Our week with the PlayStation VR2

The new generation of console virtual reality experiences is finally here and we’ve finally found an adequate amount of time to spend with the PlayStation VR2 and a number of software titles — and after (a little more than) a full week we have no doubt that it was certainly worth waiting for.

Read on for hands-on impressions and observations from some of the staff who were able to experience the “generational leap” of Sony’s impressive next generation VR hardware.

Jim’s Impressions

The original PlayStation VR intrigued me but not quite enough to take the plunge even after getting some hands-on with the first iteration of the device back in October 2016. I did tell myself that if the PS VR was successful I would definitely consider a next generation headset once some of the VR-specific issues were sorted out — such as better quality lenses and display, higher framerates, better controller options, less/no wires and cables, and generally more work in the realm of limiting motion sickness (that I have a touch of depending on the experience).  So not being an early VR adopter, I was comfortable awaiting better technology and additional quality of life enhancements — which of course would come in time.

While not a Sony or PlayStation product the success of the Meta Quest 2 help sell me on the idea of a PS5-powered PlayStation VR option since, love them or hate them, the Oculus team made some impressive inroads regarding VR acceptance among more casual gamers.  Plus they were able to cram in quite a lot of QoL improvements in a reasonably priced, moderately powered standalone VR hardware package — and a well-rounded selection of software to go with it. I have generally avoided PC gaming for quite some time and never had the opportunity to go that route, so for me it was PlayStation VR to Oculus/Meta Quest 2 to PlayStation VR2, which certainly shows some steady hardware and software progression in a number of ways.

First up, the PlayStation VR2 hardware itself. To spite being packaged in Sony’s kinda flimsy (but necessary) recyclable retail box designs that debuted alongside the PS5 launch, the sleek white PlayStation VR2 headset and circular PlayStation VR2 Sense controller all share the same design language as the PS5 and DualSense controllers along with all the official accessories.  Both the headset and controllers are surprisingly light and unassuming and coming from the more dense Quest 2 (which houses more electronics and a battery pack) headset, it’s really like night and day.  That’s mostly a great thing — if you can tolerate the single USB-C tether which is required to be plugged into the PS5’s from port at all times.

Yes you’re trading a bit of freedom for a much lighter, cooler, better balanced, more powerful, longer-lasting headset, and it’s true that there are times the cord can get in the way at first, but those concerns disappeared quite soon after a few PS VR2 play sessions.  The rectangular den/family room I use for gaming is well situated for room-scale VR gaming, with a nice sized area rug (so if stepping off, it’s easy to feel if you’re moving in a very wrong direction) and a roll away coffee table. Many PS VR2 experiences provide support for sitting, standing and room scale, so it’s not a critical problem for those who don’t have a larger open area, though the experience is a little better if you do. I tend to situate the cord along the left of my play area and it generally keeps out of the way, and if I do feel it’s getting wrapped up around a foot it’s pretty easy to shoo away.

The form factor of the PS VR2 headset is well thought out as expected form a consumer electronics company who has been down this road before.  The materials are light, and the medium density soft rubber cushioning on the lens component and head strap are comfy and resist getting too sweaty or gross. The all-important interpupillary distance is easy to adjust with a dial on top while you’re wearing it (unlike the Quest that requires you physically click the lenses into one of three positions beforehand), as is the lens to face distance using a dedicated button. The head strap has an tightness adjustment dial of its own and in conjunction with the sliding soft rubber accordion-style lens unit/light blocker it’s pretty easy to get a stable and proper fit on your head and face.

One aspect of the PlayStation VR2 which I underestimated is how glasses friendly the headset design is right out of the box. Maybe it is due to the lower resolution screens or focal point of the lenses but I never really thought I needed glasses for my moderate nearsightedness when using the Quest 2 or other older headsets. And the couple of times I have tried to use glasses adapters end up quite uncomfortable. The PS VR2 though, no problem it all — my plastic frame glasses fit in the headset perfectly without making contact even with the strap tightness dial cranked up. That brings me back to my initial realization that — unlike with other VR devices, I actually need to wear my glasses with the PlayStation VR2 to resolve smaller text and details and appreciate the crisp/higher resolution visuals.

