PlayStation VR2 Headset
February 21st, 2023
Virtual Reality (HMD) headset
$549.99 standalone, $599.99 bundled with Horizon Call of the Mountain
It’s been a couple of weeks since Sony’s flagship virtual reality headset graced my desk. Most nights since, I’ve dived headfirst back into the realm of virtual reality in one way or another. Now that I’m free to put my thoughts to paper beyond my initial impressions of the unboxing and general feel of the device, is Sony’s PlayStation VR2 headset worth the additional investment?
The price is the obvious elephant in the room with PlayStation VR2 before considering how the experience is handled. Coming in at $50 more than the PlayStation 5 Disc Edition, the PlayStation VR2 is a tough sell for non-enthusiasts. Thankfully, unlike the first generation of PlayStation VR, players won’t find themselves in need of tracking down controllers or a camera to make the experience operational. Instead, Sony provides four things in the box to make sure players have everything they need to dive right in: a wired PlayStation VR2 headset, matching pair of PlayStation VR2 Sense controllers (with USB charging cable), and a wired pair of earbuds if you don’t already have some on hand. No having to dig up old PlayStation Move controllers from your Just Dance period or figuring out which PlayStation Camera you’d need to track the action. No, everything mandatory to engage with VR is built within the headset itself with the VR2 Sense controllers for any actual input.
Setting up the PlayStation VR2 for the very first time is as simple as plugging the headset directly into the open USB Type-C port upon the front of the console and going through a few rudimentary setups screens guiding the player through how to adorn the headset for the first time, plug in the wired earphones (regardless of whether or not you intend to keep using them in the future), and how to handle the pair of VR Sense controllers. All of this is done prior to even wearing the PlayStation VR2 headset for the first time. Once the headset is worn, the system then showcases the eye tracking with the internal calibration tool, helping the player to set up their perfect IPD by way of the dial wheel upon the upper left corner of the headset. Once everything is focused and clear, the PlayStation VR2 calibration then guides the user on how to create a virtual play area. Prior VR users that own other HMD devices such as the Oculus/Meta Quest 2 should feel familiar with drawing a virtual zone for the experience but the PlayStation VR2 first tasks the user with looking around their environment to virtually map out the surrounding play area first then allowing them to draw out extended borders, such as after moving an errant chair or moving around a coffee table that might be in the way of any Roomscale experiences. Depending on the ambient lighting around the user, this may take a bit of effort to draw out the proper space.
I first began my PlayStation VR2 experience in a much smaller office space that didn’t have the six feet in every direction necessary to facilitate playing a RoomScale experience (such as What The Bat); instead, I opted for less active experiences that would allow for a seated or standing experience. Later on, I migrated the PlayStation 5 and PlayStation VR2 headset up into the family room which thankfully had more than enough space to walk around if needed. This second time, however, the floor tracking was set incorrectly and my entire floor had a slight tilt to it that caused a fair bit of motion sickness or unease. To remedy this, the PlayStation VR2 automates fixing any issues by guiding the player to touch the floor with one of their VR2 Sense controllers for correction. After this, I had no further issues with the floor tracking in either environment (although I did have to reset my play area when returning back to the first location).
No matter what experience you want to check out in PlayStation VR2 first, the new features will immediately be obvious to those who try out the next-generation headset. While not new to VR headsets, the PlayStation VR2 features foveated rendering to allocate processing power toward what the player is looking at, allowing for a sharper image while reducing the burden on the system. With the addition of gaze tracking, the sensors within the PlayStation VR2 headset itself can track the player’s eye movements without having to physically turn their head. Sony’s flagship experience, Horizon: Call of the Mountain, also takes advantage of this with dynamic viewports based upon comfort settings chosen by the player as well as allowing the player to navigate menu selections with little more than glancing at the intended option.
Haptics within a headset can be a mixed bag for some, but Sony uses the vibrational feedback to good effect within PlayStation VR2 launch titles that take advantage of it. For rhythm games in the vein of Pistol Whip and Rez Infinite, players can feel more in sync with the beat as a metronome pulses along as it keeps time. Being built upon the DualSense controller, both VR2 Sense controllers also feature the signature haptics unique to Sony’s flagship console with both responsive haptic feedback and adaptive triggers that dynamically change to give the player more precise feedback on their actions and controls.
The graphical resolution is massively improved within the PlayStation VR2 compared to its predecessor, which still needed a separate processor unit in order to handle supported titles. While the PS VR headsets feature the same 90Hz and 120Hz refresh rates, the per-eye resolution is massively increased from the 1080P from last generation’s virtual reality headset up to a 2000x2040P resolution that can also handle High Dynamic Range (HDR) for brighter highlights. One of my biggest annoyances with the first PlayStation VR was the limited resolution producing a screen door effect that turned the detailed experiences from Supermassive Games or Bandai Namco’s Summer Lesson into a jagged mess surrounding the finer details. While the lack of backward compatibility is lamentable, I would have loved to be able to explore the Blackwood Sanatorium one more time in proper high fidelity.
