The ‘cinematic mode’, aka ‘Virtual Cinema’, offered by PlayStation VR has remained a mystery for some time. Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) has revealed that all PlayStation 4 software and experiences – including videogames and video content – can utilise the feature, and yet has been seemingly reluctant to showcase it. That is, until now, as VRFocus has been hands-on with the PlayStation VR’s most interesting alternate use case.
First, the technical aspect of the cinematic mode: there are three simulated screen sizes available; 117 inches, 163 inches and 226 inches. The middle option encompasses your entire field-of-view, making the largest option practically redundant: in cinematic mode, the simulated screen is locked to your forward-facing view and will not change viewpoint with head movement.
In order to assist with comfort, the screen can be set to dynamically rotate in accordance to the angle of your head. So, should you wish to watch a movie laying on the couch the screen will rotate to align with your new position. This function can also be turned off or switched to a manually operated system.
In its debut hands-on session VRFocus was treated to a preview of a light-hearted comedy movie showcasing all of the above technical capabilities. The largest virtual screen option proved impressive here: a true virtual cinema in which the movie almost completely encompassed your field-of-view. It was a demonstration that highlighted the strengths of the PlayStation VR’s cinematic mode yet called into question it’s versatility and comfort: can you really use the HMD whilst lying with your head resting on a pillow or cushion?
A later demonstration allowed the cinematic mode to come into its own: not every PlayStation 4 videogame it going to be made for virtual reality (VR), and yet every single one can be played via the PlayStation VR’s cinematic mode. Horizon: Zero Dawn is one of the most highly anticipated PlayStation 4 exclusive releases of 2017, and in PlayStation VR’s cinematic mode becomes wholly immersive.
Horizon: Zero Dawn casts the player as Aloy, a skilled hunter, and grants them the opportunity to explore a vibrant and lush world inhabited by mechanised creatures. All of this is realised in remarkable visual fidelity from a third-person perspective. Some will lament the loss of screen quality when playing on PlayStation VR due to the comparative low resolution given the HD screen is mounted so close to your face, but when the outside world is no longer a part of the experience it’s easy to see how hours can be sucked away in what feels like mere minutes.
The largest virtual screen presented by PlayStation VR’s cinematic mode may struggle with some videogame titles due to important information being displayed in the lower corners of the screen. However, this will largely be an individual concern than a one-size-fits-all problem. Some will be more forgiving of the flaws of the experience in favour of the immediate immersion PlayStation VR’s cinematic mode can offer.