Virtual reality may not have been the game changer for the world of videogames that many of us were expecting, but we’re glad that Sony is sticking with it.
We have to admit, after being very excited about PlayStation VR, we soon shied away from using it. There were simply too many cables to deal with, making it a pain to set up. Then there was the tracking – utilising the PlayStation camera and the lights on your controller, it just didn’t work very well much of the time unless you had absolutely perfect conditions. And on the subject of controllers, you really needed PS Move controllers to get the most out of it, and they were expensive and still not particularly great.
Fast forward just over six years since the launch of PlayStation VR, and here we are with PlayStation VR 2. Powered by the mighty PS5, the good news is that there’s a night and day difference between them – PSVR 2, as we’ll call it henceforth, is better in just about every conceivable way. Is it flawless? Of course not, but we’ll get to that later. If you’re already into VR or have been waiting for a good entry point into its ultra-immersive world, however, PSVR 2 is a must-have.
A cinch to set up
As we’ve already mentioned, it was a pain setting up the original PSVR. With the original model not having HDR passthrough, it wasn’t ideal leaving it set up, either. With PSVR 2 it couldn’t be simpler. You simply open up the box, remove the headset, and connect it to the front of your PS5 with the attached USB-C cable. After that, all you need to do is turn the headset on via the little button found on the underside of the scope, and if it’s the first time it’s been connected the configuration process will begin.
Configuration encompasses numerous exercises designed to get your PSVR 2 headset running optimally. You’ll scan your playing area, for example, giving the headset an idea of what room you have to manoeuvre. You’ll also be guided to make sure the headset is both comfortable and securely attached to your head. Even more important is making sure things are in focus; a dial on the upper left of the scope can be used to change the distance between the headset’s lenses, making sure everyone can get the best out of their VR experience.
Getting the position of the headset and the lenses just right is critical as you want to make use of one of the PSVR 2’s most impressive features: eye tracking. It sounds futuristic, and indeed, it is like some kind of black magic when in use. After a quick bit of training, your PSVR 2 headset will know what you’re looking at, and for games it’s an exciting development. In Horizon Call of the Mountain, for example, you can use it to navigate menus. Or more interestingly, aim your weapon. Draw your bow, then an arrow, focus on the part of a hostile machine you’d like to hit, and release.
Put some Sense in your hands
The headset is just one piece of the PSVR 2 experience. Also included are two PSVR 2 Sense controllers, which are key to some of the advanced VR experiences that this next-generation set-up can provide. Very similar in design to the controllers that come with competing VR headsets such as Meta Quest 2, these Sense controllers are like works of art that strap to your hands. You place your hands through their circular structures then grasp them at their core.
Each one has its own analogue stick and PlayStation button. The iconic square, triangle, circle and X buttons, meanwhile, are shared between them. The circle and X buttons can be found on the right Sense controller, along with a menu button as well. The triangle and square buttons are on the left Sense, along with a create button. Alas, there’s no d-pad or touchpad, which means that you won’t be able to use them to play certain games not designed with them in mind. In some games, such as Tetris Effect Connected, you’re perhaps better off using a standard DualSense controller anyway.
To make the Sense controllers even more impressive, Sony has bestowed haptic feedback and adaptive triggers upon them. So, you’ll still feel resistance as you shoot the trigger of a gun, and feel the force of a huge object passing by overhead. It comes at the usual cost though: battery life. It’s hard to put a definitive number on it as it depends on what you play, but you can expect to maybe get five hours battery life out of each sense controller at most.
Could it be any more immersive?
It’s thanks to all the nifty hardware and software that comprises the PSVR 2 experience that it offers what it perhaps the most immersive VR experience yet. At least in its price range. Thanks to a huge increase in resolution versus the original PSVR, the screen door effect (where you see thin lines between pixels) has effectively been eliminated. And the power of the PS5, along with advanced techniques like foveated rendering, means that there doesn’t have to be as much of a reduction in graphical quality to maintain the high framerate that VR requires.
Play something like Horizon Call of the Mountain and you’ll be amazed at what’s possible. Character models are impressively lifelike, making you feel like you could reach out and touch them. Environments are densely packed and full of detail, too. But it’s not all about the visuals. With cameras placed on the headset itself, PSVR 2 is much better at tracking your movements. Move around and your actions are re-enacted on screen with little to no perceptible delay. With the Sense controllers in hand, that means you’ll have fun reaching out for objects, picking them up realistically and then playing around with them.
As we’ve already mentioned, the Sense controllers come with haptic feedback and haptic triggers to further immerse you in your VR experience. What we haven’t mentioned is that the headset itself has rumble, too. It might rumble when you take a hit, for example, or in the case of Tetris Effect Connected, when you’re zooming forward really fast at the end of a level. It’s a little thing, but it genuinely adds something a little bit special. VR is all about immersion, after all, and Sony has really pushed the boat out to make sure PSVR 2 delivers.
