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Monday, May 27, 2024

PlayStation VR2 Review

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It’s a thrill when we get to say this about a new piece of gaming hardware: The PlayStation VR 2 is a true generational leap that makes the old one look like a piece of junk. It’s not exactly cheap, but for $549.99 you get a high-end headset with a 4K, HDR-enabled OLED screen, a 110-degree field of view, built-in tracking cameras, and eye tracking, plus two of its slick Sense controllers with the excellent adaptive triggers and haptic feedback Sony introduced with the PlayStation 5’s DualSense controller. The catch is that it requires you to be connected to a PS5 by a single USB-C cable, but that means it’s much, much more powerful when it comes to delivering fantastic graphics than a self-contained headset like the Meta Quest 2. With all of that, including a few features you don’t see on even more expensive PC VR headsets like Valve’s Index and HP’s Reverb G2, the PlayStation VR2 has vaulted console VR into the lead in just about every category… except available games.

PlayStation VR2 – Design and Features

The PlayStation VR2 is an immediate improvement over its predecessor in every way, but the physical design is actually pretty similar. Like its forebear, it’s got a clean black-and-white look that matches your PS5, and it’s built around an adjustable head strap that’s separated from the VR display itself, which does a great job of comfortably accommodating a wide range of head shapes and lets the weight of the screen rest on the top of your head rather than on your face. The one-stop adjustment mechanism on the back of the head strap remains an excellent way to dial in a perfect fit.

PlayStation VR2 – Photos

It’s nice to see the PS VR2 has a slider on the top-left side of the lens casing to quickly adjust the headset’s interpupillary distance, or IPD, and it’s especially neat that the internal camera quickly measures the distance between your eyes during setup. Other than that Sony has kept the headset itself simple, with just two buttons at the bottom of the display. The center button turns the headset on and off, and the other instantly activates passthrough mode, letting you see the real world around you in black and white without taking off the headset. This is great if you need to adjust your controllers or greet someone who’s entered your play area. That said, it’s slightly disappointing there are no physical buttons to adjust the volume.

Sony has kept the headset itself simple.


Everything else about the PS VR2 feels like a quantum leap over any other headset in its price class – save for the HP Reverb G2 which, up until now, has offered a level of fidelity only accessible to PC gamers. This is no longer the case, and the PlayStation VR2 is now the most affordable way to play PC-quality VR games at 4K resolution. Unlike the Reverb G2, however, the PS VR2’s display uses two HDR-enabled 2,000 x 2,040 per-eye OLED panels that operate at up to 120 Hz and offer a 110-degree FOV, rather than the G2’s slightly less glamorous dual 2,160 x 2,160 LCD panels that cap out at 90 Hz and a 98-degree FOV without any support for HDR. As a result, the PlayStation VR2 displays a picture that is smoother, richer, and deeper than anything else on the market today – save for, perhaps, the Meta Quest Pro which costs three times as much.

PlayStation VR2 – Setup and Controllers

Compared to the original PSVR, setup is a breeze. Instead of a whole bunch of cables and an HDMI switcher that was an absolute chore to deal with – to say nothing of the tracking camera – the PS VR2 has a single 4.5m USB-C cable you plug into your PS5, and… you’re done! After that you’ll need to install a firmware update and then quickly calibrate your controllers, eye tracking, and lens spacing, and the four tracking cameras will capture a scan of your room. It’s extremely cool to see it accurately map out the geometry of a room – and everything in it, including furniture, pets, and even the leftovers on your coffee table. Once you carve out a play area, the PS VR2’s guardian walls rise out of the ground, clearly marking which parts of your room are safe to walk around in.

It’s easy to recalibrate or adjust your settings at any point from the main PlayStation 5 settings menu, and anyone familiar with the PS5’s control center won’t have a problem seamlessly navigating between the VR experience and the PS5’s main menu. Still, it’s neat that someone can stand outside of the PS VR2 headset and direct the experience remotely using a DualSense controller. This can make setup way simpler if you’re trying to show off the PS VR2 to someone who doesn’t usually spend time in VR or isn’t familiar with the PS5’s interface.

If you’ve only ever used the PSVR’s Move controllers, the moment you grab onto the included pair of Sense controllers is a revelation. The layout of their clicky face buttons and analog sticks will feel familiar to anyone who has played room-scale VR in the last several years, but they step things up with the addition of haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. The analog sticks are half the size of the DualSense’s, but remain tactile, allowing almost the same degree of precision as a D-Pad when playing a game of Tetris Effect: Connected, which is notoriously difficult to play on the Quest 2’s default Touch controllers. Each button also features capacitive touch that can tell if your fingers are on it or not, which allows you to make reasonably accurate gestures with your hands. It’s not quite as sophisticated as the finger tracking on the Valve Index controllers, though, so you’re limited to specific gestures like giving a thumbs up or pointing with your index finger.

