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Hardware Review

PlayStation VR 2 Review

Expensive but exceptional

I was all too excited to get my hands on the original PSVR back in 2016. An early adopter of just about any PlayStation product, I was impressed with the blue brand’s first foray into VR, mainly because it was my maiden outing with the concept. As time wore on, however, the peripheral became more of a sideshow attraction than a viable game-playing option, with me acting as some video game carnie, telling my friends and family to step right up and marvel at the wonders of virtual reality. Outside of a few, “I wonder what that would be like in VR” moments, the under-supported headset gathered dust before eventually making its way to Gumtree. The PSVR was a small snack you would find in the back of the pantry; it was tasty enough, didn’t stick around for very long and ultimately left you looking forward to a more substantial meal.

I’ve spent the last few weeks with my old friend’s successor, the PSVR 2, and I will need you to sit down, put a napkin on your lap and keep your elbows off the table, because dinner has been served.

Unboxing the PSVR 2, it’s immediately apparent that the headset is an evolution of what came before, keeping what worked and refining what didn’t. Unboxing this headset is quicker than a hiccup, thanks to its more streamlined setup. In the box, you’ll find the headset itself, with a single USB-C cable that I’ll gush about in a minute, the two Sense controllers, a charging cable for said controllers and a pair of earbuds. No passthrough box, no mess of cables, just the necessities that are easy enough to understand that you’ll likely ignore the paperwork.

The framework for the headset will feel familiar to those who owned the original, as very little has changed physically. The unit is intuitive and straightforward to put on and adjust, with a release button giving the band slack and a dial at the rear to tighten it once you’ve slipped it on. Another button on the main housing will allow it to slide closer to your face until you reach a comfortable position. The soft rubber mould around the visor seals you in, blocking out a great deal of outside light while allowing those with glasses, like my partner, to wear them comfortably while playing.

No excess, just what you need. Perfect

One change from the original that’s particularly welcome is the inclusion of in-ear buds that mount to the back of the band. Once snapped into the place, the earbuds themselves have a little home of their own, snugly sitting in small nooks on either side of the band. While I’ll always prefer over-ear headphones for gaming, these little guys pack enough of an audio punch and are so convenient that I opted to use them in favour of anything else nine times out of ten.

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Once all the bits and pieces are out of the box and ready to go, using them for the first time is even easier. As I mentioned, the VR 2 only has one USB-C cable that plugs into the PS5 directly. That’s it; job done. Better yet, the cable is looooong, measuring in at 4.5 metres, ensuring that even if you manage to get caught up in it, the trip won’t yank the headset off your head or pull the PS5 from your TV unit. Switching on the headset with the power button under the visor will give you a subtle vibration using the headset’s inbuild haptics, and you’re away.

Forgoing the camera situation from the original, the VR 2 uses four mounted cameras on the visor to provide inside-out tracking, making setup and general use far simpler. Once the headset is on, you’ll need to configure your play space by looking around your room as the VR cleverly maps out the area you’re working with. If you have the recommended 2×2 metre living room, then firstly good for you, and secondly, you’ll get to use Room Scale, which gives you an area to physically move around freely. Regardless of your restrictions, the mapping will keep you from punching objects and running into walls by giving you a digital boundary appearing in-game when approaching something solid.

Being able to see through the headset and map out your space is so handy

Ingeniously using the cameras, you can see your surroundings in greyscale at the press of a button, allowing you to get comfortable in the headset before grabbing the Sense controllers and diving in. Better yet, if you need to move something out of your play space, have a quick chat with someone in the room or check that you’re not about to fall over your couch, you don’t need to remove the headset. It’s a quality-of-life feature that continues to blow me away every time I use it.

From unboxing the headset to putting it on and configuring it through the PS5, the VR 2 is incredibly user-friendly. The time and effort required to play the original was a hurdle that I rarely felt like jumping over, whereas the ease of the successor is inviting and very welcome.

