When the original PlayStation VR launched in 2016, it already felt a bit dated, with its stationary setup and PlayStation Move controllers outclassed by the room-scale VR offered by its PC rivals. The PlayStation VR2, thankfully, upgrades things. Room-scale VR is on offer here thanks to inside-out headset-based tracking, and the controllers feel on par with Meta’s latest.
PSVR2 also brings new features to the table. Its eye tracking is a first for a VR headset, as is the haptic feedback built into the headset itself. The controllers also leverage the same haptic feedback and adaptive triggers as the excellent PS5 DualSense controllerwhich if well implemented will be all the more effective associated with the immersion of VR.
It is also, however, still rooted – or should I say – attached to the past. Like other PC-based VR headsets, the PSVR2 still requires a wired connection to your PS5. It’s a relatively uninhibiting single thin cable, especially compared to the multi-cable clutter of its predecessor, but it might feel limiting for people accustomed to the Meta Quest 2’s wireless experience.
Last week I went to PlayStation headquarters in the US for the first hands-on experience with PSVR2. I’ve played four games: Resident Evil Village VR, Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge Enhanced Edition, The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners Chapter 2, and Horizon Call of the Mountain. Let me tell you all about it.
Let’s start with the hardware itself. PlayStation VR2 has a similar headset design to its predecessor, with a band that sits across the crown of your head and hugs the nape of your neck. This gives a nice weight distribution that doesn’t feel front-heavy like some VR headsets can. On the back of the strap is a button that makes it slide when pressed, as well as a dial that lets you tighten the strap further if needed. There’s also a button on the face shield that lets you slide it in or out, making the helmet easy to put on and then adjust to a comfortable position. Although I didn’t test it that way, a Sony rep demonstrated that there was plenty of room inside the headset to accommodate goggles. Once the headset is on, there’s a dial to the top left of the face unit that adjusts the lenses to ensure everything is in focus.
The OLED panels inside offer 2000×2040 resolution per eye at up to 120hz. This is the highest resolution available among consumer VR headsets and delivers an exceptional level of visual fidelity. I didn’t notice the dreaded “screen door” effect at all during my time with the system. This is further aided by something called foveal rendering, which basically means the system uses its built-in eye tracking to increase the resolution of whatever you’re looking at.
The PSVR2 uses four cameras built into the headset for upside-down tracking of controllers and your surroundings. When you first set up your play space, the system prompts you to slowly look around as it scans the area – including the floor and ceiling – and designates a safe zone for you to play in. From here you can draw lines on the ground to manually add or subtract from the area, exactly the same as on the Meta helmets. There’s also a button on the bottom right of the headset that activates a pass-through camera, letting you see your surroundings and grab your controllers.
Speaking of controllers, their design is relatively similar to PC VR systems. Each has a controller, two primary input buttons (triangle and square on the left, circle and cross on the right), plus a PS and options button each. For triggers, there’s an L2/R2, which are activated by your index fingers and act as the main trigger for pistols and other handheld devices. R1/L1, on the other hand, rest under your middle/ring finger and are used to articulate gripping elements.
The controllers also have capacitive capabilities, allowing them to sense whether or not you’re touching the controller even if you’re not pressing a button. This is relatively similar to Valve Index’s “Knuckles” controllers, although I found finger tracking not to be as accurate as Valve’s implementation. Valve’s controllers also have a strap on the back of your hand that holds the controllers in place if you fully open your palm, while PSVR2 controllers require you to grip them at least lightly at all times. This was especially noticeable while playing The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners, where it wasn’t enough to close my hand to grab a weapon, and instead I had to hold down the L1/R1 bumper with my middle and ring fingers. . The button isn’t particularly hard to press, but having to hold it down for an extended period of time – like when holding a gun or a knife – started to tire and cramp my hand after playing for over 20 minutes approx.
The controllers also feature the same haptic feedback and adaptive triggers as the PS5’s DualSense controller. Unfortunately, neither really stood out to me during the game demos I played. Every developer I spoke to mentioned plans to implement both features in their games, but aside from Horizon Call of the Mountain, they weren’t present in the demo builds I played yet. In Horizon I also didn’t particularly notice the triggers doing anything special, but the section I played only used a bow and arrow so I didn’t have any other weapons to use compare the feel. The devs told me that other weapons later in the game will take more advantage of triggers, like a large mounted ballista that feels heavy to fire.