As for features of the headset hardware itself, the better lenses and 4K HDR high quality/resolution eye displays go a long way in showing off the impressive visuals being rendered by the PlayStation 5. An expanded 110° field of view most definitely provides players with that added peripheral vision… and honestly the eye tracking, which is set up in the PS5 software configuration in conjunction with the lens width adjustment dial, is like some sort of black magic. Watching your simple on-screen avatar blink and move its eyes in real-time while adjusting/fine-tuning the setting was an eye opening experience (pun intended). It’s a really neat feature which is used in some of the software already, Horizon: Call of the Mountain for example. Another feature worth mentioning is the inclusion of haptics built right into the headset which allows for subtle vibrations to signify user feedback and even to help alleviate motion sickness a bit.

The most impressive upgrade to the PS VR2 headset itself is the “inside-out” motion tracking which didn’t exist in the original PlayStation VR but has since become more commonplace as in the Quest 2. Gone on the days of needing to set up external cameras or beacons around your room to track a player’s movement in 3 dimensional space. The built-in headset cameras and sensors take care of all that, and can easily map a complex room and track movement in real-time — and can even show a passthrough video by tapping a button or bringing up the settings to allow players to look around their environment. Accidentally moving beyond the defined play area will also bring up the passthrough video and a grid which identifies obstacles. There’s an experimental feature that’s available on the Quest 2 that can detect movement entering the play area, such as a child or a pet (my cats make sure to stop by once a session), which would be great to see included as a future update.

The other significant upgrade over the original PS VR hardware is obviously the new fangled PlayStation VR2 Sense controllers which are light years beyond the PS3-era PlayStation Move wand-style controllers. The PlayStation VR2 Sense piggybacks on many of the technologies used in the DualSense 2 including haptic feedback, adaptive triggers and precision motion tracking. There’s enough buttons on the controllers to be useful without being overwhelming, including an analog stick (with a click function), a pair of face buttons, the standatd options and share buttons, PS/menu buttons and a pair of triggers on each controller, two of which are adaptive — to provide resistance when needing a “squeeze” motion. The only obvious complaint I’ve had is that it takes some time to loop your wrist into the straps and orient the controllers by touch when blindly grabbing them. The battery life seems more than adequate so far (at least a few continuous hours each), and of course players should take more occasional breaks when playing in VR in general.

For those who are interested in the wireless charging capabilities of a product like the the official PlayStation VR2 Sense Controller Charging Station, it is a nice option which shares the design language and style of all the PS5 product line — if that’s something you care about. It certainly works as advertised and avoids the need for a USB-C cable per controller to charge them simultaneously. Dropping the controllers on the charger does require a little effort and diligence though, to ensure they are situated on the base appropriately and the wireless dongle lines up as it should. So that can be annoying.

In terms of audio the PlayStation VR2 includes pretty good quality soft-tipped earbuds with short wires which can be snapped into the bottom of the headset.  There are no built-in speakers although users can utilize their own wired headphones if need be.  The PS VR2 automatically passes audio through to whatever display and audio system the PS5 is hooked up to, so that’s an option as well if headphones aren’t always practical (Tyler also touches on that below).  But honestly the included headphones have been great so far and Sony also included additional tips in different sizes.  The 3D positional audio is extremely impressive and locating sounds coming from basically any angle, horizontally or vertically, isn’t a problem at all.  There may be wireless options in the future, though any sort of audio lag could be an issue which is why we assume there isn’t yet.

