Playstation VR2 review: A new era for console VR
The PlayStation VR2 might be expensive, but despite its flaws, it’s an exceptional device, as it heralds a brand-new generation of AAA console VR.
The PlayStation VR2 was announced last year, and with it came some trepidation, the original PSVR was relatively underpowered at release, but despite its misgivings, it opened up VR to a wider audience, while also providing unparalleled VR experiences in its software library, which only Valve has since been able to match.
So now, after having used the PlayStation VR2 for around a week, is it actually any good, given that it’s more expensive than the incredibly popular Oculus / Meta Quest 2, and also requires a PlayStation 5 to power the device?
|90Hz / 120Hz
|Field of view
|Eye tracking, Facial haptics, headphone jack
|PlayStation Sense Controllers
Included in the box: Playstation VR2 headset, L&R Sense controllers, USB-C to USB-A cable, stereo earphones
The PlayStation VR2 offers a pretty no-frills unboxing experience, and most of the packaging is made out of cardboard, with minimal plastics used, aside from the bag in which the included stereo headphones are used.
The headset itself is neatly packed, with the same panda colorway that we’ve seen in the PS5 console, which has since been replicated on the likes of the Sony INZONE headsets, in addition to the DualSense Edge. The same can be seen on the Sense controllers, too.
On the headset itself, around the front, you’ll be able to see its camera array, with a button beneath the visor, and an additional power button recessed next to it. Up around the top, you also get a latch to push the visor back and forth, with an additional button and dial around the back of the headset for further adjustment.
The cushioning on the forehead and back of the headset is flanked by a lovely faux leather material, which is surprisingly plush, while the lenses and visor itself are enshrouded in a rubber-like plastic that blocks out all light once you have the headset on. It’s not pleasant to the touch but manages to get the job done just fine.
Since you also get a set of stereo earphones, you can embed them into the headset thanks to a couple of snapping points, and they also get a place to live on the headset just above your ears, too.
A single cable juts out of the PlayStation VR2, which allows the device to communicate with the console. It’s measured to be around four meters long, which is absolutely fine for most. Though, some roomscale setups may need an extension if you find yourself using a whole 2m x 2m area.
Putting the headset on can be finicky. The majority of the weight is meant to be lightly clamped to your forehead and the back of your head, which is indeed easily done thanks to the front and back extension of the headset itself. Though, I found myself raising the headset one too many times for the lenses to get back into focus when in the game.
With that said, Imanaged to game on the PlayStation VR2 for hours with ease, there’s little to no fogging during intense play sessions, allowing you to keep playing without having to take it off too often. It feels much more comfortable than a Quest 2 – I’ve always felt that the headset makes your face sweaty all too often – It’s a wonder that Sony has managed to make the device as comfortable as it is, coming in at 560g.
Though, the bulk of the weight is tilted toward the front, which once again, can cause it to fall out of focus.
The issues with the headset quickly falling out of focus is down to the headset using something named “Fresnel” lenses. These offer a greater light output compared to other lenses but also have a more limited sweet spot. If your headset goes out of focus and you continue to play without making any adjustments, it is a pretty clear recipe for a headache, as I found out. It’s possible that Sony uses these Fresnel lenses to not only keep manufacturing costs down but also to allow for the OLED screen to output an HDR signal.
It should also be noted that the 110-degree field of view is also possible using Pancake lenses, as used on other contemporary headsets, like the HTC Vive XR Elite. Fresnel lenses also are responsible for the bulk of the headset around the front. Where Pancake lenses offer a lighter-weight solution, the Fresnels in the PSVR2 causes the headset to fall out of focus fairly often in our experience. This could have been avoided and is something that I hope Sony adapts in the future.
It’s difficult to say with certainty that the Fresnel lenses are the main culprit for the headset falling out of focus, but it builds a list of symptoms that correlate with our biggest issue with the headset at large.
The PlayStation VR2 comes equipped with two fairly impressive new controllers. This time, you won’t be reaching for your old PlayStation Move anymore. It now closely resembles other contemporary VR headsets and boasts a laundry list of features of its own.
Sporting the same haptic triggers as found on the DualSense Edge, the Sense controllers also offer full gyro, tracking, and capacitive finger sensors on each of the two buttons on the controllers, with a Type-C port for charging. These all work excellently, and all add something to almost every software experience I tried on PlayStation VR2.
I managed to get around six hours out of the batteries in the controllers, but if you are running low, you’ll be forced to quit your game, and won’t be able to start any games while they are charging. This is better than expected, considering the DualSense Edge’s comparatively dreadful batteries.
The controllers managed to stay comfortable throughout our experiences with the device, and it never felt like they were too heavy, or bulky to stay in our hands.
