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PlayStation VR 2

PlayStation VR 2

Written by Eric Hauter on 3/10/2023 for PSVR2  
More On: PlayStation VR2

It’s been about two weeks since I sliced open the shipping box and looked down at the surprisingly compact package that the PlayStation VR arrived in. The PS VR2 box is about half of the size of its predecessor. I suppose it’s a lot easier to design packaging when you don’t have to include all sorts of power cords and weird little black boxes of the sort that came with the original PS VR, but I was still kind of shocked when I opened the thing up and found only the headset, a couple of controllers, and a single USB cord to charge them up. I mean, I knew that the PS VR2 traveled light, but this was kind of ridiculous.

But really, that’s all you need. Unlike the web of HDMI and power cords that came with the last generation headset, the PlayStation VR 2 has a single 14’ cord that plugs directly into the USB-C port on the front of the PlayStation 5. Turn it on with the tap of a button on the bottom front of the headset, pair your fancy new controllers, and you’re off to the races. Or the mountains. Or wherever you are going.

Speaking of things not coming in the box, I was particularly surprised at the lack of a demo disc with PlayStation VR 2, or indeed any packed-in/downloadable experience for new players. The combination of VR Worlds and the demo disc packed in with the original PS VR provided me with hours of entertainment for my new $500 accessory, and it was directly responsible for my purchasing at least five additional games that I might not have purchased otherwise; it was the demo disc that kicked off my love for Until Dawn: Rush of Blood that resulted in me buying at least three copies of the game for myself and to gift to friends. But no, with the PlayStation VR 2, there is no automatic free content to get you acclimated to your device, and certainly no cool little AstroBot experience like there was last time (though to be fair, there are some rather unpublicized individual demos available for download on the PlayStation Store).

The unit itself is a marvel of modern engineering. I was shocked when I first saw the PlayStation VR 2, as it looks so much like the original that it might be mistaken by a layman as the same unit. But upon closer inspection, the many improvements quickly come into focus.

The biggest design improvement as far as I’m concerned is the ribbed rubber light blocker that runs between the unit’s lenses and the player’s face. The old PlayStation VR has a straight piece of soft rubber, which was comfortable, but rather ineffective at blocking light. This new design blocks almost all ambient light from the player’s eyes, leaving then floating in a pool of darkness before the image flares to life. I should also note that I wear glasses with my unit, and this feature allows for plenty of room for my specs to sit on my face comfortably and not rub up against the unit’s lenses (I ruined a pair of glasses and a launch unit of the PlayStation VR that way).

With every other VR solution I’ve messed around with, I can hold up my phone and see it around the edges of the light blocker with my peripheral vision. With the PlayStation VR 2, even with the visor pulled all the way out, I can’t see anything. I have to literally take the PS VR2 off my head, which sounds like a pain in the rear, but is actually quite an achievement. I want to have the outside world completely blocked out; I don’t want my dumb phone disturbing me while I’m shooting bad guys on an alien planet.

Or, of course, I could just tap the pass-through button on the lower right of the unit if I did need to see the outside world, which displays your surroundings in black and white. This is unbelievably handy for grabbing your controllers if you’ve set them down, or pausing for a drink (pro tip: use a straw). I also have children, so this allows me to check on them and make sure I’m not going to clobber one of them while flailing around in a VR world. Quest 2 fans have probably gotten used to this function on that unit, but the old PlayStation VR didn’t have anything equivalent, which puts this solidly in the “improvement” column. In fact, this pass-through feels a bit crisper and clearer than the one on the Quest, meaning that Sony has one-upped the competition.

Another place where Sony has improved upon the other headsets in the market is with the little dial on the left side of the headset that allows the player to adjust the distance between lenses to compensate for varied pupillary distance. The Quest 2, for example, has maybe three preset distances that players can choose between, clicking them into place, none of which feel quite right to me. The O.G. PlayStation VR had nothing. So being able to fine tune the sweet spot to fit your eyes is a spectacular new feature.

