Hands-on review: Updated: Project Morpheus

E3 2015 hands on

Not much has changed regarding Sony’s last big announcements during GDC 2015 about Project Morpheus, but E3 2015 saw a slew of new games added to the roster.

Most of the games are in pre-alpha stages with the developers hoping to launch at the same time as Morpheus during the first part of 2016.

There’s still no audio input aside from headphones you manually put on, unlike the consumer version of Oculus Rift but the sound is still crisp as ever.

Several of the games I played utilized not only the Move controllers, but a modified PlayStation Sharp Shooter gun and even a bike with sensors.

Project Morpheus

I naturally gravitated toward the bike demo, because I hadn’t seen it before. Created by company VirZoom, the premise of the experience was pretty simple: sit on a bike, put on a Morpheus, pedal, get fit in the VR world. Pretty awesome, right?

There were sensors attached to a bike – which can be placed on a stationary bike or your own personal bike – that wirelessly connect to the headset. Trainers keep your non-stationary bike still so you don’t go flying and will be bundled at an undisclosed price with the sensors – though I was told it would be affordable.

Project Morpheus

The demo on hand involved riding a horse which could turn into a Pegasus if you find wings and then pedaled faster. Being a horse while pedaling is jarring at first but really fun once you get the hang of it. The company will expand and let you be dragons, tanks and a bunch of other random things you wouldn’t expect.

The other games involved the more conventional Move controllers but were still immensely fun and immersive.

Impulse Games wants to make a shooter with the Morpheus and what it has so far is a simple yet enjoyable game where creatures like spiders pop up to attack you. There’s a lot of movement involved and you’re standing the whole time while using the thumbstick on the Move navigation controller to walk around. It’s not as dizzying as it sounds though which was a nice surprise.

Project Morpheus

I did however get a little nauseous playing Battle Zone, a game from Rebellion where you’re in the cockpit of a spaceship shooting at aliens. Turning in virtual reality while actually being stationary wasn’t a particularly pleasant experience – though I felt far worse in EVE: Valkyrie and the Oculus. But the actual game where I was zooming around shooting people was a blast.

London Heist was one of the first Morpheus games I played and really enjoyed. The mechanics of reloading and shooting were the same in the second demo from Heist except I was the passenger in a moving car. There were a lot things you could interact with like opening and closing the door – which made me feel like I was going to fall out of the car – to throwing empty cans of soda around. Shooting thugs was just as fun as I remembered and perhaps even more so because motorcycles were exploding and clips were being used up like crazy.

Project Morpheus

Super Hypercube is a game older than Project Morpheus and has been in development since 2008 but proves the VR headset is great for all sorts of games. Using a DualShock controller, you’re essentially trying to fit cubes into a cutout while more cubes are added as you move through. It’s almost like a horizontal, 3D Tetris with the added difficulty – and fun – of VR.

Aside from mild dizziness, the latency remained good on the other games. I couldn’t detect any jitter and controllers didn’t lose tracking in-game in anything I played.

Early verdict

After experiencing more games on the Morpheus, I’m more convinced we’ll see it sooner rather than later in 2016. Sony already has a leg up on providing motion controllers unlike Oculus’s Touch controllers which are still being developed.

The games on both platforms don’t seem like they’re quite ready yet and I get the sense a lot of companies are scrambling to make polished titles in time for release. However I’m confident that there will be enough titles and more released because VR is definitely the future of gaming.

GDC 2015 hands on

Sony unveiled Project Morpheus at GDC 2014 introducing us to the first real virtual reality competitor to the Oculus Rift.

GDC 2015 saw the newest evolution of Morpheus revealed to the public along with the news that, barring any complications, we’ll be able to own one in the first half of 2016.

Complete with a larger 5.7-inch OLED screen with 1920 x RGB x 1080 resolution, Morpheus 2.0’s leap forward is more notable than it probably sounds. The field of view has been stretched to 100 degrees, and Project Morpheus now supports an impressive 120fps output (a new SDK will let 60fps images output at 120fps, too).

It now also supports 3D audio and has a new feature called social screen, which lets users take the same gameplay they see inside their Morpheus and put it on a TV so other people can play along.

