Hands on: Project Morpheus review

Sony's VR headset promises a whole new world, and it's coming next year

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Our Early Verdict

This version is far better than the older one. Once the few kinks are fixed, this could be the answer to every gamer's dream.

For

  • Very immersive
  • HD display is nice and crisp
  • Compliments existing PlayStation hardware
  • Comfortable

Against

  • Some rough visuals
  • Motion tracking occasionally disconnects

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

GDC 2015 saw the latest announcement revealing the newest evolution of Morpheus. The even better news is 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
HELLO? (I'm using a virtual cell phone here)

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
Almost ready ...

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 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 I've learned over the course of my time trying out different headsets, these more intimate experiences can be the most incredible.

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

Moments later he was waving a blowtorch in my face and I couldn't help but recoil just a bit. Short of feeling the heat against my face, this was about as real as someone thrusting a flesh cooker in your face could get. He then handed me a phone which I picked up using one of my 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, I can understand why putting them in would cause a technical nightmare.

Morpheus

When I held the phone it to the side of my face, the voice from the speaker grille sounded like it was close to my ear - one of those small details that makes all the difference.

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

Instead I found a handgun and some ammo - yes, it really was about to kick off. Suddenly I was 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 I was 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
Pew pew pew

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

It wasn't perfect - I felt like the Eye sometimes had difficulty tracking my movements, especially when I was trying to reload my gun quickly. That may have been due to me kneeling to hide behind a VR desk, making it difficult for the camera to see my 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 me feel sick at all.

The graphics in general were also almost on par with my previous Rift experiences which is impressive considering I was 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 I've had with VR to date. I loved how I wanted to experience something like BioShock Infinite or GTA V in VR, and this demo gave me a little sneak peek of what gaming could be like with FPS type games.

Project Morpheus
Dance little bots, dance!

The other demo I 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. I 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 I could tell the creators had a blast making it. It was reminiscent of an Oculus Rift demo I 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 me. 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 I can see myself feeling pretty dang comfy with a Morpheus on my 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.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.