The video game space has long been a contest of platforms, but with consoles and the almighty computer becoming more and more indistinguishable, there comes a need to take things to a whole new level. Enter virtual reality, a realm of immersion and fresher experiences that remains a worthwhile endeavour. And while VR gaming still has its issues, one company has advanced ahead of the competition, with Sony’s latest PlayStation VR2 (PS VR2) making an excellent case for adoption for the PlayStation ecosystem, and beyond.
The PS VR2 is not just a hardware upgrade that offers improvements, but also comes with strong software support that ensures players are truly transported into worlds like never before once the headset, along with the fancy new PS VR2 Sense controllers, are fired up. Add to that a bunch of new sensory features missing from the original PS VR, and the VR trip becomes much more realistic than ever before.
For starters, the PlayStation VR2 offers a 4K HDR, 110-degree field of view, together with foveated rendering. With an OLED display, players can expect to enjoy a display resolution of 2000×2040 per eye, with smooth frame rates of 90/120Hz. With one of the largest fields of view amongst competing headsets, the level of immersion is truly unlike anything else, whether you’re stepping into a game like Horizon Call of the Mountain, or a beloved favourite like Moss: Book II.
Design-wise, there is an obvious emphasis on ergonomics for the PS VR2 headset’s overall redesign, with it being wide enough for most head sizes with the simple, adjustable headband. The new vent design is also a nifty touch, allowing good airflow when donning the headset. While you may sweat it out, the lenses are unlikely to fog up, and it proved to be so even after 16 or so hours with it.
Those with glasses can finally enjoy VR gaming without feeling crushing pressure, and the adjustable scope and headphone jack (with Tempest 3D AudioTech) remain in familiar spots with easy access. The reduction in weight and slimmer design are also triumphs, considering the built-in motor that amplifies the sensations of in-game actions, and everyone loves seeing PlayStation symbols as part of the aesthetic.
The PlayStation VR2 eliminates the need for an external camera, with the integrated cameras embedded in the headset tracking both player and controllers flawlessly. No matter your movement or viewing direction, the PS VR2 can keep up. The same goes for the new eye tracking, with the device tracking eye motion to enable additional inputs. After the initial configuration, it is uncanny to experience it in action, both for its accuracy and increased intuitiveness.
While it may have been a problem before, players can rest easy knowing that they no longer have to be playing blindly around their surroundings. The new see-through feature, activated by a simple press of the function button on the headset, switches the view from in-game to the surroundings, making it easy to navigate around the room or find the Sense controllers.
Perhaps the most important addition is that of the lens adjustment dial, which allows users to match the lens distance between their eyes to optimise their view in a more intuitive way, helped by the software side of things that makes it a much easier process. Finding that sweet spot helps deliver visual clarity like never before, although it will still take some time as you find the balance between headset placement on the head and the actual lens adjustment.
All of these features are made possible by just a single 4.5m long USB-C connection to the front port of your PlayStation 5, with no more clunky processing unit and multiple cables to mess things up. Sure, having it wireless would have been the most ideal of situations, but a sole cable is a good tradeoff for everything else that comes with the PlayStation VR2.
And we have not even talked about the Sense controllers, which offer a marked improvement over the Move controllers that remain a conundrum even to this day. Well-balanced and comfortable to hold in each of your hands, the orb-like design of the Sense controllers feels like a natural extension of your limbs.
Similarly, these controllers have some really awesome features of their own, including both the adaptive triggers and haptic feedback found in the DualSense controller. The former enables tension when pressed in certain scenarios, amplifying the tactile experience, whereas the latter helps make every sensation in games more nuanced and textured. Battery life is also on par or slightly better than its inspiration.
Furthermore, the Sense controllers are capable of finger touch detection, more specifically for the thumb, index, and middle fingers, which can lead to more natural hand gestures. The usual buttons are conveniently accessible on each hand, putting the entire user experience miles ahead of its predecessors. Tracking is accurate as well, thanks to the tracking ring across the bottom of the controller that the headset is able to recognise.
As an example of how everything works together in harmony, our experience in Horizon Call of the Mountain was an exhilarating ride from start to finish. Seeing gigantic and majestic machines up close with great detail, together with the 3D audio, meant a new and unmatched level of immersion. Firing arrows, climbing cliff sides, and even jumping from great heights never felt so real without the immediate danger, and spending hours and hours wearing the headset went by without much of a hitch.
That said, there are some obvious caveats to the PlayStation VR2. For one, players need to get their VR legs, so to speak, as the enhanced immersion can both be a good and bad thing. Quick movement and imagery can cause nausea, but that is entirely down to the individual player rather than the device itself.
It is advisable not to play for too long a stretch, even with the reduced and better weight distribution, as heat will build up, and you will sweat plenty on the front cushion of the headset. The comfort levels are high for the PlayStation VR2, and taking a break every once in a while will ensure that remains the case.
Visually, the quality and sharpness have certainly seen a boost with the new hardware, but there remains room for improvement when it comes to keeping things consistent. Player error can easily shift the focus, causing blurred images and the like. That is not a dealbreaker, but if there is a better way to change that, it would be ideal.
The aforementioned tracking by the integrated cameras also usually works without issues, but depending on your lighting situation, there might be a need to readjust things occasionally. This is in relation to the customised play area that can be set using the PlayStation VR2, and if the tracking is affected, you might get pulled out of the gaming experience to address the tracking.
It is also vital to note that not everyone will have the same room in which to enjoy VR gaming. The PS VR2 does offer various methods of play, including seating and standing, and caters to room-scale and smaller areas of play. Having limited space may limit you from trying out certain titles, so keep that in mind.
As for the materials used, both the Sense controller and the PS VR2 headset are hardy and durable, at least at this early stage. The head cushions remain a leather-type material, which is always a cause for concern when it comes to peeling after extended use. Maintenance can be a chore if it goes the way of the PS VR.
Ultimately, the PlayStation VR2 represents another way in which Sony hopes to engage its players, and for a select group, it is an amazing adventure that awaits. The biggest problem comes down to price and support, with the device costing more than a PlayStation 5 console, and not all games will be able to competently take advantage of the technology. The latter can be negated thanks to the robust lineup of launch titles for the platform, but the former will remain a sticking point.
At the end of the day, this is a cutting-edge device that improves upon every single aspect of the original PlayStation VR, masterfully combining haptics and sensory features in one sleek package that can truly elevate the gaming experience like no other medium can. The potential is there to be harnessed, and hopefully, the support from studios will continue, and players will get to enjoy new ways to play; they just have to make sure they can afford it in the first place.
PlayStation VR2 is available for pre-order for S$869.00, and will release on 22 February.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
An excellent second outing for Sony’s virtual reality offering, the PlayStation VR2 gets everything right except for its price.
Aesthetics - 9.5/10
Build Quality - 9/10
Performance - 8.5/10
Value - 7.5/10
Geek Satisfaction - 9/10