Project Morpheus

The new design is, obviously, the most noticeable part of the Morpheus. It feels far lighter than the Crescent Bay edition of the Rift – and it’s far easier to put on and take off, especially for the glasses-adorned folk. The visor even fits super comfortably over large frames.

The weight distribution of Morpheus makes it much more comfortable to wear than the Oculus Rift and other headsets where you can start to feel some strain around your eyes.

The new edition is even easier to adjust – simply pushing forward with a quick release button on the bottom right of the visor will free it from your face, making making is easy to move to a comfortable spot.

Morpheus

There’s a new single band too, which again helps with putting on and taking off the headset. Looking down might require a slight readjustment though, but on the whole it feels nice and secure – more so than the latest iteration of the Oculus Rift.

Project Morpheus

Three additional LEDS have been added on for a total of nine altogether – three can be found on each side, one on top and bottom, one smack dab in the middle of the faceplate, and two lights on the very back. All this is supposed to help improve tracking accuracy which it definitely seemed to do.

Morpheus

The game Sony is proudly showing off for Morpheus v2 is The London Heist, and, honestly, it might be the best VR experience yet. This is far more contained than many of the intergalactic space games and open environments that VR has been used for so far, but as we’ve learned over the course of our time trying out different headsets, these more intimate experiences can be the most incredible.

The game began with us sat on a chair opposite a man – who can be best described as a "London geezer" – began barking demands at us.

Moments later he was waving a blowtorch in our face and we couldn’t help but recoil just a bit. Short of feeling the heat against our cheeks, this was about as real as someone thrusting a flesh cooker in your face could get. He then handed us a phone which we picked up using one of our virtual hands, both of which are controlled by the Move controllers. Those hands are noticeably detached, and while the lack of arms breaks the immersion a bit, you can understand why putting them in would cause a technical nightmare.

Morpheus

When we held the phone it to the side of our face, the voice from the speaker grille sounded like it was close to our ear – one of those small details that makes a remarkably big difference.

The next thing we knew we were teleported to a large room. There was a large desk in front of us, and a sense that something about about to kick off. This is where the demo started to pick up, as we were tasked with rummaging through the desk draws for a diamond. Using the Move’s trigger we were able to create a clasping motion with our hand, which allowed us to pick up a torch and start rooting for the treasure.

Instead we found a handgun and some ammo – yes, it really was about to kick off. Suddenly we were aware of approaching enemies and it was time to lock and load. Grabbing the gun with one hand and a magazine clip with the other we were able to slot it in and load the weapon. It truly was one of those moments where you realise that VR is here to stay.

Project Morpheus

As the enemies starting coming in we were able to duck behind the desk for cover. Every time we sprang up we were taking down baddies (although we might have been the bad guy, we’re not certain) with lifelike precision.

It wasn’t perfect – we felt like the Eye sometimes had difficulty tracking our movements, especially when trying to reload the gun quickly. That may have been due to us kneeling to hide behind a VR desk, making it difficult for the camera to see our hands.

Sony claims latency issues have been addressed. It was hard to tell with this demo since it was a straightforward shooter but ducking down to avoid being shot, looking down to reload and then quickly looking up to shoot didn’t make us feel sick at all.

The graphics in general were also almost on par with my previous Rift experiences which is impressive considering we were actually interacting with the environment around me instead of just looking at things.

Morpheus

The experience as a whole was quite incredible, and probably the most immersive we’re had with VR to date. It made us want to experience something like BioShock Infinite or GTA V in VR, and this demo gave us a little sneak peek of what gaming could be like with FPS type games.

Project Morpheus

The other demo we tried involved a PS4 Dualshock controller and those little guys from Sony’s augmented reality game, The Playroom.

The first part involved using the Dualshock controller to interact with the little bots. Pressing circle made music come on and cause the bots to dance, X shined a flashlight on their little faces (supremely annoying them) and so forth.

The coolest part of this demo was seeing the controller actually in virtual reality, as in whatever buttons you pushed, the VR controller would respond in sync.

Morpheus

The light on the controller also serves a tracking point so turning it around in your hands simultaneously turned it virtually – so what you’ll see is a PS4 controller floating in front of you to help guide you. You can see this being an interesting addition to future games as it should help you feel less weird using a controller in VR.