There are some other things that compound this, too. The headset has a clever rubber hood that blocks out light when it’s correctly situated for example. No one wants light bleeding into their VR experience, after all. Also, a set of stereo headphones are included in the box that can be neatly attached to the headset, allowing you to cut out the outside world entirely. You can use the audio from your TV, sound system or existing headphones if you wish, but the included headphones are surprisingly high quality and discreet.
It’ll hit you as soon as you have your hands on the box of the PSVR 2 just how light everything is. With a design very similar to the original PSVR headset, putting on the PSVR 2 headset is simply a case of sliding the scope forward by pushing a button on the top right hand side, squeezing a button on the rear of the head strap to it can be expanded, and then placing it over your head, eyes first. A dial surrounding the release button on the head strap can then be used to tighten the strap up, securing the headset to your head. Slide the scope back towards you, and you’re ready to go.
Get the position of the headset right and it will sit securely even when you’re moving your head around in the most active of games. And if you’re a glasses wearer like us, don’t worry; just like the original PSVR there’s plenty of room in every direction, especially with the movable scope. Make no mistake, as comfortable as the PSVR 2 headset is though, eventually you’re going to want to take it off. We found our maximum time to be comfortable in the world of VR to be one and a half to two hours, tops. The head strap needs to put pressure on your head to be secure, after all.
One thing we have been delighted with is the lack of motion sickness. We dislike using teleportation and snap rotation to explore, but free movement is a sure-fire way to test your constitution when using VR. We don’t know what it is about PSVR 2 in particular, but we haven’t really felt nauseas using it al all. Perhaps it’s because the visuals are more lifelike, or because the motion is smoother. Perhaps its something else entirely. In any case, we’re over the moon that we can stay in the game longer than we could with the original PSVR.
One final note with regards to comfort: the button that allows you to switch between what’s happening in the real world and a game is a godsend. Need to change the volume on the TV? No problem; just push the button on the underside of the scope and you can hunt for the remote without taking off the headset. It’s also handy for having conversations, or simply checking your position in the room.
Being wired, you’re obviously limited to using PSVR 2 near to where a PS5 is located. And this where issues may arise for some players. Numerous play styles are supported by PSVR 2:sitting, standing and roomscale. As you can imagine, roomscale is the most demanding when it comes to space, requiring a free area at least 2m x 2m in size. Unfortunately, if you don’t have that, then there are some games that you simply won’t be able to play at all (looking at you, What the Bat!).
Still, as long as you have a free area at least 1m x 1m in size, you can make use of the sitting or standing play styles. Some games, like Drums Rock, are best played when sitting. Others, like Horizon Call of the Mountain, can be played when sitting, but are best played standing. In games such as the latter, however, you might sometimes fall foul of the playing boundaries. Overextend an arm, for example, and red rings will appear to warn you that you’re going out of your safe playing area. On the one hand it’s great, saving you from hitting an object such as your TV, perhaps. On the other, it can break the immersion you’re seeking.
The strictness of the play style system might be particularly irritating for those just shy of the required 2m x 2m for roomscale play. The place where we primarily play VR games is just shy of that requirement, for example. But rather than allow us to use what space we have when standing, which is around 2m x 1.7m, we’re forced to use 1m x1m instead. Hopefully that’s something which can be adjusted in the future.
We’ve had some instances when playing Horizon Call of the Mountain where the PSVR 2 has taken us out of the game to complain about not being able to track us in our playing area as well. With less than a week with the hardware at the time of writing though, and limited software to test it with, it’s hard to truly determine if its a quirk of one or the other. What we can say is our time spent with other games has been pretty much free of issues, but Horizon Call of the Mountain has eaten most of our time with the headset so far.
PSVR 2 Review: It’s VeRy good
Everything considered, we’re very impressed with PSVR 2 so far. We love that it’s so very easy to set up, meaning you can connect it easily for a quick blast on something like Rez. And thanks to features like eye tracking and the new Sense controllers, it enables deeper VR experiences for the first time on PlayStation hardware. You simply couldn’t do many of the things that Horizon Call of the Mountain allows on the original PSVR.
It’s pricey, sure. And the lack of backwards compatibility with existing PSVR titles may be a tough pill to swallow for those who have built up extensive libraries. Some of those games are getting free upgrades though (some paid, too), and on PSVR 2 they’re transformed. Tetris Effect Connected via PSVR is impressive, but in PSVR 2 with clearer visuals and feedback? It’s mind-blowing.
Ultimately, thanks to PSVR 2, we’re excited about the future of VR again. We can’t wait to use it to enhance our time with Gran Turismo 7, and come face-to-face with a towering Lady Dimitrescu in Resident Evil Village. And already, we’ve savoured our time viewing the beautiful vistas in Horizon Call of the Mountain and battling against its wondrous mechanical beasts in a more personal manner.
If you’ve got the money, and space, as well as a PS5, then we have no hesitations in recommending PSVR 2 to those seeking more immersive gaming experiences. The technology packed into it is brilliant, and with a promising catalogue of games lined up, including many stand out titles at launch, it’s set for a bright future.
Thank you to Sony for providing pre-launch access to PSVR 2 to facilitate this review.