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Sony PlayStation VR review: You know what? Sony did it. The PSVR is actually pretty great

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Sarah Tew/CNET

I do like that the headset has inline buttons to control volume. This is also where you plug in the included earbuds (you can also use your own). It's easy to tangle yourself up in the wires from the buds too, which can be frustrating if you accidentally rip them out.

The controllers and room tracking, as they're currently set up, leave a little to be desired. More often than not, something needs adjusting. The camera seems to have a difficult time tracking movement of the Move wands when you've turned around 180 degrees because the lenses physically can't see them. It feels like the system tries to guestimate where they might be located when out of sight, but we're not entirely sure what's going on in these situations.

Spatial tracking and awareness varies by the game you play, but titles like Super HyperCube and Job Simulator do an impressive job interpreting walking and body movements. The problem is that going from game to game varies. Some software does a much better job than others in tracking you and applying that to the VR world. It's occasionally difficult to know how much space you have to move around so that you don't wander outside the camera's view.

Some titles have you stand and others want you to sit, and then there are others that don't really express a preference. A lot of VR right now is trial and error on the user's end, so expect some finagling regardless of how much space you have to devote to a play area.

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Expect to have to tinker with the camera often.

Sarah Tew/CNET

I also found myself having to swap controllers a lot, which can definitely kill the mood. If you're playing a game with the Move controllers but then need to back out to the PS4 menu to make adjustments, you'll have to fish around for the DualShock4 that's hiding somewhere in your general vicinity. You can use Move controllers to navigate, but they aren't as reliable. It feels awkward, to say the least.

I often felt like I needed a handler -- someone there to spot me and hand me the right controller or grab me so I don't walk into the coffee table. That's kind of the way all full VR is right now, but because the PSVR is shoehorned into an existing platform, there's a sense that this wasn't specifically built from the ground up.

Nevertheless, it's kind of amazing how Sony has essentially retrofitted its PS4 console to work with VR and the collection of peripherals already available for the system. Was it part of the plan all along?

The games

Some games (or experiences) are head and shoulders above the rest, and that disparity is likely to continue as we navigate this mostly uncharted territory.

But overall it's clear that plenty of polish has been added to the group of PSVR launch titles. There's a real sense of production value in nearly everything offered. At the same time, some of these games feel limited in scope, length and substance as opposed to what you get for a standard full-price PS4 game. To reflect that, most PSVR games fall in the $20 to $40 price range, with only a few going up to $60.

In my week of playing with the PSVR, this proportion felt right. I didn't want to be wearing the headset for hours on end, though there are games that let you do so if you wish (though I can't recommend that).

While we didn't have full access to it before review time, Rez Infinite is one of my favorites. I also really enjoyed my time with Job Simulator, Batman Arkham VR and Battlezone, and the London Heist portion of VR Worlds is also a lot of fun too. Each PSVR kit also comes with a disc filled with a handful of demos to give you a broader idea of what's available for the platform.

The future looks promising too. Sony has worked with third-party developers and its own in-house teams to ensure support for PSVR in the months to come. The company has said that 50 VR experiences will be available by the end of 2016 and has boasted that 230 developers are making games. Resident Evil 7 will be fully playable in VR and a sizeable number of standard PS4 games will have VR features or add-ons too.

Now that PS4 Pro is available, we're happy to report that the more powerful console can improve the quality and performance of the PSVR games that support it. Don't expect these improvements to be total game-changers, but titles like Rez Infinite, Battlezone, Thumper and others certainly benefit from the added horsepower. Expect PS4 Pro-supported VR titles to add higher resolutions (capped at 1080p), better framerates, improved textures and clearer text.

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There's a strong sense of stability with the PSVR and the established PlayStation platform. The entire thing could wind up failing, but at least out of the gate there's a solid amount of reliable software to experiment with, a mostly straightforward marketplace and a reasonably user-friendly setup process. For those who want the most uncomplicated full VR experience, the PSVR is the logical choice.

It's also worth mentioning that the PSVR's doesn't only need to be focused on games. It'd be shocking if the platform didn't enter other application areas that VR is currently exploring -- be it real estate, tourism, education or other forms of entertainment.

The case for PlayStation VR

I really like using the PSVR, but I don't know if I'm still in the honeymoon phase. It really depends if more compelling software continues to churn out. As much I enjoy jacking into that false reality, I still find it more relaxing and enjoyable to play a standard video game. It's not that I get motion sick, dizzy or anything like that -- it's that VR is a bombardment of the senses, a lot for your body and mind to deal with. We'll probably get to the point where full VR is just a pair of lightweight eyeglasses, but until that happens I find it best enjoyed in small doses.

Is the PlayStation VR as "powerful" as the PC-based Oculus Rift or HTC Vive? Well, no. The PSVR's single-camera design can't track motion as accurately as the Vive, and the helmet's display resolution is a tad lower than the Rift and Vive, with a slightly smaller viewing angle too (100 vs. 110 degrees). And while the early batch of PSVR games have high frame rates and look shockingly good, you'll note far-off details in vast asteroid belts or how at the bottom of an ocean trench it can become muddy.

But: So what? The PSVR is also far more affordable, has no installation issues or driver problems, and is generally more comfy to wear.

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Do you need a PSVR? Of course not. But it definitely elevates the standard PS4 experience to a whole new level. There is absolutely something remarkable about trying it for the first time. While it's the cheapest full VR around, it doesn't change the fact that it's still an expensive luxury. Sony has done a commendable job at ensuring a promising future for the platform, but there's no absolute guarantee this will remain endlessly supported.

If you've had it in your head that going all-in on PSVR will cost roughly $800, using a PS4 Pro with PSVR will bring the grand total up to $900. Depending on how much of an impact it has on the PSVR, it might be worth waiting for the Pro version if you don't already own a PS4.

Then there's the competition. I've laid out what that looks like at the top of this review, but Microsoft's hand has also yet to be shown. The company remains mostly silent about its VR or AR ambitions, though rumors continue to swirl that Oculus Rift will eventually work with Microsoft's own souped-up console, hitting next year, Project Scorpio. Of course, Microsoft could also be working on its own proprietary hardware, but we don't expect to know for sure until some time in 2017.

But that's far off in 2017. If you want game console virtual reality right now, the PlayStation VR is your only choice. And it's a pretty great one.

CNET's Scott Stein and Sean Hollister contributed to this review.

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