The second part of the demo was a real treat, and we could tell the creators had a blast making it. It was reminiscent of an Oculus Rift demo we tried at CES where you’re basically observing a little scene. In this case, the experience involved peering into a little dollhouse with a bunch of rooms full of AR bots as they fought over sodas, had their own Morpheus experiences, swam in a pool and more. No direct interaction or controller was used but some bots would wave and turn their heads to stare at you. One was even flying a tiny DJI drone in your face, snapping pictures which made me want to keep swatting my hands around, but of course, there was nothing there.

Hearing the 3D sound from the drone felt like it was seamlessly coming from all around us. This was the case with the previous demo too, where shooters would be placed in different locations.

Early verdict

The newest Project Morpheus is magnificent. There seem to be a few minor hiccups to sort out but it feels like the hardware is solid, and far more comfortable than a lot o VR headsets out there which is huge. No one wants to wear something bulky and restraining for more than an hour, but we can imagine you’d feel pretty comfy with a Morpheus on your noggin.

The Crescent Bay edition of Rift is equally spectacular in usage compared to Project Morpheus but it doesn’t provide any real game demos to show off how well it does with interactive experiences. Granted, the Oculus team seem more keen on providing immersive experiences without peripherals opposed to full on games.

This is where the Morpheus has the edge. Its proven itself a real contender for virtual reality in your living room thanks to the incorporation of the Move controllers and the PlayStation Eye. As for The London Heist, well, you’ll have to try that for yourself to see what we’re raving about. But it’s truly something special.

Read on for in-depth coverage on Project Morpheus, or if you’re in the mood to read Cameron Faulkner’s impressions, who nearly flipped his lid upon first trying it, check that out here.

Previous Project Morpheus hands ons

Additional hands on reporting by Hugh Langley and Nick Pino

When the creator of Oculus Rift told us that he didn’t think consoles were fit for virtual reality, I wondered if he might have a point. But as is the way with VR, seeing is believing, and having taken Morpheus for a spin there’s no longer a doubt in my mind: virtual reality on the PS4 is going to be amazing.

Morpheus is in prototype right now. Sony told us that the final product will probably be quite different in both look and specs, but the current headset looks pretty damn slick nonetheless.

It certainly feels more "finished" than Oculus; not only does the main eyepiece look like a polished product, there’s a dynamic plastic headstrap to boot. Getting it to fit wasn’t too difficult and the headset felt secure enough for the purposes of the demo.

However it does feel like the weight balance needs addressing, and Sony will want to relocate some of those wires that I kept almost chewing on.There’s also the tiniest of space near the bridge of your nose. It’s not too distracting from the overall experience and, during the more intense sensations, served as an easy reminder that my feet are still planted safely in reality.

Project Morpheus

Morpheus hits the ground running with a 1080p display – some of you will never know the nausea that an SD screen with lag can induce. We asked Sony if its God of Dreams might end up in 4K however it didn’t sound promising. As it is, Morpheus is satisfyingly crisp, but I did notice the occasional jaggedly-rendered object and felt the odd frame rate stutter. It’s the same stuff we’ve seen with Oculus.

Morepheus’s 90-degree field of vision does lose out to Oculus’s 110 degrees but this is hardly noticeable – and likely to change come the final product.

Morpheus

Lost in space

The first game I tried was space simulator Eve: Valkyrie. Already a fan of Strike Suit Zero on the Oculus Rift, I was reasonably prepared for what was about to come.

Hurtling through space, admiring the view of giant ships as you pass under them, dodging your way through asteroid fields – this is exactly the kind of stuff we all dreamed about when we were younger.

Morpheus

And even though I’d experienced space in VR before, there were a couple of barrel rolls that sent my stomach spinning.

It’s clear that some people are more prone to feeling physically affected by VR than others, but the clarity and low latency of Morpheus in its current state mean the risks of nausea are low. I felt ok during my 10 minutes with Eve, but like I said, there were a couple of hairy moments.

Morpheus

Beyond the sea

But as great as space was, it was exploring the ocean depths that really set the pulse racing. The Deep, Sony’s second demo, was a perfect tease at what’s possible when you wed VR and horror.

The game begins with you in a diving cage, floating near the surface of the ocean. What was different about this experience was that I was standing up so the game needed to account for this. Sure enough, when I squatted down I noticed my virtual legs bent at the same time, a feat made possible by the motion tracking.