One of the finest improvements from the first generation of PlayStation VR is present within the VR2 Sense controllers. Sony opted for a knuckle-style design that fellow HMD makers Valve have implemented in their Valve Index setups. In addition to the pistol grip for each controller, there is a halo that players must first reach into that functions both as protection if the player gets a bit too vigorous with their swings and strikes a nearby piece of furniture while also housing the fourteen IR LEDs used for tracking and position. It should go without saying that the tracking is far more precise than the PlayStation Move controllers, which were already dated by the time the first generation of PlayStation VR was released. The additional sensors within the VR2 Sense controllers can also track finger movements for a more realistic view of the user’s hands within virtual space by capacitive and touch detection sensors within the controller and buttons. These sensors can be activated by resting fingers on the buttons without physically pressing down as you would with a normal activation.
One of the features I enjoyed on the original PlayStation VR is the Cinematic Mode, which returns on PlayStation VR2. Players can once again don the headset and experience a massive screen in front of their faces where they can play any non-VR-supported title in 1080P. Unfortunately, this doesn’t feature any additional layouts or even borders that make the experience feel more than just a floating screen in space. Once again, players are greeted with a black void surrounding the virtual screen, which feels like a missed opportunity that can hopefully be fixed in subsequent system updates.
Much of the software lineup to PlayStation VR2 are titles that players may have been familiar with on previous platforms. The lack of software backward compatibility (an obvious exclusion given the differences in tracking between Move and VR2 Sense controllers) limits what players will be able to experience alongside the launch of PlayStation VR2 later this month. New flagship experiences such as Horizon: Call of the Mountain will be available, while other familiar titles may offer free or paid upgrades that include an updated VR2 version. Expect to hit the tracks in Gran Turismo 7 with a free update on February 21st, while titles such as Rez Infinite and Tetris Effect: Connected both require a $10 upgrade for the next-gen/VR2 compatible versions. If the complimentary PSVR2 updates for Gran Turismo 7 and Resident Evil Village can match the experiences of DriveClub VR and Resident Evil VII Biohazard in the last generation’s VR space, these alone could be worth the price of admission.
Sony’s PlayStation VR2 headset had a lot to prove to justify a cost higher than that of the base PlayStation 5 console needed to operate it. The hands-on test confirms that this is how next-gen should look and play in virtual reality with an experience unlike anything else in the HMD space. Every aspect of the first PlayStation VR has been improved (aside from Cinematic Mode largely remaining as is) with no expense spared for comfort and design. This is the sort of revolution in virtual reality that can showcase not just the experiences that are fun to play but also those that can take advantage of the next-generation console’s power. As new experiences are brought to PlayStation VR2, the value can only improve, but the initial cost of admission may leave some players wanting to take the headset for a test drive first before investing in something the price of a second PlayStation 5.
Review unit provided by the manufacturer.
Products mentioned in this post
With a pricetag befitting of next-generation hardware, the PlayStation VR2 headset offers a virtual reality experience that’s unique to the PlayStation 5 ecosystem. Only time will tell if the new technology is worth the investment but all of the design changes and new features make me excited for what’s to come in the future for PlayStation VR2.
- Haptic feedback further induces a state of synesthesia in Tetris Effect and Rez Infinite
- The clutter of six cords and breakout boxes from the first gen of PSVR is slimmed down to a single USB-C
- Motion tracking massively improved with VR2 Sense controllers over first gen Move controllers
- OLED and HDR panels built with Fresnel lenses
- Removable light shield for easy cleaning (sweating is all but guaranteed in more active experiences like Pistol Whip)
- Discrete fan brings in fresh airflow to prevent headset from feeling stuffy during extended sessions
- IPD adjuster and lens depth can accommodate users with eyeglasses without any discomfort
- Gaze tracking (infrared lighting/cameras) and foveated rendering operate in tandem for seamless performance improvements
- Wider 110º field of view
- Fullscreen casting from the console without any limited viewports, making the PSVR2 ideal for social gaming or streaming content creation
- Only available direct from Sony’s webstore at launch
- No backward compatibility with only a limited number of titles featuring a free upgrade path to PSVR2 while others require a $10 upgrade
- Cinematic Mode lacks any new features beyond the original PSVR release (aside from higher resolution)
- Connection cable is not removable/serviceable for easy storage or replacement
- Some VR experiences require an area large enough for Roomscale (2m x 2m)
- VR2 Sense controller pair lacks full button arrangement (no D-pad for example) so don’t expect to use these for non-VR titles
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