Review: PlayStation VR2

Over the last ten years, the VR landscape has changed significantly. It has always been a niche scene, especially considering you’ve generally needed a powerful PC alongside an expensive headset, but Sony has been trying to break it out into the mainstream. The original PlayStation VR was arguably the more affordable option for most players as not only was the headset priced lower than most of the competition, but the PlayStation 4 was far cheaper than a PC that was required to run games acceptably. Unfortunately, the device came with a bevy of limitations, such as requiring the PlayStation Camera alongside tacking on the Move Motion controllers. It was less than ideal, but there was no doubt some compelling arguments to be made for owning the headset. These included games such as Astro Bot, Moss and Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, just to name a few. Still, it was a hefty investment for more or less an experimental piece of hardware. Now that we have more competition in the scene, such as the dedicated Meta Quest 2 or the popular Valve Index, Sony’s offering an incredible value proposition for a VR experience.

From a design perspective, the headset itself looks modern. It has the PlayStation 5’s sleek white and black matte finish, along with four small cameras on the front. There isn’t any plush cushioning on the back of the headband, but instead more absorbent material, which makes sense considering how tight this needs to be adjusted. You’d think it would become uncomfortable having something essentially screwed into your skull, but we never noticed much discomfort even through lengthy sessions. The cushioning on the back of the headband is more than adequate and is even placed on the front for the forehead. The headband itself doesn’t feel the sturdiest, but it should hold up as long as you’re not tossing it across the room. The dial on the back is easily accessible, along with the adjustment to the lens on the front. There’s a handy button on the bottom that will move from the cinematic mode to the front camera’s perspective, allowing you to adjust your placement if you have wandered off too much without actually having to take the headset off. The eye padding feels like it’s more to ensure the immersion isn’t broken by blackening your peripheral, as it’s light. With that said, the lenses will need to get close to your eyes, and while it works fine for glasses users, it will no doubt scuff up the insides with time.

How Sony handles the earbuds in the PSVR2 is smart. Because of the shape of the headset, it’s difficult to get full on earphones over your head (although not impossible, just not too comfortable). Instead, Sony opted to include earbuds which its base has been molded into a half circle, allowing you to connect it directly into the same shaped earband, with the buds themselves having wiggle room for cord length on each side. Outside of this, the USB cable that connects into the PlayStation is nearly fifteen feet in length, which is good for the majority of situations. It’s heavy duty, so if you’re too far away from the console itself, it won’t go unnoticed as there will be an additional weight dragging down the headset.

Clarity is a huge component to the PlayStation VR2 as it features an impressive 2000×2040 resolution lens. By comparison, that’s only around 20% less pixels than the HTC Vive Pro 2 at essentially half of the price (if not less). The visual quality is superb, something that videos online can never do it proper justice. You’ll feel immersed within the worlds that are created, even though the lineup we have to experience has been limited. Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge and Horizon: Call of the Mountain, for example, we felt completely enraptured in. The value proposition for the visual component alone is worth considering the PlayStation VR2. On top of this, the headset also features eye tracking functionality, which works surprisingly well. Unfortunately, something that I don’t know will ever be a non-issue is nausea. Obviously it will depend on the game and the amount of factors such as camera shake and general movement, but we felt quite a bit of it after longer play sessions. Even our depth perception after play sessions would be a little scrambled. It’s something to get used to.

The setup is relatively straightforward, even though we did run into some issues. Basically, the headset will need some calibration, including adjusting the lens angle and sliding how close the goggles will be to your eyes. Upon doing this, the play area will need to be scanned then the user draws in how much actual space they have. This will ensure players will see a specific warning barrier in-game when they reach the boundaries. The issue is that we had to recalibrate our play area a few times, which becomes a hassle when you just want to jump straight into the game. It does have some trouble with verticality, too. While you can easily adjust how far you are to the ground, the same can’t be said in the other direction. We have a relatively low ceiling and it couldn’t pick this up, and when there are games such as Horizon: Call of the Mountain which requires reaching upwards, it can be hard to judge how much space you have. Outside of this, though, setting up eye tracking is as simple as following a light and we never had any issues with the new controllers. Even with hiccups, this has been a generally smooth experience.

Taking into account the improved resolution and comfort, the controllers are arguably the biggest and best improvement over the original PlayStation VR. As mentioned before, PSVR required the PlayStation Move controllers, something that was somewhat tacked on to ensure these Wii Remote-esque devices would get extended use. They worked, but were far from the best way from experiencing virtual reality. The new controllers have been developed specifically for the PlayStation VR2, ensuring their functionality perfectly fits the overall experience. The Square and Triangle buttons have been separated from the Circle and X buttons, which will take some time getting used to, not to mention the L1 and R1 buttons being lower on the sticks than L2 and R2, but the Valve Index style spacial grips that wrap around the hand feel nice to hold. Sony also include the Dualsense’s trademark Haptic Feedback triggers, trying to immerse the player as much as possible.  One aspect to the new controllers is that the docking station feels necessary for these two spaceship-looking devices. A USB cable is included for charging, but it doesn’t feel like it’s enough. Having the two neatly sit in a base is not only attractive, but highly efficient with USB dongles. Unfortunately, the battery isn’t exactly the longest, only lasting a little over four hours, and taking around an hour to fully charge. It’s not ideal, but considering the general VR game is shorter than your typical video game, it will be fine in most situations.

Speaking of the video games, at the current time, the lineup for the PlayStation VR2 is a mixed bag. There’s quite a few titles, but the vast majority are ports of older or recently-released VR games such as Moss, Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge and Tetris Effect Connected, just to name a few. The main title that’s being pitched is without doubt Horizon: Call of the Mountain. While it has entertaining values, it unfortunately feels like a lengthy rock climbing tech demo. Maybe that’s doing it a disservice as it’s still a visual spectacle, but for the price of admission, it’s hard to make a case for it. Because this is aimed towards the PlayStation market, the PSVR2 entirely restricted to the PlayStation 5 with no outlook of the device working on a PC any time soon. It somewhat makes sense as this looks to sell consoles just as much as it’s looking to attract its current customer base. If you’re someone who’s completely new to the VR world, this is an incredible launch lineup, but there’s not a whole lot of games that would help sell the expensive piece of hardware.

Closing Comments:

The original PlayStation VR was far from the most compelling argument for the VR outlook. While it offered a more affordable way to experience this new style of gameplay, immersing the player in a rich world, its limitations stunted its expansion. We’re glad Sony didn’t give up, as even with its issues, the PlayStation VR2 is one of the best VR headsets available from a pure value proposition aspect. This is an incredible piece of hardware with high resolution lens, a comfortable, form-fitting design and fantastic controllers. It has an immense lineup of games to choose from, but unfortunately the poster child, Horizon: Call of the Mountain, falls short of being something special. It’s a lengthy adventure for sure, but a lot of the value comes in experiencing the beautiful world than the actual gameplay. On top of that, while the controllers feel good in your hands, they don’t last particularly long and more or less require the docking station. In the end, the PlayStation VR2 is a fancy piece of hardware that’s a significant improvement over its predecessor, but it still has a lot to prove.