For much of its early life, Sony's foray into virtual reality was codenamed Project Morpheus. However, in September last year, during the Tokyo Game Show, it gave its first headset the, perhaps obvious, name of PlayStation VR.
The product hasn't changed much at all though - at least not in a way that anyone who experienced Project Morpheus before would notice. So those original experiences, plus further dalliances with final build devices at games shows, including E3 2016, mean we have a good idea of what to expect and what the mass market, consumer version will offer.
We've played plenty of PlayStation VR games now and partaken in some rather interesting experiences seen through the headset over the last two years. We also have some interesting ideas on whether we think it will be a success when it is finally ready for public consumption. Hopefully, that will all become clear in this extensive preview.
PlayStation VR hardware
We know what it coming in the box with the PS VR headset, and there are one or two minor inclusions that we're very pleased about.
The headset will be included of course - which we've now seen a final build of - and there will be a separate media box that will link the headset to the PS4, with a PlayStation Camera handling external motion tracking. What's great about the media box is that it will have two HDMI outputs - one to the headset and another to a TV. Neither the Oculus Rift nor the HTC Vive offer that functionality, you need a separate DisplayPort cable for those.
The control system we've most used during demos comes in the form of two PlayStation Move controllers, the same devices launched for the PS3 a few years back - so there is a use for them after all. The DualShock 4 comes into play with several games too. Even a third-party car steering wheel will be utilised for some games.
At E3 2016, Sony also announced a gun device that works with a Move controller for FPS games: the PS VR Aim Gun.
PlayStation VR headset
Unlike its peers, the PlayStation VR headset looks like something from science fiction. It is space-age and futuristic in style, with glowing led panels and swish lines.
In addition, it fits around the head rather than feature a top strap and therefore feels a tighter on the sides and back. It is adjustable though, and the screen and processing unit is in a box that encases your eyes, much like every other VR device out there.
There is a soft rim around the eye piece and padding in the band, but, if we're being honest, it feels a little clunkier in build to the consumer Oculus Rift. It's nice and light though, so won't be tiring to wear for lengthy periods.
The headset can be tweaked to ensure the lenses are the correct distance for a clear picture by tightening the whole unit and, like many VR headsets, it is possible to wear glasses at the same time.
Technically, the screen resolution is not quite as good as others that are available to the public this year. The PlayStation VR uses a single 1920 x 1080 Full HD OLED panel - so 960 x 1080 for each eye. Some rivals use higher resolutions and different panels for each eye.
However, by restricting the resolution - and let's face it, the current PS4 is only capable of outputting 1080p video anyway - the headset can maintain a frame rate of up to 120fps. That's awesome when you consider that the Oculus Rift refreshes at 90Hz (90fps) maximum, although technically the games are likely to still run at 60fps on the console and upconverted for the headset.
Upconverted or not, on-screen action therefore seems super smooth, even if it looks a little less crisp that on other devices. And while we've noticed pixels at the start of sessions, we soon forget they are there and marvel at the action instead.
Strangely, whenever we've experienced PlayStation VR we have always had to wear separate, third-party virtual surround headphones. That's okay, but combining the headphones with the headset would have been a more elegant solution. With the act of putting Move controllers around your wrist, adjusting the headset and then wearing headphones, it's quite a clumsy process you have to go through each time just to play a game.
The aid of another person is recommended, but we think it's just about doable when alone.
The LED strip lights all over the front and rear of the PlayStation VR aren't just for show. Like the PlayStation Move controllers, they work with the PlayStation Camera to track head position. It is here that you notice the biggest aesthetic difference between the consumer PlayStation VR headset and the previous Project Morpheus one, in that there is now an additional LED strip on the front of the visor. This should make tracking even more precise.
PlayStation VR controllers
Naturally, as the PlayStation VR headset links with a PS4 - through an external connections box - there will naturally be some games that make full use of the fact that owners will have a DualShock 4 controller to hand. We've actually used one for a demo in the past (The Kitchen), and that also made use of the motion control aspects of the gamepad.
