PlayStation VR 2 (PSVR 2) Review

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PlayStation VR 2
Editors Choice

The PlayStation VR 2 (PSVR 2) is a headset that should have existed the first time around. Its first iteration tried to stand out as a unique, home-grown VR headset, but PlayStation’s headset for the PS4 couldn’t quite keep up with the changes in VR. Luckily, the PSVR 2 comes at an opportune time, as next-gen gaming continues to innovate in both hardware and software. While PlayStation has kindly improved by taking notes from VR competitors on usability, PlayStation VR 2 is easily the most accessible—and cautiously optimistic—system to come along with a renewal of the AAA content that VR so desperately needs.

The PlayStation VR 2 has faltered in its designs for its own complicated headset, which first hit the market in 2016. The VR system—with the PS4—was frozen in time with specifications. As a result, PlayStation’s first headset aged horribly in hardware and software. Thankfully, users won’t expect outdated VR hardware like a camera tracker and cables running through its own ‘processor unit.’

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The new headset cuts out a lot of the fat, so users can dive straight into experiences like Horizon Call of the Mountain. Using PlayStation VR 2 is as simple as plugging in and playing through the PS5. One of my favourite features starts with the single cable that runs from the headset to the front USB-C port on the PS5 console.

PlayStation has surprisingly learned from the Oculus Link system, which combines hardware with streaming from one powerful device. Of course, the PSVR 2 knows its PS5 system is doing all the work for next-generation games. Meanwhile, users benefit from a simple setup that takes just a few minutes with simple on-screen instructions.

The PlayStation VR 2’s architecture flows with its home console. The headset feels elegant to look at, just as the PS5 first did for users expecting a premium finish. PlayStation has also taken its design seriously, matching the console’s matte finish and pearl white walls. This makes the PlayStation VR 2 feel light and easy to carry around and decorate rooms with. The lightweight design is also easy to use and works wonders for VR sessions longer than two hours (because who has that much time to spend in The Matrix?).

“PlayStation VR 2 is—dare I say it—the first attempt I’ve seen in years to create a next-generation VR experience.’

The PSVR 2 brings back the Halo strap, which wraps tightly around your head with a faux leather finish. It’s easy to adjust via a dial and button on the back, which relieves pressure and also tightens the headset. However, the PlayStation VR 2 takes things a little further into the future by ditching head straps that put pressure on your eyes. The frame even has a super-thin rubber curtain to prevent light from entering. PlayStation’s small changes to the headset’s quality of life have paid off—especially for those who have waited long enough to get into VR.

PlayStation’s biggest improvement is the four built-in cameras for tracking. This all-in-one setup has its own ability to track controllers and positions. Users get a satisfying VR immersion with six degrees of freedom (6DoF), which allows them to walk around rooms relative to the game world. During setup, one of the headset’s more innovative features is the automatic scanning of rooms to create a boundary. It’s easily a step up from the competition, where users draw their own safety zones. The PlayStation, however, takes full advantage of each camera for a variety of features for the sake of simplicity.

The tracking works best with rooms at least six-by-six feet, while users with even bigger space will have an easier PSVR 2 session. These improvements in tracking are long overdue. But the PSVR 2 still loses tracking occasionally. Horizon Call of the Mountain brought out the worst in the PlayStation VR 2’s hand-eye coordination. Drawing a bow meant my right hand got too close to the headset and floated away in-game. Moments like these should have been mitigated by VR’s peak in 2023.

But the PlayStation is still a little (dare I say it?) careless in not tracking the sides of the headset. The positional cameras sometimes lost orientation altogether. This is where gaming sessions can force you into the PSVR 2’s own see-through mode in real life and confirm your position. Before any patches, the pre-release version of my PSVR 2 headset loses me more often than it should.

But I trust PlayStation to iron out these glitches over the life of the headset. The PlayStation VR 2 adds even more value for users who want to get into VR without the limitations of a PC or an underpowered Meta Quest 2. It’s these timely hardware upgrades that offer VR without compromise.

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Horizon Call of the Mountain

Of course, the PSVR 2 has everything to tell inside through its OLED lens. Each adjustable eye packs a 2000 by 2040 resolution (miles ahead of the PSVR’s 1080p screen). New and familiar users will appreciate the headset’s crispy presentation. In front of menus, text and images, the PlayStation VR 2 is now distinguishable from competitors. PlayStation’s timely design choice closely matches the PS5’s graphical detail in games this time. Users will have fun trying to spot a blur up close on dirt, rocks and faces.

But the PS5’s photorealism and ability to generate natural visuals don’t feel stretched around VR users. Instead, the PSVR 2 amplifies and somehow does more with the PS5’s AMD Zen 2 GPU. It’s a wonder to see some of VR’s best graphics propelled by PlayStation 5 for a change. Think; PS5’s stunning visuals, which have to be expanded for a 1:1 (lifelike) scale for VR users without muddling anything down. The PlayStation VR 2 pulls this feat off while proving its next-gen worth.

It’s a shame to see older games scratch the surface with PSVR 2’s graphical potential. ILMxLab’s Star Wars: Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge is one of the games to jump from the mobile-based Meta Quest 2 and onto PSVR 2. Users can start to tell apart its dated visuals once optimized for older hardware. But ILMxLab also went out of their way to upscale textures and leverage the PSVR 2’s OLED.

Darker shadows, softer lights and sharper holograms brought out the PSVR 2’s ability to stream clear 4K HDR visuals. Better yet, VR’s long-standing issue of ghosting or blurring while turning is almost eliminated through the PSVR 2’s higher refresh rates from 90hz to 120hz.

