I just survived a shark attack. I just stole a priceless diamond in an upscale London heist. I did it with Sony’s new Project Morpheus headset. It’s the best I’ve ever tried.
There are many fancy technological ways Morpheus leapfrogs the competition. The new OLED screen can update at 120 frames per second, making for images that are smoother than anything we’ve seen so far. (The one thing I’ll say is while the OLED’s pixels are a nice inky black when totally off, they shimmer with a weird iridescent effect in scenes that aren’t well-lit.) Thanks to a expanded 100-degree field of view, I didn’t have to worry about much tunnel vision keeping me from fending off British thugs and deep-sea sharks. Nine blue LEDs dotting the frame ensured that when I turned 360 degrees to check out the undersea life behind me, I didn’t get dizzy from the effort.
But I’d be lying if I said they were the reason why Sony’s headset is so excellent. The new Sony Morpheus prototype is the only one that’s completely comfortable to wear.
I don’t think it’s actually as light as the flimsy-feeling Oculus Rift Crescent Bay prototype that blew me away last September. And awkwardly, it doesn’t have headphones built in. But unlike Crescent Bay and every other VR headset that uses elastic bands to oh-so-gently vice grip your head, the Morpheus just rests there. You can cinch up the rear band by rotating a dial, and press a button to release its grip, but honestly the Morpheus is balanced so well you don’t need to tighten extensively.
Silky soft black rubber cushions your nose and blocks out light around your eyes, but again, you don’t need to squish them into your face to get the effect: the entire display just floats in the air right in front of your eyes.
Which also allows the headset to perform a truly awesome trick: you can press a button to pull the display away from your face for a sec so you can see your surroundings, without ever removing the Morpheus from your head.
So what about the games? They didn’t disappoint. The Deep starts as a ho-hum “I’m in a shark cage watching marine life fly by” experience where you just look around a lot, taking in the sights, but soon there’s a deadly shark ripping apart the cage. I flinched. A lot. The demo still didn’t give me any arms and feet, which made for a couple awkward moments when the shark cage shook yet I remained perfectly standing still.
But the piece de resistance, The London Heist — I’d pay $US60 for this to be a full game right now. At first, it too seemed like nothing special, another one of the familiar stationary Oculus-type experiences where I sat tied to a chair as a muscular thug towered over me, threatening torture via third-degree burns from his propane torch.
His smartphone rang, interjecting some welcome comic relief, and I was impressed when I found I could reach out, pick it up out of his hand, hold it up to my ear, and hear the sound follow my hand. (Sony’s been working on positional audio for a while, after all.)
But what got really got my blood flowing was the heist itself. It’s a simple scene, rooting through some desk drawers for a key to a safe — and then a handgun and some ammo clips when you set off the alarm — but the fact that I could just reach out with the PlayStation Move and open those drawers, shove clips into the pistol, and cower behind the desk while taking out guards… it made all the difference in the world.
To feel like you’re actually doing something, instead of just pressing buttons — I want more.
Sadly, we’ll have to wait an entire year for Project Morpheus to become a consumer reality. Save your money, folks.