The free No Man's Sky Beyond update launched this week and with it came VR support for PC and PS4 versions of Hello Games' infinite survival sim. This is an update that I, and countless other VR enthusiasts, have been looking forward to for a long time, but now it's finally here, how good actually is it? In this week's episode of Ian's VR Corner, which you can find just below these words, I bring you my first impressions of my launch day experiences of No Man's Sky Beyond on PSVR.
The first impressions in this video and post are based on about 6 hours of play, which took place on the day the No Man's Sky Beyond update was released. As it stands, the criticisms (and praise!) in this video are currently still valid, but as Hello Games is already hard at work releasing hot fixes, the things I experienced and pinpoint in this post may be subject to change in the future.
My main issue with the update, if you haven't already guessed by the sub-header of this post, is the blurriness of the visuals. I played on a PS4 Pro and the intensity of the blur was pretty jarring to say the least. I've seen quite a few people on the internet saying that the blur isn't that bad but I don't know. Maybe I'm just being overly fussy, but I honestly was a bit taken aback by just how noticeable it was. Distant objects appear on the horizon like muddy blobs and anything more than a meter away from your avatar is noticeably soft. While my brain slowly tuned out the blur to a degree, my eyes were strained enough trying to focus on things that long periods of play resulted in headaches - a rarity for me in VR.
The blurriness of the visuals has no effect on the game in terms of its mechanics though and everything else works as it should. In fact, in all the time playing No Man's Sky in VR, I've not had one single blue screen crash, which is something that's been plaguing my colleagues in the flat version of the game.
Reach my first new planet in No Man's Sky. I'm welcomed by the local PS4 error screen. pic.twitter.com/RzocqzUiPu— Lottie Lynn (@Stormscribe) August 15, 2019
The experience of exploring the universe in No Man's Sky in VR is every bit as jaw dropping and massive and immersive as you could have hoped for. Saying that though, the aforementioned blur does kill the magnificence a bit. All those stunning vistas and the mysterious alien flora and fauna that you may remember from the flat version now look like indistinct smudges on the horizon and this works towards dampening that awesome sense of discovery that made the exploration so compelling.
With my biggest criticism out of the way, you'll be pleased to find out that the rest of the game is an absolute joy to play. I remember hoping for and imagining VR support for No Man's Sky when it first came out and this experience is everything I hoped for and more. The sense of discovery and scale in VR is amazing and the ability to fly around from planet to planet and galaxy to galaxy while being encased in the game is incomparable to anything else I've played in VR. This is a straight up, never-ending VR adventure and depending on your patience for the survival genre, you could easily end up spending countless hours exploring brand new world after brand new world.
Exploring of course means moving around and thankfully, No Man's Sky has all the standard comfort settings you'd expect from a modern VR game like vignettes, teleportation and click turning. All of which can switched off in order to tailor your experience to your liking. No Man's Sky VR can be played with either the DualShock 4 or with twin Move controllers and I tested it out with both. The DualShock provides the easiest control scheme, with movement identical to that of the flat version, just with some added motion controls for your multitool.
It was a breeze to play the game with the DualShock 4, but the real way to play No Man's Sky in VR is with the Move controllers - if you can get past the fiddly learning curve that is. Anyone with experience using move controllers in PSVR shouldn't have an issue with getting around in No Man's Sky. The movement scheme is very similar to that of Skyrim and I had no problems when navigating the environment. What took me a little while to get used to however was all the fiddly wrist mounted menus. Normal No Man's Sky involves a huge amount of busy work in menus anyway, but in VR, things can get a little overwhelming for newcomers. Remembering which wrist has which options on it was an issue at first and it definitely resulted in some frustration for the first hour or two as I slowly learnt the controls. Once that hurdle had been overcome though, I found that having independent control over each of my hands was incredibly immersive, much more so than just using the DualShock, so those initial controller struggles were ultimately rewarded.
I think the thing that's going to give a lot of people issues though is the way you control your ship with the Move controllers. It's incredibly tricky at first and when you're learning the ropes and spinning around everywhere, chances are it'll make you feel proper icky. The Move controllers attempt to create the feel of a HOTAS controller, but with limited success as this method seems to alternate between being overly sensitive over land or completely unresponsive up in space when you need to perform evasive manoeuvres. After a while I figured out that the best results came from holding my right Move controller vertically while in the ship, mirroring the position of the cockpits joystick, but still this lacked the accuracy and precision of the DualShock flight controls.
No Man's Sky for PSVR is one of the biggest and best experiences on the platform, even though currently it feels a bit like you're playing it with vaseline smeared over your eyeballs. I do hope that Hello Games can find a way to make things a bit sharper in the headset because, I want to spend hours in this game and that's hard to do when the visuals are giving me a headache. With that said, I really rate No Man's Sky in VR, I think it's an amazing achievement and I'd recommend anyone with a unit to pick it up, if only to get a taste of what VR could be like in the future, if the platform continues to grow and expand.
If you enjoyed this episode of Ian's VR Corner, you can catch up with my previous adventures over on YouTube in our VR playlist, where I've covered Asgard's Wrath, Ghost Giant and Five Nights at Freddy's VR. You can also read our list of best PSVR games.