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Star Wars: Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge

Moss Book One and Two are older games that have also been remastered for PlayStation VR 2. While players can start to see the PS5’s graphics diffuse sunlight and dust for natural VR effects, Horizon Call of the Mountain—the PSVR 2’s only exclusive launch title—is easily one of its best case studies. The action-adventure game by Guerilla doesn’t just turn Horizon’s rich dystopia into a simulation.

But the PSVR 2 makes Call of the Mountain feel believable thanks to raw PS5 graphics pushed even further. The headset’s 110-degree field of view is only going to help players see vast biomes. While the PlayStation VR 2 still has some in-house exclusives cooking up, it makes a strong case to offer some of the best graphics immersive platforms have to offer.

Up close, I could see the wrinkles, folds and pores of my hand shine under artificial sunlight. Apples scavenged from a crate look eerily similar to the ones in my fridge. Water moves unpredictably with a hypnotic glimmer. The fabric on my gloves has threads and tufts which actually moved in the direction of light breezes around me. VR visuals are at their finest in 2023, with the PSVR 2 taking one leap ahead with Unreal Engine 5 applications.

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Horizon Call of the Mountain

Eye-tracking is a gleeful addition to the PlayStation VR 2, which can be seen in Horizon. Users won’t take too long getting used to scrolling through in-game menus with their pupils. The PlayStation VR 2 does a surprisingly flawless job of recognizing your eye’s gestures—to the point where users could feel nervous about moving them by accident. In neat attention to detail, eye tracking is also used for dynamic lighting perspectives. I’m excited to see how the eye tracking feature can enhance accessible UI and possibly laser vision that works in a Superman VR title.

The PSVR 2 makes an easy decision to craft brand-new controllers, while PlayStation has killed off its familiar Move controllers from the first PSVR. Those joystick-free wands were easily VR’s worst controllers that made in-game navigation a chore. Luckily, the PSVR 2 Sense controllers have adapted to standard VR norms. These haptic-filled controllers feel comfortable with a sculpted grip that doesn’t cramp in long sessions. PlayStation clearly knew the DualSense’s immersive sensations made bigger sense over the PSVR 2. Users will also feel at home with the same Circle/Cross/Triangle/Square face buttons.

Each PSVR 2 Sense controller feels on par with the Valve Index through the use of haptics. This comes thanks to an assortment of sensors that can simulate hand grips, high-fives and a thumbs-up. More importantly, almost every feature on the DualSense is present for VR. My favourite included the haptic feedback, which mimics surfaces with palms.

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After the Fall

It’s an easy feature shown in Horizon, as hands can feel the fuzzy friction of ropes when climbing. Grass can rustle and add realistic brushing noises across fingers. Haptic triggers make a return to give shooters extra realism with pulling triggers. Games, including After The Fall, made my trigger finger happy, with varied pressure based on weapons.

The PlayStation VR 2 makes sure no part goes to waste. The headband is full of surprises, including the audio system. Unfortunately, PlayStation didn’t quite get the VR memo about immersive speakers. However, it has upped its headphone game by allowing players to clip interchangeable headphones onto the strap.

Better still, the headphones even come with holders for each earbud after use. It’s a handy upgrade that eliminates the problem of headphones getting tangled up during intense arm-waving sessions. A stranger but fascinating addition is the Head Haptics, which can send a rumbling sensation through your skull. It’s an innovative form of feedback that’s worked for damage, earthquakes and standing under the might of robotic dinosaurs.

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The grip buttons—now L1 and RI—on the Sense controllers are hard buttons. PlayStation takes a worse design choice in making their grip buttons easier to toggle than hold. In other words, items that require holding will feel exhausting over time. As the PSVR 2 tries to keep up with very grippy titles, it can be a pain to play Galaxy’s Edge and After the Fall, which fully rely on the L1 and R1 grips.

“The PlayStation VR 2 will have to rely on AAA content to survive.”

Better yet: both Sense controllers now have joysticks for looking and snap-turning when needed, while locomotion—teleporting and joystick walking—open the PSVR 2 up to more modern games, which can be ported over.

A leap in hardware brings up the PlayStation VR 2’s lack of backwards compatibility. To its credit, PlayStation is sticking to its guns and letting PS5-based games run on the new headset. But it leaves behind a treasure trove of VR games from PlayStation VR that could have benefited from newer hardware. Unfortunately, the PSVR 2 can’t naturally upscale older games. Ironically, it can’t mimic backward compatibility for these types of PS4 games, even though the PS5 is more than capable. It’s a huge oversight that limits the library and forces developers to remaster older PSVR titles.

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Moss: Book II

The PlayStation VR 2 will have to rely on AAA content to survive. Horizon Call of the Mountain is easily the best launch title for PSVR 2. But it’s also a worrying sign that VR games based on their exclusive IPs will be harder to come by. It’s exciting to dream of Uncharted, God of War and The Last of Us making their way into VR and attracting more users in the process.

The PlayStation VR 2 comes into the medium with enough technology over the PS5 to make this happen. I’m more than excited to see some of this at work, with Resident Evil Village becoming a fully-fledged VR game with an update. There’s nothing stopping PlayStation from encouraging more developers to tinker with VR for existing AAA titles.

The PlayStation VR 2 is—dare I say it—the first attempt I’ve seen in years to create a next-generation VR experience. The headset is promising thanks to a winning combination of comfortable controls, ease of use and modern quality-of-life enhancements. More importantly, it pushes the PlayStation 5‘s already powerful specifications to work with life-size realities. With the PlayStation’s VR’s vows renewed and a step ahead of the competition, all that’s left to do is show gamers some AAA love for years to come.

Final Thoughts

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