A locking mechanism keeps the wrist straps in place. However, after removing them, attaching them back can be tricky. Guided by the manual, one wrist strap actually snapped while attempting to put it back in. After a quick fix, it’s pretty clear that relying on a 1mm piece of plastic on the locking mechanism creates a simple point of failure, and this may become a slightly more widespread issue after launch.
Software & setup
Getting the PSVR2 set up is incredibly simple. All you need to do is to pop the included USB cable in, and you’re off to the races. The PlayStation 5 picks up the headset almost immediately, and it begins a setup process guiding you through how to put the headset on, adjusting your eye distances, and allowing you to trace your play area.
It took less than ten minutes in total to get it all configured. While eye-tracking is nothing too new for VR, it’s the first time that I’ve seen it in action. It feels a little bit like magic, especially when a smiley face is winking the same way I am in real-time.
With the headset all setup, you don’t get any bespoke system launcher, instead opting for the usual PS5 menu screens, and you can’t see your controllers in this, with no eye or finger-tracking either. It felt a little bolted on until you booted a game, where pretty much all of this was included.
Games can be played while sitting, standing, and using room scale, which allows you to move through the VR environment, though understanding which games use different types of VR can be a challenge through the storefront, and requires a sleeker solution.
Should you want to switch around your settings in game, you will be able to access the quick settings menu, and within a few taps you can reconfigure the device easily, should you want to switch positions, or make a new temporary play area.
You can also broadcast your gameplay to others, though we did not have the opportunity to try this feature during the pre-launch review period.
One thing that I absolutely loved about the PlayStation VR2 is how its eye tracking can work while in game. In Horizon: Call of the Mountain, you are able to navigate through menus and more just by looking at the option, then selecting it with the controller. But, the PlayStation VR2 has another trick up its sleeve, named Foveated Rendering.
Foveated rendering & eye tracking
The presence of eye-tracking allows developers to leverage a technology named Foveated Rendering. For the uninitiated, this allows the headset to put the brunt of its graphical power into the things that you are actually looking at while blurring the edges, or employing other techniques to save some graphical horsepower where needed.
Its actual implementation will vary from game to game, but our experience with it has been largely positive. While the Quest Pro is able to make use of Foveated Rendering too, the PlayStation VR2 is the first one that actually comes in an affordable package that uses this groundbreaking tech.
The PlayStation VR2 is launching with a good number of games under its belt, with more to come in the future. While some will be skeptical of the PSVR2’s pricing, the headset’s secret weapon is the software that may come to the headset both now, and in the future.
Something that others like the Meta Quest and Vive XR Elite do not have is a bonafide AAA gaming experience in VR. With the PlayStation VR2, you can play titles you already own, like Gran Turismo 7, Resident Evil Village, and more in their respective VR modes, while totally standalone experiences like Horizon: Call of the Mountain shine on the headset itself. With a certain Astro Bot currently missing, I’m expecting more first-party content and exclusive content on Sony’s end, which will just elevate the headset further.
It’s this promise of higher-quality titles that I hope will end up on PSVR 2, as even upgrades to older PSVR titles like Rez Infinite quickly can become the definitive versions of those titles, with features like gaze-based aiming and head haptics quickly making it one of the best VR experiences around. Sure, there’s still Half-Life: Alyx locked to the Valve ecosystem, but the ground is fertile, and PlayStation just needs to nurture it in order to get more killer experiences on the device.
The launch lineup that I sampled was equally impressive, with a breadth of games on offer from the wild and wacky puzzler What the Bat, to the more grounded exploration-based experiences of Kayak: VR and Song in the Smoke, rounding out the AAA bombast of Horizon: Call of the Mountain.
Should you buy it?
If you have a keen interest in VR, the PlayStation VR2 has some impressive features, and a current software lineup to back it up. While backward compatibility is a messy issue, older titles are being ported to the new platform, which should offer some great VR experiences down the line. At $549, it’s more expensive than a Quest 2, but it offers a AAA gaming experience worthy of its PlayStation branding.
Our main criticisms are with the ergonomics of the headset itself, and the tiny sweet spot that the lenses possess, which can make you adjust it fairly often. I also wished that there was more of a focus on the overall software experience once you have it on in the PlayStation 5’s OS, too.
But, the eye-tracking, Foveated Rendering, and strong launch lineup make the PlayStation VR2 a serious contender in the industry.
The Verdict – 4/5
While the hardware is not quite perfect, the PlayStation VR 2 is capable of a lot. Its pricing may sting some wallets, but for those looking for AAA VR experiences not tied to a gaming PC, there’s finally a modern option on the market. Standalone headsets may be all the rage right now, but none of them are capable of delivering visual fidelity quite like the PlayStation VR2.