descended towards a sunny beach vista.
As I looked around the environment, I noticed little white dots pulsating over certain objects, like a lit torch on the sand or a wooden rowboat shored up in the distance. By focusing my gaze on these objects, I was transported closer to them, opening up subsequent focal points and allowing the scene to really bloom before my eyes. A few objects responded in a spacey swirl of colors that bounced along to the song’s rhythm, and I could always return to my previous view by simply turning my head and looking away.
And that’s really all there is to Harmonix Music VR right now. To be honest, the demo didn’t really make me want to try it again with another song, but I’m sure that will change once other environments become available to explore. I was also told that players will eventually have the option to paint things in the world using a PlayStation Move controller, which may give it some more long-term appeal. Either way, I still feel that Harmonix Music VR will be a go-to app for showing off your virtual reality headset to non-gaming family members. It’s a neat little gimmick and a pretty relaxing way to kick back and listen to some tunes. Just don’t expect a whole lot of depth to the ride, which is understandable at the time, given the newness of it all.
Even though the particular software that I tried was a little underwhelming in the gameplay and visual department, it was still very fascinating to experience virtual reality firsthand, and is something I recommend everyone try if given the opportunity. The headset itself felt snug and secure when I was wearing it, and the inputs seemed very responsive to the slightest tilts of my head and eye movements. If anything, theHarmonix Music VR demo makes me extremely excited to see how this technology will flourish and improve after a few years of active development.
Sony’s PlayStation VR will launch this October and retail at $399.
Joe Jasko is a virtual staff writer.