In games like Horizon Call of the Mountain and Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge, you can feel the power of drawing a virtual bowstring or shooting a virtual blaster through the resistance of the adaptive triggers. Haptic feedback improves this effect by simulating certain forces, textures, and noises through dynamic vibrations. This can be felt in everything from smashing a large shipping container with your Godzilla-sized tentacles in Tentacular to tackling an opponent in 2MD: VR Football Unleashed – but it’s at its most impressive when producing subtle but accurate vibrations for calmer interactions, such as gliding your paddle against the flow of water in Kayak VR Mirage, where you can almost feel the resistance of the water through the Sense controller’s haptic vibrations.

You can feel the power of drawing a virtual bowstring or shooting a virtual blaster.


Of course, just like with the DualSense, battery life is a concern here: with all that vibrating and resisting, a full charge only lasts around four to five hours. That’s a long time for a session of VR gaming, but the fact that you can’t swap out batteries for a fresh pair means you might get cut short if you forget to plug them in. Likewise, the Sense controllers’ ring design may take some getting used to – it can be difficult to figure out where your hands are supposed to go by touch, which adds a little hassle to the joy of introducing someone new to VR. But they’re comfortable to hold once you get a grip.

PlayStation VR2 – Gaming Performance

In contrast to the OLED panel included in the original PSVR, the PS VR2’s 4K HDR OLED panel offers richer colors and up to a 120Hz refresh rate, making even less visually detailed games come to life. The screen door effect was never an issue with the PSVR, and it isn’t here either, but with proper IPD calibration, you can now tactically eliminate glare as well. The fact that you’re encompassed by 110 degrees of scenery at all times makes VR all the more lifelike. That’s 10 degrees wider than the original PSVR, and it’s a significant difference in how much of the world around you is visible. It’s still a bit like wearing a SCUBA mask, but it’s a bigger, less-claustrophobic SCUBA mask. Simply put, the PS VR2 is by far the most gorgeous headset in the $500 price range.

Every PlayStation VR2 Launch Game

A list of games confirmed to launch alongside PlayStation’s second VR headset.See All

The PS VR2’s access to the PS5’s graphical horsepower allows its games to have vast draw distances, much like their flatscreen counterparts, and there’s no better demonstration of this than in Horizon Call of the Mountain. You can see fully simulated mechanical creatures running around across the map, contrasted against cascading waterfalls and picturesque mountaintops reflecting light in the distance. Similarly, Cities VR: Enhanced Edition allows you to build urban sprawls that truly come alive from a distance – and now you can see all of it, all at once.

The PS VR2 has a fancy new trick called foveated rendering.


On top of that, the PS VR2 has a fancy new trick called foveated rendering, which means its built-in IR camera tracks the movement of your eyes and uses that information to improve efficiency. Because it knows exactly what you’re focused on, it can put all its processing power into making that area super detailed, while everything else can be dialed down to conserve resources. It’s also neat that certain games can now allow you to select menu options with your eyes, or toggle interactions just by glancing at a character. The only other headset available right now that can do this is the Meta Quest Pro, and that’ll cost you $1,500.

Another nice touch you don’t see on the other popular VR sets is built-in headset vibration, which adds a new layer of immersion to gameplay when implemented at the right moments. For example, roving dinosaurs in Jurassic World Aftermath and explosions in Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge both generate haptic vibrations that pulse through the headset, coinciding with the distance, position, and intensity of the sounds they produce. It can bring the cinematic details out of sound design in games that implement it skillfully, but you really want proper 3D audio on top of the haptics in order to get the full experience, which means the disappointing packed-in earbuds don’t cut it quite as well as something like Sony’s own Pulse 3D wireless headphones.

The disappointing packed-in earbuds don’t cut it quite as well as something like Sony’s own Pulse 3D wireless headphones. 


Unfortunately, you’re out of luck if you’re hoping any of this will work with your existing PSVR game catalog. Because of how big an improvement it is, PS VR2 represents a clean slate for PlayStation’s entire VR library, so even if you’ve spent hundreds of dollars on PSVR games that made the list of PS VR2 games in the launch window, you’ll have to buy them again (though a few publishers have announced free PS VR2 upgrades for existing PSVR games). And considering that there just aren’t a ton of new games announced yet, it might be a while before the PS VR2 catches up to other platforms in terms of selection. But hey, it has Beat Saber, and what more do you really need?

Verdict

The PlayStation VR2 may seem pricey, given that it costs $150 more than the base PS5 Digital Edition console you’ll need to use it. Even so, it’s such a quantum leap over the original PSVR in terms of ease of use, visual quality, and immersion that any PlayStation owner who loves VR should upgrade as soon as possible. Its 4K HDR OLED screen and excellently tactile Sense controllers are the most obvious improvement, but plentiful quality-of-life changes and the raw horsepower of the PS5 set a new standard for how VR games should play and feel on console. The downside is that, like any new platform, its thin launch lineup makes its lack of backward compatibility with original PSVR games a significant problem, but one that will only improve as Sony and other developers roll out new games that take advantage of the PSVR2’s unique features.

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