Over the last decade, virtual reality has had a number of false starts. Each year seemed to herald the year when technology would finally enter the public domain, but to little avail. There was nothing wrong with the devices; they simply did not capture the attention of the larger market. The PlayStation VR2 is light and mostly comfortable.
Sony’s original PlayStation VR probably had the greatest impact, with more than five million headsets sold worldwide as a result of a more accessible source of entertainment (the PS4) and a low price. However, it was flawed. It provided a decently immersive experience, but the control method left much to be desired. By tracking coloured lights with a low-resolution camera, the system was frequently confused by reflections or ambient lighting.
The PSVR2 borrows some design elements from its predecessor while also sticking to the same aesthetic language as the PlayStation 5. It is primarily white with black accents and thus stands out from the majority of other headsets on the market.
Except for the softer, padded section on the inside of the head/neck band and the light guard around the eyepiece, the material used is mostly solid, sturdy plastic. This latter, concertinaed area is made of flexible silicone rubber and does an excellent job of blocking out light bleed without making the face feel claustrophobic or tight. As far as VR headsets go, the PSVR2 is light and mostly comfortable, though you must ensure that it is properly fitted or the hard plastic will rub against the bridge of your nose. That will become painful after a while, so make sure to follow the instructions on how to properly wear it.
Set-up and Use
The PlayStation VR2 is much simpler to set up than its predecessor. To begin, it does not require a separate AV box and simply plugs into the front of the PlayStation 5 via the USB-C port. When you first use it, you are guided through the setup process, which includes activating eye-tracking and configuring your play area.
You must set the play area for your preferred method of play (depending on the game, of course), but keep in mind that if you want the full experience, you will need a minimum area of 2-metres x 2-metres. This is larger than you might think and could be a barrier for many people.
The Sense controllers are as far away from the Move controllers used with PSVR as possible. For starters, they don’t use light for tracking at least not coloured light balls. Furthermore, they contain multiple motion sensors, resulting in smooth in-game action that mimics your real-life movements with no discernible lag.
In fact, the controllers are also most similar of the Oculus Touch equivalents. They have a loop that protects the hand while also sending an imperceptible IR signal to the headset for precise positioning information. Inside each controller is also DualSense-style technology, with similar adaptive triggers that can become more difficult to pull depending on in-game actions, as well as haptic feedback that feels natural.
Overall, the PlayStation VR2 is an impressive piece of technology. It supports 3D Audio, has its own haptic feedback, and while it is a wired experience, the cable is long enough to avoid getting tangled in it too frequently. The OLED display, however, is the most impressive aspect of the technology in our opinion. It has a resolution of 2000 x 2040 per eye, that is impressive on paper but even more impressive when strapped to your head. Only when you look closely and under certain conditions can you see the individual pixels (when there is a lot of grey on the screen, for example). The colour reproduction is also excellent, with deep saturation.
This is also one of the few HDR-capable headsets. We haven’t seen it used in a game yet, but its presence implies that more natural colours are technically possible. It will be fascinating to see how developers use it in the future.
Experience and Games
Of course, the technology is impressive, but a VR headset without software is nothing more than a hunk of expensive plastic and glass. Fortunately, thanks to the PSVR’s success and the vast collections of titles available on other devices, a large number of games are available at launch or coming soon.
Unfortunately, and this will annoy many who upgrade, original PlayStation VR games are not compatible with PSVR2. Based on the experience provided, we suspect this is a deliberate decision rather than a technical one, but you’ll have to restart your library with the new headset. Many PSVR games are being upgraded, with some even offering the PS5 version for free. Others are charging a small fee, and many are brand new games.
The main distinction between this generation of PlayStation VR and the previous one is how well it performs. Simply put, it’s an excellent device with a sharp, engaging display and the technical know-how to make you forget you’re wearing an accessory. The picture quality is excellent, and the eye tracking has a significant – albeit initially imperceptible – impact on gameplay and comfort. You don’t have to move your entire head to look at something. Other headsets provide this as well, but none connect to simple game consoles.
This is also important as the role of the PlayStation 5 in all of this should not be overlooked. It is such a capable machine that it gives developers more freedom than they would have had with other consumer-friendly devices. It can provide the best experience possible today by delivering the right resolution at the right frame rate (outside of spending close to a grand).
As it stands, the PlayStation VR2 is such a significant improvement over its predecessor that those who tried the original and weren’t convinced should reconsider. It is a highly capable device with the technology to back it up. All that remains to be seen is how well it will be supported by games in the coming years. It’s off to a great start, thanks in no small part to the excellent Horizon: Call of the Mountain, but we suspect we’ve only seen the beginning of a wave of increasingly impressive titles.