As for software, there’s almost too many PlayStation VR2 compatible titles out there, even if many were ports or upgrades from other platforms, including the original PS VR and Meta Quest 2. With a full review forthcoming, we’re quite confident at proclaiming that Horizon: Call of the Mountain is a top tier virtual reality experience and likely the best game to show off the PS5 and PlayStation VR2 hardware and unique features. I’ve also spent quite a lot of time with Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge Enhanced Edition, Gran Turismo 7, Synth Riders (with Gorillaz Music Pack), Rez Infinite, Tetris Effect: Connected and even a bit of Resident Evil Village — all of which will have reviews/impressions and coverage of their own soon. And many others by the GA staff as they get their hands on the hardware.

A solid week with the PlayStation VR2 doesn’t really feel like enough time to definitively review or grade the hardware and the overall experience, but it’s very safe to say that Sony has produced one of the best virtual reality platforms yet and it is accurate to categorize it as a “huge generational leap” as advertised. that they

Note: Sony provided me with a PlayStation VR2 and PlayStation VR2 Sense Controller Charging Station (both available here on direct.playstation.com) for coverage purposes.

Tyler’s Impressions

I have ?been around? the VR world quite a bit. I was an early adopter of the original HTC Vive and wore that thing *OUT*. Then, I jumped on the Valve Index as an upgrade once it became readily available. I also own a Meta Quest 2 for convenient, cord-free VR fun. Even with all that experience, and thousands of hours in various headsets, I was not prepared for how fantastic the PlayStation VR2 is. I skipped the original PS VR, between already having VR on my PC, and the horror stories I heard from folks about the myriad issues that plagued that headset, I never felt the need to jump on one. The PS VR2 is an entirely different story, however, and I have found myself in constant awe of the impressive array of technological advancements for the VR medium it constantly displays.

The first part that I want to focus on is eye tracking. I honestly thought this would end up being a gimmick, and probably something that I turned off due to inaccuracy, but it is frighteningly precise. ?Technological Sorcery? is a term I have thrown around a lot since getting my PSVR2, and it is the apt-est one I can think of. In addition to the eye tracking itself, the headset leverages that tracking to implement foveated rendering, which reduces the resolution of where you’re not looking. Foveated Rendering takes the area of the screen you are currently viewing and pushes the majority of the resources to render that spot in the highest definition possible while allowing the resolution of the peripherals to fall away. This gives you the highest quality experience at all times and results in a drastic improvement in visuals over other VR headsets I have tried.

In addition to the technical achievement of the headset, the form factor and comfort of both the headset itself and the controllers should not be overlooked. The adjustable face and head strap work together to create the most easily adjusted, and consistently comfortable headset I have ever used. I played for several hours straight over the weekend and had no discomfort at all. The controllers are a nice hybrid of the knuckle controllers you get with the Index, but also the whole hand scanning you get from something like the Quest. I wish there were straps running through the center of the controller LIKE the knuckle controllers have, which allow you to fully let go of them while maintaining control, but that is a small complaint.

Small complaints are all I really have when it comes to the PS VR2. I dislike going back to a wired headset after getting so accustomed to the freedom offered by the Quest 2, but I doubt the headset could offer half of the power and features it does without being tethered, so it is a fair tradeoff. I also find myself frustrated by the lack of integrated audio options. Both the Index and the Quest 2 play my audio without the need for headphones, but with the PS VR2 I either need to plug in and wear headphones, or just allow the sound to play through my TV speakers. As a father with small children, a wife, and a dog, it is very difficult to shut the entire world out for any length of time, even when it is just visual. Having to shut out my ability to hear, or broadcast my sound for the whole room is frustratingly inconvenient, and I would absolutely buy an aftermarket speaker set that attaches to the headset and works as the Quest 2 does.

These are incredibly minor complaints, and ones that are specific to long time VR players or people in my specific situation, and should in no way taint the overall image and excitement around the system if they do not apply to you. The headset is incredible, Horizon: Call of the Mountain is my favorite VR game since Half Life: Alyx came out, and I am getting ready to play Resident Evil: Village for the umpteenth time so I can experience the whole thing in VR.

Sony has a massive success on their hands here, and I cannot wait to see what kind of games they cook up for it in the coming years.