Without any shadow of a doubt, the biggest question we received after publishing our PlayStation VR review this week pertained to Cinematic Mode, the feature which allows you to play non-virtual reality games inside the headset on a simulated cinema screen. But what features can you use in this mode – and how do they work?
Because the Cinematic Mode essentially replaces your television, there are no limitations to what you can do while using it
If you haven't already booted into a game when you switch on Sony's cutting edge facemask, then you'll enter Cinematic Mode immediately; the platform holder allows you to browse the console's user interface using the aforementioned virtual screen. By holding down the PlayStation button you can select what size display you'd like: Small, Medium, or Large.
The smallest option feels like a postcard in the centre of the headset, and it's mapped to the motion sensors on the device, meaning that if you look around, the virtual display will follow your gaze. Medium, meanwhile, feels like your standard static cinema screen, while large is so big that it will exceed your peripheral vision. Medium's the default setting, and for good reason.
Because the Cinematic Mode essentially replaces your television, there are no limitations to what you can do here. We didn't try Blu-ray or DVD playback, but both Netflix and the BBC iPlayer (along with any other media apps you use) work without an issue. The same applies to the web browser, and non-virtual reality games.
We played a bit of Street Fighter V on the headset and it worked absolutely fine, running at 60 frames-per-second without any perceivable lag, and correctly simulating the scale of a cinema screen. The problem is that the resolution of the headset – which splits 1080p between your eyes – is not as sharp as what you'll be used to on your HD or 4K television screen.
Sony could have gone the extra mile and rendered a virtual space for you to sit in, but instead you essentially exist inside a giant black hole
And this flaw extends to everything that you choose to do in Cinematic Mode. We booted up the web browser and took a tour of Push Square, and while everything operated fine in virtual reality, we found the text a little difficult to read. Watching television is probably where this feature will excel, but still you're going to make sacrifices in image quality.
It's a little barebones, too – Sony could have gone the extra mile and rendered a virtual space for you to sit in, but instead you essentially exist inside a giant black hole. The 3D audio does function, but not in the same way as in a virtual reality game, because it's merely simulating a single, forward-facing sound bar, rather than a 360-degree stage.
So, if you're thinking of buying PlayStation VR as a kind of personal display, we wouldn't recommend it. It's good that the Japanese giant's included the option, and some of you may get use out of it for Netflix and other media-based apps, but for playing non-VR games, it's not a particularly amazing solution. It's the true virtual reality experiences that you'll want to own this accessory for.
Will you be using Cinematic Mode on your PlayStation VR headset, and what for? Is this feature a major selling point for you, or are you buying the headset primarily for its virtual reality functionality? Take a seat in the back row via the comments section below.
The idea sounds pretty awesome to me. Slap on a good pair of headphones and you've essentially got a cinema to watch and play your entire game/bluray library in.
It sounds a little disappointing, I have the Gear VR and there are several options for watching movies from a cinema screen to the moon or on a giant mobile phone as if you were an ant. Watching Netflix is even better in a virtual living room, sitting on a sofa but it's a bit weird when you here voices in the real world and look around and wonder why you can't see them. It's nice Sony has included it but it seems like they could have done a bit more with it
@carlos82 They'll probably update it over time. I wouldn't be surprised if they added "virtual" environments.
I'm VERRRRRRRRRRY glad they didn't add a virtual environment. To me, that would just be annoying/distracting.
EDIT: If anything, I'd like to be able to turn off head tracking and just have a fixed screen with true surround sound.
@get2sammyb yeah probably, it still creeps me out when the Mrs touches me and I look around and can't see anyone. I've got a baby on the way so had to choose between VR and Pro and went for the latter for my new 4k TV, but will definitely be picking VR up when she goes back to work and in the meantime I get to enjoy your articles on it
Thanks for going into more detail on this, Sammy.
It's a bit of a shame this isn't impressive as I was hoping this would be a nice bonus feature to use every once in a while.
Its does not have the vitrual space because the PS4 can not basically handle it. Whether that will change with the PS4 is open to debate.
A bit of a shame they don't have more non- (VR) gaming features at launch tbh.
So if I'm correct I still need the camera with the medium and big screen mode, but not with the smaller screen? I want to use it to watch Netflix or Blu Rays lying down, but if it's needs the camera to project the image in front of me, I won't be able to do this.
There's definitely going to be films worth watching with this plopped on, giant screen Interstellar, the hilariously awful Hardcore Henry. I'm also looking forward to playing Infamous Second Son with the headset.
I suppose if they had a Fallout 4 drive-in cinema enviroment I could go watch Invasion of the Body Snatchers with a bunch of misfits might be cool??
@dryrain Are we still doing the "PS4 can't handle it" thing? I remember there was a guy on YouTube who's been telling me for months that PS4 can't do VR who's suddenly disappeared now all of the reviews have come out.
