The PSVR2 is a generational leap for VR and 10 minutes after turning it on, you won’t even remember what the first generation was like.
It feels like just last week I was hooking up an original PSVR. Wait, it was, I hooked it up to make sure it worked so I could sell it in order to get the fancy new one! Since Sony doesn’t really notice us here….anyway… I remember it fondly. You had to pull out the headset, a box, controllers, another controller, a camera, and a bunch of cords. It took a good 15-20 minutes just to set the thing up, then you had to make sure there was no light in the room or the camera wouldn’t track properly. Once it was all set up you jumped into a game and had to constantly recalibrate the headset every 2 or 3 minutes. That’s not to say PSVR was horrible, but it was clearly an “intro” headset.
PlayStation VR 2
Developed By: Sony
Platforms: PlayStation 5
Release Date: February, 22 2023
Now we step into PSVR2 and it’s a massive upgrade. I had my doubts because I had an original PSVR and was really hoping Sony didn’t go the “budget friendly” route again, but they’ve made one of the best headsets around.
Pretty much from the moment you take the PSVR2 out of the box, it’s a generation leap forward for Sony’s headsets. Imagine going from PS3 to PS5, and skipping a whole generation. This isn’t baby steps, this isn’t PSVR Pro, this is a true leap forward. You pull the PSVR2 out of the box, a SINGLE cord comes out, you plug that into the PS5, and you’re done. That’s it. And then…. It just works. You might have to do some eye tracking calibration at first, but it didn’t take 20 minutes to get into a game like with the previous version.
Once you get into a game things just get better and better.
Let’s start with the Sense controllers. I’ve been amazed with these things for days. They fit comfortably in my hands, work effortlessly with the PS5, and don’t have annoying orbs at the end of them. It’s really nice you don’t need to resync them non-stop. Much like some other VR controllers, the Sense controllers can basically feel where your fingers are. If your thumb is resting on the top buttons, your in-game thumb will move, same with fingers underneath on the back trigger pad. It’s amazing how I don’t have to press anything. I just move my hand and it moves in-game.
The controllers also have a new split layout for the core buttons, which I thought would take me some time to figure out. Somehow, though, it just comes naturally and feels intuitive. The Circle, Square, Cross, and Triangle buttons are divided between your hands, but it’s not hard to remember where they are when in game with almost no thought.
One complaint I do have with the controllers is they seem a little large for people with small hands. My spouse has a hard time keeping a grip on both the front facing buttons and the rear buttons, so in some games she struggles to do certain motions. For example in a shooting game you need to hold the back paddle button and flick the analog stick back, and she struggled reaching both comfortably.
Everything else about the controllers is simply awesome. The tracking is nearly perfect. I had a few tiny hiccups with tracking in some games, but nothing that really impeded my gameplay. Being able to literally reach out and press buttons, or touch your own character’s body, is amazing. I feel like holding my hands up—along with all the finger movements—is very authentic. One of the biggest things with the controllers was aiming guns, it’s so accurate and being able to reach up and stabilize a gun with your other hand is a new level for me. Switching items between hands also works flawlessly in every game I played.
My biggest excitement came when I accidentally dropped something in-game on the floor. With PSVR1 this was a nightmare since it almost always lost tracking of the floor. In PSVR2 I literally bent over, grabbed it, and had no issues at all. The snap tracking to objects adds a layer of accessibility as well, but doesn’t invade your space too, or ruin any sense of authenticity.
Let’s dive into some of the other cool new features for the PSVR2:
Eye Tracking – Eye tracking is friggin amazing, and I was impressed how flawlessly it worked. To set up the VR you are asked to do a quick eye tracking test and follow a dot, I’ve never had it fail on me ever. Shortly after, the headset demonstrates its tracking by showing your eye movement and blinking. It’s pretty easy to just sit on this screen amazed.
In a game is when you start to notice how cool it really is. In Horizon you can use your eyes to select dialogue or options on the menu. I didn’t even realize I was doing it at first because the menu was highlighting what I wanted and I was just confirming it on my controller. Then I realized my hands were not even moving and that led to me looking all over the place to test it. Other games use the eye tracking for different aspects, like hiding monsters out of view, or keeping your focus in one direction…The ideas are endless with how well it’s done.
The biggest aspect of eye tracking is that the headset utilizes it to provide better performance. The headset uses a foveated rendering technique, so anywhere you are looking is rendered in 4K resolution and other areas are slightly diminished so the performance can stay strong. I never noticed a lag in the rendering, and while I was trying to get a glimpse outside the boundary the tracking was so well done that I couldn’t.
Expanded Haptics – The Sense controllers use haptic feedback rumble, which obviously works really well. Dualsense controllers are arguably one of the best stock controllers ever made, and the PSVR2’s Sense controllers are just as great. You get the same triggers—and feedback—that you expect. The coolest thing for me though was adding this feedback to the headset itself.