We also played a VR version of DriveClub using an authorised PS4 racing wheel and sat in a bucket seat, although there are no plans to release that game to consumers. Other driving games, such as GT Sport, will have steering wheel support though.
The controllers that will be used in many VR experiences and dedicated games are the PlayStation Move motion controllers originally designed for the PlayStation 3. Finally, there's a use for them now that 2D motion gaming itself has died a premature death.
Two PlayStation Move controllers are used more than often, to reflect both hands within a virtual world. They feature glowing LED balls on the end of each baton, which are picked up in a real space by the PlayStation Camera, and there is very little latency between movements made using them (one frame, it is said) and therefore motions are nigh-on instant in a game or interactive experience.
Each Move controller features a gyroscope and an accelerometer as well as the visual ball. There is also a magnetic field sensor inside.
It also features seven buttons in total, but the most useful one for VR purposes is the trigger on the underside. This helps game developers recognise hand closing gestures. There's a button on the top, where the thumb would be placed, that could also be used for other gesture control.
We've found the Move controllers to be a bit more limited to use than the Oculus Touch or HTC Vive batons, but considering they are already available and, in many cases, already sitting in PlayStation fans' drawers, it's great that they can be dug out and used once more.
PlayStation VR sensor
As well as the sensors in the wands and the headset - which also has an accelerometer and gyroscope - the system requires the use of a PlayStation Camera to track the LEDs on the PlayStation VR and Move controllers.
Again, this is a device that already exists and is used by many PS4 owners already. It will likely be included in the box with some PlayStation VR bundles at specific retailers, but is also fairly inexpensive at around £40. It can also be used for other PS4 games and functions outside of VR and comes with a built-in microphone for voice-control and in-game chat.
There are plenty of third-party accessories already available for it too, which help mount it in a wall, top of a TV or serve as a desktop stand.
PlayStation VR Aim Controller
During E3 2016, Sony announced an accessory as part of the Farpoint game announcement that gives PS VR players the chance to be even more immersed in first-person shooters than ever before. It puts a gun in their hands.
The PlayStation VR Aim Controller apes gun accessories of the past. You place a Move controller in the business end and a number of buttons and, most importantly, a trigger are available to interact with supported games and experiences.
It is designed to be comfortable and easy to use, even when you have the headset on, and we found it to be very effective during our Farpoint demo.
The PS VR Aim will be available as an optional extra, but we're yet to find out pricing or availability for the device.
PlayStation VR release date and price
After much speculation and the occasional "leak", Sony revealed that the price of the PlayStation VR will be £349 in the UK. It will also be $399 in the US, 399 euros in Europe and 44,980 yen in Sony's homeland of Japan.
That's half the price of the HTC Vive and £150 less than an Oculus Rift, the headset's two main rivals.
And considering that the PS VR will work with a conventional PlayStation 4 rather than a high-end PC, as with the others, it is definitely the most affordable option in this category.
It revealed the release date during its E3 2016 press conference. You will be able to buy the PS VR from 13 October globally. Pre-orders are open now.
PlayStation VR hardware requirements
As we mentioned above, unlike rival VR headsets - namely Oculus Rift and HTC Vive - the PlayStation VR will not require a beefy PC to run. Instead, it will work with a standard PlayStation 4 console.
The final consumer headset will come with a separate processing box though that is required to hook it up to the PlayStation 4. It even looks like a mini PS4 in design, supplying power and video to the headset, while sending motion signals back to the console and video to a separate TV.
From everything we've also seen so far, you'll need a decent pair of virtual surround headphones, with third-party cans used in the vast majority of our demos. Sony includes earbuds with every package, but they won't be as good as fully functioning 'phones.
PlayStation VR games and content
Considering its roots, the vast number of demonstrations we've had and additional PlayStation VR software that's been announced so far centres on gaming. While the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift have also been touted in an entertainment sense beyond games, the PS VR is seen primarily as a games accessory.
These are our thoughts on some of the games we've tried so far. We're not sure whether any or all will be launch titles, and there have been several others announced that we're yet to try. These should give you some idea, however.
