PLAY LIFE, LIVE GAMES: Old technology holding PSVR back from greatness
I’ve owned a PlayStation VR headset since it released in October 2016. While it has some great games on it, I haven’t been spending a whole lot of time in virtual reality recently.
Part of that is because I have a puppy who likes to chew on cables when he’s not being supervised and it’s hard to keep an eye on your dog when your face is in a virtual reality headset.
The bigger issue has been there just haven’t been a lot of games that have made me want to put the headset back on.
But that is changing this summer.
The next big exclusive for the PSVR, “Iron Man VR,” comes out July 3 and Sony released a playable demo for the title last week.
The game literally puts you in the shoes and iconic armor of Tony Stark as you go on a brand new adventure unique to the game. The demo is very exciting, having you fly around in the Iron Man suit and eventually trying to save Pepper Potts from a crashing plane.
As fun as the “Iron Man VR” demo was (and it was great, the game is a definite buy for me), it also highlights the biggest problem with the PSVR, namely its reliance on the old PlayStation Move controllers.
The PSVR launched on Oct. 13, 2016, at a retail price of $299. To keep the price down, Sony decided against releasing new game controllers designed specially for the VR headset and instead made the headset compatible with their Move controllers, the wand-like motion controllers released in 2009 for the PlayStation 3 to combat the success Nintendo was having at the time with their motion control-based Wii console.
Oculus, by comparison, released the Touch controllers that were designed specifically for their VR headsets, the Quest and the Rift. Each of their controllers, one for the left hand and one for the right hand, has its own analog stick, trigger and two face buttons.
While the Move controllers have a trigger and plenty of buttons, they’re missing the analog sticks, which are crucial for controlling a game with movement in it. The analog sticks are used for controlling your character’s movement in a 3D space. Without them, developers making games that use the Move controllers have to take the traditional control of movement away from the player. Games like “Job Simulator” do this by having all the action confined to a small space while titles like “Until Dawn: Rush of Blood” do it by having all the movement taking place on rails that force the character down one path that speeds up or slows down when the developer has programmed it to.
The way many games, like “Batman: Arkham VR,” get around the lack of analog sticks on the Move controller is by having you point the Move controller where you would like to go and then you instantly teleport you there. But VR is designed to be a more immersive experience than a traditional video game and having to teleport from spot to spot just ruins the immersion for me. Some games get around this by not using the Move controllers at, but instead using the PlayStation 4’s DualShock 4 controller. This solves the movement problem, but it does take away some of the immersion by not having the one-for-one hand tracking that that the Move and Touch controllers offer.
“Iron Man VR” appears to get around this for the most part by keeping you in the air and having the Move controllers control your flight and weapons. But there is one section of the demo where Tony has to move from one side of his plane to the other and this is done with button press that automatically moves you to where you’re supposed to be rather than letting you control that movement directly.
“Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series” is another game I’m really looking forward to being released on the PSVR this summer, but I am worried about how the game is going to control. It was originally released on the Oculus headsets and you had complete control on your character’s movement in the game. I’m not sure how the developers at ILMxLAB have gotten around that with the Move controllers.
The rumor is that Sony is working on a PSVR 2 that will be released at some point during the life cycle of the PlayStation 5. I really hope that’s true because their first attempt at a commercial VR headset has been wonderful despite its limitations. But the next iteration of the hardware must have better controllers for it to truly be worth the price of admission, even if it causes that price of admission to go up.
Dusty Ricketts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is currently playing "Star Wars Battlefront 2," “Friday the 13th: The Game” and “Maneater.” You can find him to play online through his PlayStation Network ID: DustRAG316.