@Boerewors Not sure lying down with it would be very comfortable anyway, as the band of the headset comes around your head. It might dig in if you put pressure on.
However, I believe you're correct; the camera will need to see if you use the Medium or Large screen sizes (may honestly apply to Small as well)!
Man I was really looking forward to using this for all my Netflix watching. Seems like it's not as cool as I was hoping.
@get2sammyb I am surprised that Sony didn't create it's own OS for the system, I know it's part of the PS4 ecosystem but it would have been nice from a presentation side of things. Someone also came up with an awesome idea of a trophy cabinet room for your trophies to pick up etc.
@adf86 Haha, that would be awesome. I guess it's just a case of, like... Priorities.
Batman: Arkham VR actually does have some little character Trophy type things you can pick up and inspect. Good fun!
@get2sammyb My main interest for this mode was always going to be watching my extensive backlog of SBS 3D films. As I wrote in a previous post, this tech just seems the perfect fit for it as they both employ the two image, one per eye, to create that stereoscopic depth we became accustomed to with 3D tv's and cinema. Ah well, I also wrote that it's not a deal breaker. I own a 4K tv and I'm looking forward to utilising it with the beast that is PS4 Pro. After all, I'm buying PSVR for VR lol.
@blakey78 My understanding is that it's not impossible for Sony to patch in 3D Blu-ray support. They certainly seem to be indicating that it's not entirely off the cards.
@ekreig I'm sure you could, but I wouldn't recommend it!
@get2sammyb Yeah I noticed that the comments aimed in that direction were left open for possibilities. Just imagine your own personal IMAX experience, wow
Next will be the return of PlayStation home!
@carlos82 I agree. Hopefully they do updates and include vr backgrounds and environments. Thats what I use my Gear VR for mostly.
@ekreig that'll be perfect for travelers. you don't have to worry about playing on a small TV. On those pit stops at a motel you could just play the game without connecting it to a little tiny 20 inch TV without HDMI ports.
Wonder if the PS4 PRO will boost those visuals. Or will that be only for the gaming aspects.
That was maybe the biggest draw for me ... playing horror games like Outlast and P.T. and watching movies in media player. Thought it would be great to replace Remote Play on the ill-conceived Vita with a PSVR and dual shock 4. Wish they had managed to make it possible without that sizeable drop in resolution.
@blakey78 I'm in the same boat - this would be amazing for 3d.
I've got to say I'm a little disappointed. I was going to buy a PSVR so I could sit in my lounge & play a game while my other half watches TV. Ah well. Thanks for saving me £350 I guess!
@get2sammyb I am not saying PSVR can not do its thing just saying there are no virtual backgrounds for a reason.
@Boerewors I'm somewhat confused by your statement. Where were you going to be lying down? In the garden with it? As far as I know it plugs into a television that is perfectly adequate to watch lying down
In my bedroom back home I have a tv mounted on my ceiling so I can watch movies and even game while lying flat on my back. I prefer that to arching my back and neck to watch tv in bed.
So I hoped PSVR would be a similar solution for me when I'm abroad, since the apartment I'm renting doesn't have a ceiling sturdy enough to hold a decent sized TV. I realize it's not perfect, but I figured that with a pillow under my head I would have a similar effect without too much discomfort from the headset.
Try this in V.R. i feel nauseous in 1st person view
@dryrain haha yea ok, if the Galaxy S5 can render a virtual environment to enjoy flat media on a simulated screen, you think the PS4 can't handle it??? Obvious update incoming.
It's a nice plus for those of us that have to share the TV (and don't own a Vita) but i wouldn't buy it for that reason alone..
Has anyone seen PSVR on the Pro. I saw the Digital foundry review and they said the resolution on the games was improved. I would like to know if this applies to the cinema screen also. And we know Sony are working on a virtual space we saw it last year remember those wii looking characters playing mini games and stuff. So I would expect updates
I was wondering if anyone could elaborate on this particular part of the article: "the resolution of the headset – which splits 1080p between your eyes". I've never handled a PS VR or done a demo, but it looks like there's two eyelets in the device. I'm wondering if there's one screen in the device or two? When people say it splits 1080p, does that mean that each eye only gets 540p? I'm a 3D fan so I'll be watching to see if PS VR gets 3D movie support later and wanted to better understand the 'resolution loss' issue.
I own a newer 4K 3D TV which can do full 1080p 3D (it's stunning). But I've read that older 3D TVs had to drop into sub-HD resolutions to do 3D. In a way, this sounds like what the PS VR does? It starts off in 1080p, but to deliver an image to both eyes has to drop to only half that resolution.