PlayStation VR: The Kitchen
The Kitchen became one of the biggest talking points of E3 2015 - at least amongst the people who had experienced it or witness someone else doing so. Rather than an actual game as such, it's a proof of concept by Capcom that quite literally had our hearts racing more than if we had spent twenty minutes cross-training.
You start tied to a chair in a manky, dirty basement, with another man tied up on the floor next to you. You can look around but have limited view - behind you especially as you're tied to a chair. It's very Saw or Hostel and quite frankly petrifying. We thoroughly enjoyed it (no spoilers here as you might get to have a go yourself some time) and although we mostly smiled through the showing, others screamed.
It is genuinely that scary.
PlayStation VR: Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
Perhaps more scary still is the game that the Kitchen seems to have been morphed into - Resident Evil 7.
Again, shown more as proof of concept rather than the full game itself, the E3 2016 demo of the Resident Evil sequel was played on a PS VR and, like the Kitchen, made people incredibly uneasy - in a good way.
We had to find our way out of a spooky, creepy house, where murders were said to have taken place previously, and the use of light - or lack thereof - was superb in presenting one of the most tense experiences we've ever undertaken.
We came out of the demo sweating and with an all-new phobia of mannequins. Brilliant.
PlayStation VR: Farpoint
Farpoint is one of the best VR experiences we've ever had.
Paired with the PS VR Aim Controller, it's a fully immersive first-person shooter - but that gun peripheral makes all the difference, because it's so much more comfortable to use than a smaller Move controller trigger.
The game itself pairs shooting with exploration, in a vast land that's beautifully crafted. You'll spend as much time looking around as you will frantically shooting acid-spitting spiders and legging it about all over the place.
Described by Sony as an unnerving VR space adventure set on a hostile alien planet, your mission is to to pick up scientists studying an anomaly near Jupiter, before a rupture transports you to an unknown alien world.
We're definitely excited about Farpoint, as it feels like more than just a quick VR experience.
PlayStation VR: The London Heist
Based on the ages old PlayStation game The Getaway, The London Heist is a British gangster caper that was originally designed to be a standalone game, but will now be bundled as part of London Studios' launch title, PlayStation VR Worlds. It will be accompanied by Into The Deep, VR Luge, Danger Ball and Scavenger's Odyssey.
It makes sense as the parts we've already played suit a mini-game structure.
The demos available to us so far included two specific sections - one in a getaway vehicle being pursued by gangsters and the other in a mansion where you are trying to steal a precious gem.
The best of the two was the one that had us sat in the passenger seat of a car racing away from a bank job, while being set upon by motorbike riders and other enemies in SUVs. We had to dispatch them by shooting an in-game Uzi, and pick up and reload magazines of bullets along the way. One particular aspect we loved was the ability to open the car door and physically look out behind the car to dispatch enemies behind us.
The other level was played from a standing position, with the ability to duck behind a desk as enemies fired upon us. We could peer out and fire back at them. Heaven knows what it looked like to people in the real world, but it was great fun.
PlayStation VR: Batman: Arkham VR
Alongside Farpoint as one of the best games for PS VR shown at E3 2016 - arguably even topping it - is Batman: Arkham VR, which will be available within the launch window later this year.
The demo at E3 offered two distinct sections to play. The first was more of an experience than a game, with you starting as Bruce Wayne and then descending into the Batcave in order to don the entire Batman get-up. Each item, such as gloves and cowl, had different actions to perform and any comic fan would be as giddy with excitement as we were.
The second section placed us in a grubby Gotham alleyway, where Nightwing lay dead. We then had to piece together clues - a la the Arkham trilogy - using gadgets to find out how he died. It bodes well for the full release later.
Just being able to step into the Batshoes was incredible, but Rocksteady and Warner have ensured the experience is truly beautiful too.
PlayStation VR: EVE: Valkyrie
Like Oculus Rift, EVE: Valkyrie is expected on PlayStation VR too. It's a space combat game where you are the pilot of a nippy fighter craft.