Morpheus

It’s these little touches that help make the experience that bit more immersive. As I sunk further down to the ocean depths, it became clear that I’d made an enemy among the aquatic wildlife as a shark began circling my cage.

The Deep wasn’t a very interactive experience. I could look around me was holding a flare fun that would move with my real hands thanks to the motion-enabled Dualshock 4, however there were a couple of moments where I "broke" the connection between my real hands and my virtual ones.

As it turned out, the flare gun was about as effective as a bacon sandwich when the shark started ripping into the cage. But it was fantastic way to experience VR, especially with the lack of any form of HUD.

It was just me, under water, face to face with Jaws. And for a couple of brief moments it was absolutely terrifying.

Morpheus

Street Luge

Where The Deep represented pure fantasy as only a faux-holodeck experience could provide, the Street Luge stood out for its ability to make me cringe, wince, yelp and ultimately feel like I was on a roller coaster without the intense wind and bodily sensations.

It started slow, allowing me to get used to the controls – lean left to drift left, lean right to go right. Then came my first car. I dodged left and, in doing so, earned a small speed boost. There was a timer ticking in the corner of my screen that I hadn’t noticed before; this was one of virtual reality’s first time trials.

More cars came and went as I slowly became comfortable balancing the hardware that was secured around my head and the bodily sensations I was starting to feel. I could look straight up at the clouds and left and right over the mountainside. If I hadn’t been sharing the road with sedans and semi-trucks this would’ve been a relatively zen-like experience. Alas.

Project Morpheus Luge Demo

The crowning moment came when, unable to dodge left or right, I slid unscathed between an truck’s wheels and looked up into its undercarriage. When I did eventually crash, however, the screen briefly flashed red before I slowed down some – there were no gruesome, Tomb-Raider-getting-impaled-on-a-tree-branch moments here.

I crossed the finish line with two minutes and thirty two seconds on the clock. Not bad for my first downhill run.

Morpheus Castle

The final demo was called Morpheus Castle, a smack-’em-up that served to demonstrate how Move can be used so brilliantly with Morpheus. You may have forgotten about Sony’s Wiimote rival, but these glowy sticks may be about to have a serious comeback.

By pressing the back triggers you’ll curl your fingers into a fist. Extend them rapidly and you’ll throw a punch. Because the PS Camera can track your position in a room, you’ll be able to walk a few feet forwards and backwards – but not very far left or right.

You’re asked to punch a hanging dummy. Complete the task and you’re rewarded with your first weapon, a sword. I held the trigger on the back of the Move and I was able to cast the sword in huge arches, eventually lopped off the poor dummy’s arms, legs and head.

Morpheus Castle

This was a smooth, seamless experience and gave me hope that the Star Wars game we’ve always dreamed of – the one where lightsaber duels are not only plausible, but an enjoyable part of the game – are within arm’s reach. (See what I did there?)

Next I grabbed a mace that, when extended, felt the force of gravity and hung low on its chain. I swing it a few times to get some momentum going and before long was using it to dismember a newly furnished foe.

After which was a crossbow demo, the least exciting part of my experience. I didn’t need to hold down a button in the back this time and was only required to press the trigger when I had lined up a shot. The arrow tended to curve down and, while realistic, it felt a little unfulfilling in a so-far, so-good demo.

But as with the flare gun in The Deep, there was occasionally a disconnect between my virtual and real hands. There are clearly some technical boundaries when it comes to body motion with VR, and making them harder to break will be key to immersion.

Like the Playstation camera and the Dualshock 4’s tracking blue light, Move suddenly makes a lot more sense with Morpheus. Sony’s master plan is coming together.

YouTube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7OQtByjyD-4

Early verdict

The most frustrating thing about VR right now is trying to convey it with words. You really do have to see Project Morpheus (and, indeed, Oculus Rift) to believe it.

There’s still work to be done – edges were rough and objects seemed a little less than their HD display – but Sony is clearly determined to iron these out before it comes to market.

When that might be is hard to say. But take Morpheus for a spin and I guarantee you’ll be as excited as I am for what virtual reality will offer. This is the missing piece of the PS4 puzzle, and it’s a big one.

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