It's a good thing, too, because that sweet spot is incredibly small in the new PlayStation VR 2. To explain what I mean to newcomers – the lenses in VR are configured in such a way that there is a small area you must line up with your eyes in order to gain the maximum clarity; fail to line things up correctly, and you are stuck in a virtual world of blur. Using fresnel lenses means a smaller sweet spot compared to the pancake lenses of newer HDMs, but that's a common problem for most current consumer VR headsets.  With the PlayStation VR 2, the area you have to find within those lenses is so tiny that it easily slides out of place, even when you are just sitting still and playing something like Gran Turismo.

There is a knob on the back of the strap of the unit that you can use to tighten it’s grip on your head, and I crank that thing down like some medieval torture device to maintain the unit’s placement on my skull. And even then, I find myself fiddling with the unit once every half hour or so, trying to get things a bit clearer. It’s crazy, because when you have everything adjusted correctly, the PlayStation VR 2 is capable of delivering crystal clear images, but good luck keeping them in focus. It’s not a deal breaker, but with all the variables inherent to the headset, keeping PS VR2 in focus is much more finicky than I had hoped.

That said, the headset is generally very comfortable to wear for long periods of time. And I’m sorry to all the cord haters out there, but the cord is essentially a non-factor. I super don’t care that it is there, and it hasn’t once disturbed my play. Everything on the PlayStation VR2 headset feels padded and luxurious, to the point where I feel bad not putting it back in its box every time I’m finished with it. It feels too nice to just leave laying around. Every time my cat gets near it, I run over there waving my hands around to shoo it away.

I have the controllers resting on the charger that Sony provided, which works pretty well now that I’ve figured it out. There are some little USB widgets you insert into the ports on the controller that enable it to charge this way, which took me forever to notice, because I am a dummy. The widgets allow the pogo pins on the charger to contact the controller for charging and making it a lot more hassle-free than plugging them into a USB cable. They take about an hour and a half to recharge from 0% and should last around three or four hours. It's not Meta Quest 2 controller endurance in terms of power, but it'll get you a good amount of time to play before you have to give them some juice again.

The Sense controllers themselves are maybe the best VR controllers I’ve played with. Similar in form to the Quest 2 controllers, the Sense controllers have the additional bonus of using Sony’s responsive trigger tech. This is absolutely awesome in games like Pistol Whip, where shooting different guns actually feels different. Players familiar with the button placement on the DualSense controller will immediately be able to handle the Sense controllers; they are smartly designed so that everything is right where you think it should be. There is also a handy PlayStation button on both controllers that allows you to access the home menu and all of its features.

The controllers are very lightweight, and you can quickly forget that you are holding them at all, which is exactly what you want in a VR controller. The rumble force feedback is nice, but not overstated. There’s a built-in strap that you can attach to your wrist, but really, you would have to be actively trying to drop or throw one of these things. Even flipping my arms around, it usually catches on one of my fingers rather than fly off.  

There is no doubt that the image provided by the PS VR2 is a massive improvement over its predecessor and is maybe the best on the market. I won’t go into the specifics of the image quality PS VR2 is capable of; you can find all of that data here if you are interested. The OLED screens offer up such a nicer range of color and deep blacks compared to many other headsets these days that are still using LCD panels.

But what I will say is that on a practical level, you can absolutely see the generational leap, both in the processing power of the PS5 and the dramatically increased resolution of the image. I read a lot of stuff leading into the release of PS VR2 about how it effectively eliminates the “screen door” effect. I don’t know if I agree with that assessment. I can still see pixels, but it is a lot easier to ignore that fact once you are in a game and the image is actively moving. The bottom line is that the images shown are much crisper, brighter, and clearer, with far darker blacks and whiter whites.

Of course, that image is only as good as the software providing it. You can watch an early CG movie on a 4K tv, and it still looks like an early CG movie. As such, not every game on PS VR2 is a visual banger; many are ports from earlier systems that are somewhat uprezzed versions of themselves. There’s a difference between resolution and rendering.