Great review and I really appreciate the honesty in the conclusion thankyou. Unfortunately cinema mode would be what I used 90% of the time as none of the VR game's have exactly grabbed me yet so the PSVR defo is not for me YET. To be honest I won't be fully sold on any VR platform until they can run MP game's like BF4 or KZ (Still the best FPS'ers on PS4 unfortunately) on them and that will probably be some time.
@GamerDad66 The PS VR splits 1920 by 1080 singe screen horizontally, so each eye sees 960 by 1080. I'm still looking forward to Cinematic Mode because, although the resolution is impacted, I regularly stream PS4 games to the PSTV and the Windows 10 streaming client at lower resolutions and, while not optimal, the games are entirely playable. As Sammy notes, the impact of lower res is likely less when viewing video and film content through streaming services or physical media.
@smoothi1981 The headset will be the same resolution regardless of how powerful your PS4 is, unfortunately.
It should be said that these same issues affect even the highest-end VR experiences available at the moment. I would not recommend buying a headset if you're just wanting a bigger, virtual screen--not only can it not do it very well, that's a waste of VR's potential.
Haha I'm happy as for PSVR cinema mode! My plasma tv is 42" and sadly only 1080i (half FULL HD) but still looks good. I think PSVR might start a new 'huge screen portability' trend - a secret revolution! Ok so, at the mo the resolution isn't super HD 4k or whatever... but it's only the beginning! We can't expect a product that's 300% cheaper than a 4k tv to be as sharp, as portable or offer superior visuals than a £1000 4k tv! Remember when smartphones screens first came out 7 years ago? Crickey iPhone 3 had a frickin tiny screen but look at smartphones now - bigger screens and higher resolutions. I reckon by PS5 we'll have at least full 1080p or 2k even 4k VR by then. Hoping Sony can offer a sharper image update in future so I can play, stream YouTube netflix, browse internet soon. Hope PS4 pro can offer a sharper resolution than baby PS4!!
@Boerewors haha I agree lying down is comfortable. Maybe cos of the headband thing at the back of head it's time to invest in one of those airplane travel pillows!
@Boerewors Um, yeah. Extra long power cable hanging off it from the ceiling and such. Sounds authentic. What did you do to get your console close enough to be plugged in? Nail it to an ajacent wall? With even more freakishly long cables hanging from the ceiling?
@Boerewors So, let me get this right. To save the effort of laying on your side to watch the television, you put it on your ceiling along with the games console and built a false wall to hide the cables? Is this correct? And if it is so strenuous that you have to arch your back to watch the television, did you not consider to move either the television to a more appropriate viewing angle or to move the thing that you were laying on for the same effect?
@bbq_boy But as stated in the article, it doesn't even have the standard of clarity as a £150 26" 1080p monitor for £350.
You haven't thought this through now have you? The consoles don't have to be behind the "false ceiling" you do realize that right? This might come as a shocker, but you can even get HDMI cables as long as 20m!
My brother is in construction and he does stuff like this for a living. We have wires running through my entire house but hardly ever see one. Only if there's a new HDMI standard we have to get it looked at, but since we remodel our house every 3-4 years anyway, that'll never be a problem.
I don't know where you're from, but if I had to guess I'd say Europe. You should realize houses in SA where I'm from and the USA for example aren't build like European homes.
@Boerewors I have nothing to think through because I can just lie down and watch the television without being a nancy about it.
If I didn't have the means to attach one to the ceiling properly, I'd do just the same!
not sure if its already been said but sony need to make ONLINE virtual environments! so you and pals can meet up in a virtual space and are free to move around and talk with each other while they watch a movie or play games together! that would be the bees knees!
@Oi_Oi_Spanky Yeah I don't mind cos it's offset by a huge 120" screen! Plus it seems like you can use the cinema mode on any device with HDMI - that includes xbox and PCs. Most anime I stream is poor quality anyway - and I'm still watching DVD boxsets cos they're so cheap. People use to say watching youtube on early tablets was too damn small or low resolution compared to PCs... now it's just the norm to watch streams on tablets/smartphones. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFYsNqiNecE Someone's playing Zelda on huge cinema mode on new classic NES! Quality is 720p or 1080i on a 120" screen!! Awesomeness
@MattyP this is exactly the reason I was going to buy one ... I know this is an old review so has there been any update to the low res issues does anyone know of?
I strongly disagree with the notion that VR isn't good as a personal display. I use it all the time in cinematic mode when not playing VR-games and I love it. Playing non-VR-games and watching Netflix is like playing and watching videos on a cinema. That it's surrounded in darkness rather than a virtual theater is totally fine for me. (Though if they would release one at some point I think it would be cool for movies)
I just love to have the biggest cinematic mode in Fallout 4 in 1st person, where the borders of the screen aren't that obvious. Feels much more real then. Watching a TV screen while playing is so last year for me..
-Playing on Pro, and it does wonders for VR, though many don't see that big difference. I think it's much smoother
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