The first time the headset rumbled, I was startled a little bit. I didn’t expect it. I got hit by a character on screen and was just like “woah” for a good minute. Once I started noticing it more, it got more and more cool. I was purposely getting into situations to make it rumble and was blown away by some of the aspects in games like Horizon. Feeling the earth literally shake in more than just my hands was a whole new experience.
Sadly most games don’t go this far…
One thing I noticed about the majority of the games currently available for PSVR2 is that almost none of them use these new features. Yes they look moderately better on PSVR2 against a mobile version on Quest, but they are still held back by mediocre technology. Things like the headset rumbling were hardly noticeable in Star Wars, and eye tracking provided almost no benefit in any ported games. I mean, in NFL Pro AM eye tracking could be a massive feature, but it isn’t and is instead restricted to the same hiccups on other headsets.
Going from Horizon and Resident Evil, which utilized these new features, to some of the 3rd party offerings was like stepping backward. It’s just hard to ignore.
Being Comfy in the Room – The headset has a really cool feature where you can press a button and the cameras kick on to let you “see through” the headset. I found this insanely useful because with other headsets I’m often pushing them up on my head, or taking them completely off, to do simple tasks. For setting up the room it was useful because I don’t need to take it off to make sure I’m not near a table or wall.
Another rather cool thing about the PSVR2 is that it will self room track everything, instead of having a camera sit under the TV. The room tracking is phenomenal at first as it will pick up every sharp edge and object around you nearly perfectly. At one point, my dog came up and sat next to me and it even saw her. Editing the room is so easy as well, so if you have a small table near you, or a bed, you can extend the boundary over that object so you can reach your hands out further.
You can also freely (mostly) walk around a room and scan everywhere; the 3D markers will orient over everything. Once done it will allow you to adjust your height from the ground and fine tune a few things. Other headsets typically make you do all this manually, so it’s nice the headset tracks nearly perfectly on its own.
Once set, you can basically use this “room” for all games and playing sessions. The only major issue with this, however, is it doesn’t save. And I’m not sure why, but I’ve had to reset my room a few times. There have also been instances mid game where it would disrupt my play and tell me to reset the room.
Switching from standing vs sitting is a little bit of a pain. The VR settings itself will ask you if you are standing or sitting, but won’t transfer this data to games. Instead the games will ask again, and if you decide to switch it up at any point then you need to switch both. Otherwise the VR will keep tracking to the original setting.
Comfortable With One Annoyance – The headset is noticeably more comfortable than the previous PSVR. At first I had a hard time with it resting too much on my nose, but once I learned to properly tighten the back strap it took a lot of that pressure away and I hardly noticed the headset at all. Adjusting the front also doesn’t jab me in the face like the old unit, and instead has a cushion exterior that has several layers to press against your face.
The only downside, is that while there are less cords, I still stress about dealing with the one that’s there. I kept getting tangled up in the cord while playing, and there just doesn’t seem like a logical place to let it rest so it’s out of the way. There is enough length to allow movement, but overall still a bit restricting when it gets caught on your hand at times.
Last, But Not Least, The Clarity – One of the biggest improvements with PSVR2 is that it’s simply beautiful to look at. Being able to look around freely and see clarity everywhere I look. The OLED screens are unmatched on any devices of similar price, and everything looks crisp and clear. The adjustable lens is more than just magnifying a basic screen, and the 4k resolution paired with the eye tracking leads to thrilling worlds.
Games like Kayak VR and Horizon are breathtaking with visuals that you expect from a higher end device. These games showcase that games don’t need to look like they were made back on PS3, and visuals are unparalleled.
The original PSVR made me nauseous after an hour or so of gameplay. I distinctly remember this was a huge problem people talked about during the E3 where the PSVR was first revealed. With PSVR2, I’ve lost track of how long I’ve been playing multiple times. The first time I put the headset on I played for over an hour and didn’t even realize it. After taking the headset off there is a moment of “getting back to reality” but I never felt sick or dizzy while playing it. I want to say that the OLED screen and clear lenses contribute to this greatly.
Overall as a headset, PSVR2 is miles better than the first generation and a substantial step forward for PlayStation, and it compares really well with higher end headsets on the market. The eye tracking is something I’m truly excited about, that alone makes this headset worth the starting price. I do wish games were not simply being ported and instead utilizing all the features the headset offers because without the features we kind of get stuck comparing it to lower budget headsets.
The only other complaint I have is that PSVR2 isn’t backwards compatible with PSVR games. I have a big collection of PSVR games, and upgrading these games to the new hardware would have been great. Being able to play some of the old horror games with the better tracking and headset would have opened up a huge library to play, and instead we got a rather small selection.
Sony’s kind of at the forefront here to prove how good this headset really is. Anything they’ve had a hand in in the current lineup truly showcases the power of PSVR2. Anything made for PSVR2 is going to be awesome, and tossing in some ports will just give it a robust lineup to go with it.