I’ve been playing a bunch of PlayStation VR 2 titles during these weeks, and my reactions to them have been all over the place. Horizon Call of the Mountain is drop dead gorgeous, but mechanically nothing new for VR veterans; we’ve been climbing mountains and shooting arrows for years now. The Moss games are incredible, but they were equally incredible on PSVR, though you can peer down at tiny, adorable Quill in a much higher resolution now. Most of the other titles I’ve played already on Meta Quest 2 or PC VR, and sure, Demeo is fantastic, but this is the third platform on which I’ve played it. Many of the indie titles available are amazing, but a lot of them have been kicking around for a while, some of them for years.

So no, while there are a bunch of great experiences for those new to VR in the launch lineup of games, folks that have been VR faithful since the beginning aren’t going to be terribly impressed. And while I’ve found some solace in my dual addictions to Pistol Whip and Gran Turismo 7, when staring at the PlayStation Store for something new to play, I can’t say that I’ve been inspired to take the plunge on much of anything. It all feels very “been there, done that” (though I am greatly looking forward to the new Supermassive horror title Switchback). Don't get me wrong; it's awesome to play Gran Turismo and Resident Evil in VR, but these games already exist. You can play them elsewhere. I'm interested in experiences that are new, and can only be played on PlayStation VR 2.

The PlayStation VR2 is an enormous improvement over the previous generation’s offering, but its future is entirely dependent on Sony’s ability to bring games to market. After the sporadic stops and starts of the original PS VR’s library, I’m unsure what to expect this time around. The previous generation did eventually offer some near-AAA experiences, but they were few and far between, and Sony hasn’t really given consumers any real reason to believe that things will be different this time around. Right now, all I’m seeing on the horizon is Switchback and a bunch more ports. There are very few bangers that are currently announced. 

The bottom line is that the gadget itself is superb, despite the somewhat finicky nature of the lenses. But the question of whether PlayStation VR2 will be actively supported beyond the first year is still very open, leaving me somewhat hesitant to recommend it to gamers outside of those that must have the new hotness regardless of cost. Make no mistake, this is the new hotness, but after the novelty of newness wears off, it will be up to Sony to continue justifying your purchase. The decision all comes down to whether you trust them to do so or not.

There is no question that the PlayStation VR2 is an excellent device, with bright, clear images driven by a much stronger machine than it's predecessor. Every aspect of the experience, from setup to sound, from controllers to comfort, has been dramatically improved; it may be the very best consumer-level VR device on the market. The only outstanding question is whether Sony will back up this fabulous new gadget with a strong enough library of games to justify its existence. 

Rating: 9 Excellent

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

Howdy.  My name is Eric Hauter, and I am a dad with a ton of kids.  During my non-existent spare time, I like to play a wide variety of games, including JRPGs, strategy and action games (with the occasional trip into the black hole of MMOs). I am intrigued by the prospect of cloud gaming, and am often found poking around the cloud various platforms looking for fun and interesting stories.  I was an early adopter of PSVR (I had one delivered on release day), and I’ve enjoyed trying out the variety of games that have released since day one. I've since added an Oculus Quest 2 and PS VR2 to my headset collection.  I’m intrigued by the possibilities presented by VR multi-player, and I try almost every multi-player game that gets released.

My first system was a Commodore 64, and I’ve owned countless systems since then.  I was a manager at a toy store for the release of PS1, PS2, N64 and Dreamcast, so my nostalgia that era of gaming runs pretty deep.  Currently, I play on Xbox Series X, Series S, PS5, PS4, PS VR2, Quest 2, Switch, Luna, GeForce Now, (RIP Stadia) and a super sweet gaming PC built by John Yan.  While I lean towards Sony products, I don’t have any brand loyalty, and am perfectly willing to play game on other systems.

When I’m not playing games or wrangling my gaggle of children, I enjoy watching horror movies and doing all the other geeky activities one might expect. I also co-host the Chronologically Podcast, where we review every film from various filmmakers in order, which you can find wherever you get your podcasts.

Follow me on Twitter @eric_hauter, and check out my YouTube channel here

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