If you opted to buy a PlayStation VR, whether standalone or in a bundle, you can actually play your standard PlayStation 4 games with the VR headset. However, it won’t be the same as playing native VR games with a PlayStation VR headset.
If you’re curious about play-testing any game with the headset, simply turn on the headset and boot up the game. It’s really that easy. If you’re using a DualShock 4 controller and typically have the headphones or earbuds plugged in, the headphones/earbuds will no longer work and you’ll have to either plug in a headset or headphones into the PlayStation VR headset control box.
Playing vanilla PS4 games with a PSVR headset will basically give you a theater-style viewing screen in the headset called the PlayStation VR Cinematic Mode. This was revealed a few months ago during the initial announcement of the PSVR.
You can actually change how much of the screen size is displayed within the viewing range of the PlayStation VR goggles. Small will make the screen a tiny little window that’s blurry and low-res, medium will give you a standard theater-style screen that fills up most of the viewing space, and large will extend the screen beyond the standard viewing space of the goggles, so you’ll have to look around to see the entire extension of the screen. This is known as the PlayStation VR cinematic viewing mode.
Push Square pumped out a video a few months ago to demonstrate the mode, which you can view below.
So to bluntly answer the question: Can you play non-VR games with the PSVR headset? The answer is yes.
However, this does not mean that non-VR games will gain VR support. If you attempt to play Doom, for instance, with a PlayStation VR headset, you’ll just see it displayed on the screen as if it’s plastered up on a drive-in theater wall. Technically, it’s still kind of cool because it does feel like you’re in a theater, but you won’t get any of the native virtual reality benefits similar to games that are designed to take advantage of the PlayStation VR, such as stereoscopic depth perception, head tracking, or integrated PlayStation Move support.
Now, technically, one benefit of the PlayStation VR Cinematic mode is that when playing games like fighting games – King of Fighters XIV or Street Fighter V – one of the really cool parts about it is that you can actually sort of focus more on your character because it’s so much closer to your face. For me, it made it easier to actually spot frames easier and react quicker than when playing on the standard screen. The more intimate viewing experience makes it optimal for learning moves and improving your reaction time.
Technically, it would be perfect for training in a game like Super Smash Bros, where all other outside visual distractions could be ignored and you could focus solely on mastering the read data of your opponent.
Otherwise, the PSVR Cinematic Mode seems to be more for novelty than functionality, but hopefully with a future firmware update a customizable screen scaling option will be present, along with static render displays so it doesn’t always track the head movement of the headset, giving users an optimal cinematic experience no matter what non-VR app or game they’re using.
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