There is much to rave about with EVE: Valkyrie, but as we found whenever we played the game briefly on Rift, much of the time during our PS VR EVE demo was spent marvelling at the fact we could see a virtual pair of legs in the cockpit of the ship.
This helps ground the experience. By seeing parts of yourself in the virtual world, it helps the illusion that you are really there.
Naturally, the zipping around blowing enemies away impressed too, but initially we suspect you'll be just as amazed at the ambient details CCP has included.
PlayStation VR: Battlezone
Battlezone, based on the classic arcade game, does feel almost like being inside Tron. With guns. And tanks.
We think Battlezone will work a treat as an arcade-style game to casually dip into and play. You command a tank, using your head's position to target, and the DualShock 4 controller to fire and maneouvre around the various arena types.
It's got great style and floaty movement that works a treat for a virtual reality experience - we didn't feel queasy like we have in some VR games before now.
It'll be released when PlayStation VR launches as one of the bundled titles.
PlayStation VR: DriveClub
Sony decided to exhibit at Paris Games Week in October last year rather than the earlier Gamescom in Germany and we got to have a 15 minute session on DriveClub as seen through the headset.
Sadly, it might never see the light of day considering Sony has shut down the studio, Evolution, but our experience said as much for driving games in VR in general as that specific title; the VR version of GT Sport is coming after all.
We'd never twigged how good a driving game could be in PlayStation VR beforehand, but it seems such a natural fit. It's obvious really.
We played DriveClub while sat in racing seat and behind a decent steering wheel and pedals accessory, but a lot of the experience would have been as fun even with a DualShock 4. Certainly, the instinctive things we found ourselves doing would have been the same.
Anyone who's befriended us on PS4 or Xbox One and have raced against us at any driving game will know that we want to barge our way through other cars in a dash for superiority. However, when playing with the headset on, we started to be much more respectful to the vehicles around us.
The opponents seemed much more tangible and therefore realistic, so when they slowed down to take a corner, rather than using them as a steering barrier we actually slowed down with them, attempting to avoid contact.
Another strange, more real-world driving effect the VR experience had on us helped us corner much more effectively. When any driver is about to take a corner in a real car, they will look towards the direction they are about to travel - something not feasible in a conventional racing game.
We did so all the time, which also allowed other instincts to kick in. We hit the brakes much sooner when approaching a corner, and accelerated much more quickly when exiting. Basically, we became better racing drivers.
PlayStation VR: Until Dawn: Rush of Blood
As we've seen with Capcom's efforts above, VR does lend itself to sinister, creepy horror very well indeed. Here's another title, a twist on Sony's Until Dawn. Rush of Blood, however, is in rollercoaster form.
Yep, you're on a single track, with creepy clowns and meathooks galore. Use your head to duck and dodge from on-coming obstacles, while using two Move controllers as guns to not only shoot creepy clown enemies but score points by breaking targets throughout.
The motion in Rush of Blood will certainly get to some people; there's a point where the coaster drops and it made our actual stomach turn. That impactful moment shows the game does what its title says.
PlayStation VR: The Playroom VR
Let's be honest, Playroom on PS4 - which was one of the included launch titles that worked well with the PlayStation Camera - was a bit meh. It was fun to muck around with for a while, but seemed more like a tech demo than a game.
However, on PlayStation VR, it could become something quite different.
Spattered with virtual reality mini-games, something tells us it might be an included title with the headset itself. Certainly the one game we've played from the collection - Cat and Mouse - seems like the sort of thing you'd get out to show the whole family how a VR headset can enhance experiences.
In it, the person wearing the headset is a robot cat and there are four other players are mice. The mice must run around collecting cheese while the cat hides behind a net curtain.
By looking at a specific mouse and lunging forward, the headset wearer can catch them and stop their cheese stealing exploits. The mice thought, who each use conventional controllers, can hide under cans or other household packaging until the cat disappears again.
It's definitely fun and the simple gameplay means anyone can have a go. It won't be the main driver for VR though, we feel.
PlayStation VR: RIGS
Competitive eSports could be, however.
