Like the DualSense Edge just weeks ago, the PlayStation VR 2 has a mountain to climb.
It’s an expensive VR headset for an expensive current-gen console. Its biggest launch title, Horizon: Call of the Mountain, carries a full $110 RRP, head and shoulders above the price of most new-release VR games. Worryingly, for its creators, it arrives at a moment when households around the world are tightening their belts, and interest in VR is at something of a lower ebb.
This is, I suppose, why the PSVR 2 works as hard as it does to make a strong first impression.
I only had an hour to break the ice with the PSVR 2 before my appointment was over. During that time, I got to wear the headset, get to grips with its controllers, and play a short amount of Horizon: Call of the Mountain.
The first thing you notice about the PSVR 2 headset is its weight — there isn’t much of it. This is something VR enthusiasts look for. A lighter headset is easier to balance on the head, the weight more evenly distributed across the skull. Headsets like the Meta Quest 2 carry all their components in the goggles themselves, causing them to sit heavily on faces or droop down the nose during play. The PSVR 2 borrows a similar mechanic to the PSVR 1 — a telescoping halo that sits around the crown and can be tightened and pulled downward to anchor it to the head.
Inside the headset are horizontally adjustable lenses to ensure visual clarity, and a short eye-tracking test is built natively into the PlayStation hardware. In the short moments I was able to play with this functionality, eye-tracking seemed responsive even under extremely rapid eye movement. There’s a passthrough button now embedded on the lower right side of the goggles as well, meaning your ability to see what is happening in the real world is now only a button press away. This can be activated at any time and I’m grateful for its inclusion — no more pulling the visor up and down to see like the original PSVR model.
The visuals, however, were plainly where the money was. A pair of 2000×2040 resolution screens sit behind the lenses and create one of the clearest VR viewfinders I’ve ever seen at first blush. Movement is fluid, and blur is significantly reduced from the previous model. The 3D is beautiful and immediately conveys the scale of your surroundings, particularly in a game like Horizon: Call of the Mountain where scale is a big part of the presentation. The demo we played opened, like many VR experiences do, with the player sitting still in a canoe. This allows the world to pass around you without you doing any of the movement. It’s a good way to ease people in. But then, the hints of what’s to come creep in. Horizon‘s robotic raptors stalk the riverside, passing over logs above you, giving you an up-close and personal view of their construction. It’s all startlingly clear. I compared the short preview hour I spent in the headset with the first time I put on the Oculus Rift DKII almost eight years ago. That was like peering through a shower curtain by comparison.
The one remaining point I want to hit before I move on from the headset was that it was warm. The rubber used to seal the device around the user’s face runs quite warm, so you might find yourself getting a bit sweaty as you move around in it. This isn’t terribly uncommon among modern VR headsets — it’s a sweaty business — but it is something to bear in mind. It also left VERY noticeable impressions on the skin on my face for about an hour after I took it off.
The controllers were actually larger than I expected, like an enlarged version of the popular Meta Quest ring controllers. They provided solid finger tracking, able to pick out individual digits as I moved them, and were responsive when I needed them to be. Reaching over my shoulder to pull and knock an arrow in Horizon felt more fluid, accurate and natural than in Half-Life: Alyx, a game in which I routinely stuffed up my reload.
The other side of this is that, because there are no external cameras for tracking hand movement, the PSVR 2 could occasionally lose track of my hands. The most noticeable instance of this was when I bent down to pick something up — the headset lost track of my position and that of my hands for a moment. To retrieve a dropped item, it was easier to simply stand up and aim at the ground, which went against the instinct to simply bob down and grab it. It’s a little thing, but it took me by surprise.
What surprised me about the controls in Horizon was that it was full, free-range movement from the jump. Alex never let me do that, hopping me from spot to spot. Alyx DOES have this option, but you have to turn it on yourself. Horizon, by comparison, places a lot of trust in your resistance to motion sickness. I’ve always been fairly resilient in this regard — my iron stomach has gotten me through a lot VR experiences that have left friends on their backs, feeling ill for several hours.
The controllers divide the famous PlayStation symbols in half — X and Square are in your left hand, Circle and Triangle are in your right. There are control sticks on both, as well as assorted triggers and bumpers on top and on the controller’s underside. The grip is natural and firm in the hand, though there are wrist straps for extra anchoring.
The PSVR 2 is a strong piece of VR hardware that, like the DualSense Edge, knows you think it’s pricey. It’s a VR headset with manners, that rolls out the welcome wagon to win you over. Unless you’re a VR diehard attached at the hip to your Valve Index, it will likely succeed. Sony enters very turbulent market waters with this headset, something of which I’m sure it is all too aware. The PSVR 2 feels like a strong headset, though one with a few idiosyncrasies that leap out immediately. Will it be the breakthrough device that turns all of its competitors heads? I doubt it, but for those wish to enjoy the walled garden of VR without spending extra big on a gaming PC, there is a solid alternative here.
The author was flown to Sydney as a guest of PlayStation Australia for this preview. You can find out more about it on the official PlayStation website.
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