In addition to the controllers, the headset itself also has built-in haptic feedback. Again, this was most noticeable to me while playing Horizon VR – either it wasn’t implemented in the other games yet, or it wasn’t present enough for me to remember. Either way, I found the feature to be a nice addition to the haptic landscape, although I mostly noticed it when taking damage or being shaken. It wasn’t distracting or uncomfortable at all, but it also didn’t feel like it added a layer of immersion that I couldn’t live without. I suppose, like the haptics of the DualSense, its implementation will vary from game to game and it will all depend on how hard the developers put into using it.
The headset has no onboard audio, leaving you to rely on TV/speaker audio or a pair of headphones instead – either connected wirelessly to your PS5 or via a 3.5mm headphone jack on the PSVR2 headset. I found this solution a little disappointing compared to the Valve Index’s out-of-ear spatial audio, as it meant you needed a pair of headphones if you wanted spatial sound. Personally, I found the headset/helmet combo to be a bit bulky and cumbersome, and it was harder to get the VR2 into the perfect position in front of my eyes.
PlayStation VR2’s flagship launch game is Horizon Call of the Mountain, a standalone entry in the Horizon series. Set during the events of Horizon Zero Dawn, you play as Ryas, a disgraced ex-soldier from Carja who, at the start of the game, was released from prison for reasons still unknown.
Ryas is an expert mountaineer, and much of Call of the Mountain’s exploration gameplay involves traversing the peaks of Carja Sundom. This means physically moving your hands from grip to grip, pulling yourself up and through rocks, cracks and other climbable areas. The climbing paths feel similar to those in something like Uncharted or Tomb Raider, but moving your hands around to scale these routes is hugely more satisfying than just holding down a climb button.
The exploration portion I played was relatively linear, but the verticality of the level design and the way the paths sometimes fold in on themselves as you reach greater heights make it a long way off just move in a straight line. And while I didn’t experience it during the demo I played, the Horizon devs told me the levels would have multiple routes to the destination, with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore. .
During these exploration sections, you can use your bow and arrows to shoot targets. In the section I played it just turned on traffic lights which seemed to be mostly to get you used to shooting in VR, but I wouldn’t be surprised if later areas required you to pull switches or levers to solve puzzles or open paths.
The other half of Call of the Mountain’s gameplay is combat with the mechanical beasts of the Carja Sundom. When you enter combat, the game turns into a circular arena with you locked in a ring-shaped path with your opponent in the middle. You can dodge left and right by holding down the a button and sliding your right arm, which is used both to move along your circular path and to dodge incoming attacks. The attack uses the same bow and arrow pantomime as in the exploration sections – hold down the right trigger and reach behind your shoulder to fire an arrow, snap it onto the bow and fire, aim and release trigger to shoot.
I played two fights, the first against one of the raptor-like Watcher enemies, who attacked with tail swipes and charged slow energy balls. The other was a boss fight against a massive Thunderjaw, which had a much larger circular arena littered with useful cover chunks to hide from its barrage of lasers, missiles, and other attacks.
Horizon: Call of the Mountain – Official State of Play 2022 Screens
Fortunately, PlayStation VR2 looks like a modern entry into the VR landscape, with top-notch visual fidelity and comfortable ergonomics. Its haptic and adaptive triggers, if implemented well, will be a welcome addition to the immersive experience. As with any new hardware, the question now is whether there will be enough games to make the investment worthwhile. First-party games like Horizon Call of the Mountain certainly help ease those fears, and while nothing has been announced yet, I’d be shocked if the exceptional Half-Life: Alyx didn’t make its way to the platform.
The other key issue is price. The original PSVR launched at $399, and given the hardware on offer here, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the PSVR2 launch at $499 – especially given the inflation-related price increases that have recently hit both the Meta Quest 2 and the PS5 itself in many territories. Still, for PS5 owners who want an easy (read: non-PC-based) way to access a high-end VR experience, PSVR2 holds great promise.
For more on PSVR2, check out the PSVR2 releases trailer from No Man’s Sky and Resident Evil Village. And for everything else in gaming and tech, stick with IGN.
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