RIGS puts you in control of giant mechanoids, which is a great idea for VR, especially with multiplayer, competitive matches on offer.
Futuristic sports themes feature throughout, and the game can also be played single-player, with AI friends and foes. That's exactly what happened in our demo, which featured a round of a game a bit like basketball, except your giant mech is the ball.
Power up through blasting the other team, then leap into a central, circular basket to score points.
The only issue we had is that, with such frantic action, it quickly disorients if you're not used to fast moving VR experiences. We suggest, therefore, that you get used to the PS VR with other games before heading into the world of RIGS.
Its release date is still to be announced, but we think it could be a launch title in October.
PlayStation VR: Star Trek Bridge Crew
In a chance encounter at E3 2016, LeVar Burton (as in Geordi La Forge in Next Generation) was playing alongside us during our Star Trek Bridge Crew demo as one of the four crew members on the bridge. And, no, he wasn't playing the engineering role.
Bridge Crew is a multiplayer real-time VR experience, with the Captain, Engineer, Tactical and Helm roles combining to assist one another in achieving goals as set by Starfleet. We thought the demo looked kind of boring, but it was an entertaining experience - almost hilarious given the number of mistakes we made during play.
Shoot, control shields, put power to the correct places. It's a seated game, but you feel like you're actually on the bridge of the USS Enterprise.
Release date is autumn 2016.
PlayStation VR: Final Fantasy 15
Final Fantasy 15 is coming this year, with this VR Experience extra coming separate to the main game; its makers suspect it'll be DLC to the main game, available after its release.
Using a Move controller to mimmick a gun within the arena, there are two controls to takedown your giant foe: trigger, to fire, and the centre button to teleport around the arena, position determined by looking around at different blue orbs.
Tactically dodge and shoot frantically until that trigger-finger feels sore - which was an issue. It's one of the simpler VR experiences we've had, because it felt so easy to play, but for Final Fantasy fans it's an extra lick of virtual reality fun.
PlayStation VR: Current challenges
In its PlayStation VR headset Sony has a distinct advantage over Oculus and HTC/Valve with their respective devices; it already has a vast user base with the equipment needed to run it.
The other companies both require consumers to own beefy PC setups, which can cost many hundreds if not a thousand pounds to invest in. The PlayStation 4 is a fraction of that price and there are already 40 million units in households worldwide. A prospective PlayStation Neo upgraded machine will no doubt add plenty more on top when that is announced and released.
Of course, the number of PS4s that belong to people interested in virtual reality will be far smaller than that, but to have such a massive potential audience to entice puts Sony in a very strong position.
It will also boil down to price, we feel.
While the Oculus Rift is pricey, at £500, and the HTC Vive is even more expensive at £700, they are both pitched at audiences who are used to paying top dollar for the best experiences.
Many PC gamers are willing and often able to splash out the cash on their hobbies.
The PlayStation 4 is a cheaper alternative all-round and therefore has more mass market appeal. There are undoubtedly plenty of fervent gamers with PS4s who are willing to spend big, but to make PlayStation VR a success, Sony needs to aim it at a wider market.
That's why it has plumped for a £349 price point even with the amount of technology crammed into its headset. It's certainly an attractive proposition.
Of all the virtual reality headsets that are coming out this year, PlayStation VR won't be the most technologically advanced or even best supported in software terms initially. But it will be the one that will have the most eyes on - both figuratively and literally.
That's because, rather than aim at a dedicated minority, it is designed for the biggest majority in gaming at present. PS4 fans are many and varied.
For that reason, it's the most exciting prospect for us. We already have the equipment needed to run it and setup should be simple.
Most of the games we've seen so far are also designed for a simpler form of VR - in most of them we've been sitting - so we won't even need a massive play area to get the most from it.
Yes, we would rather a higher resolution screen, like Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, but VR for us is a living room entertainment experience and shouldn't be confined to a bedroom or study.
That's where our PS4 is based and that's why PlayStation VR is a different prospect. And at £349 it might just be affordable enough to turn heads.