I’ve spoken a lot about the unit’s physical appearance and configuration, but how does it feel to play it? Is the experience an improvement on the original? Thankfully, not only is the VR 2 more advanced than its predecessor in every conceivable way, it makes it feel like a distant ancestor rather than a seven-year-old sibling.

The first and most noticeable change is the visual clarity. While there’s still a slight blur that comes standard with almost all VR experiences, the 4K OLED displays produce some truly unbelievable visuals. The bright OLED screens, combined with supported HDR brings a vibrancy to the digital worlds you inhabit that’s hard to convey with words. The increased fidelity not only heightens immersion on a large scale, with the valleys and forests of Horizon Call of the Mountain eliciting genuine jaw-dropping moments of beauty, but it also does so on a smaller scale. Getting behind the wheel of an Aston Martin Vantage in GT7 was incredible, as I could feel the blistering speed and look into corners, but the real mind-blowing moment was when I stopped and looked around the interior of the car. Seeing individual water droplets streak across the windscreen and ogling at the texture of the leather seats was a moment that I wouldn’t have thought possible going in, but it is.

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A clean design that looks nice sitting on the TV unit

One of the main issues I’ve had with VR units is the unwavering knowledge that I’ve got a screen strapped to my face, which can be an immersion breaker. This is usually down to the unit’s weight and the black nothingness surrounding the screens. Weighing in at 560 grams, the PSVR 2 avoids that awful lean you get with heavier units, making it a more comfortable experience overall. Tackling the second issue, the VR 2 sports a generous 110° field of view that encompasses the user to the point that I got completely lost in the game. From the moment you boot up a game, you feel like you’re in the world, as cliché as that sounds. Catching an enemy’s movement out of the corner of your eye or glancing at the side mirror to check on an approaching racer are interactions that simply aren’t possible with conventional gaming or lesser VR systems.

Enhancing the field of view further is the frankly unbelievable eye-tracking feature. A sensor inside the visor tracks your eye movements with insane accuracy, allowing for higher rendering directly where you’re looking. This would likely save on processing power, but it also has practical applications within the games. Traversing the menus of Call of the Mountain is done simply by looking at the option you want to select. Not moving your head or gesturing, just moving your peepers. I spent far longer than I’d like to admit just playing around with these menus, trying to move my eyes faster than it could read, but I never managed to best it. It’s a wonderful feature, and I’m ecstatic to see how developers utilise it.

Accompanying the headset are the two orb-shaped Sense controllers that feature motion tracking and are equipped with all the thumbsticks, triggers and face buttons found on the DualSense. Having used the Sense controllers for a while now, I never want to use, see or even hear mention of the Move controllers used with the original VR, lest I set them on fire in a blind rage. When I say that the Sense controllers are an improvement in every single way, I mean every single way. Slipping your hands through the straps (safety first) and gripping each controller feels comfortable and ergonomic. The shape of the grip and the placement of the buttons feels natural, and I never fumbled around for a thumbstick or trigger. Instead of sitting next to its R2 and L2 brother, the R1 and L1 shoulder buttons are relocated to sit on the grip where your ring and middle fingers rest, allowing you to press them while clenching a fist and, essentially, mimicking the motion of grasping an object. The controllers also track the movement of your fingers, with your in-game hands copying your commands. If you get pissed at an NPC and point at them in anger, you’ll do just that in the virtual world. It let me throw the peace sign to every mechanical beastie I encountered in Horizon, and sparked my imagination for what’s to come.

I can’t stress enough just how much of an improvement the Sense controllers are over the Move

The Sense controllers share many of the core features with its more conventional cousin as well. Like the DualSense, the Sense controllers have haptic feedback and adaptive triggers that make wielding a firearm a bit too much fun. The haptics also provide a boost to immersion that made me audibly gasp at one point, as I could feel the water run across my palm as I reached into a stream. I can’t wait to play a VR game that takes full advantage of these features, as Returnal did with the DualSense.

The downside to these impressive little fellas is that they quickly run out of juice. A battery life of four or five hours doesn’t sound too rough, but when you’re taking frequent breaks and likely leaving them on as you do so, you’ll be met with a warning message sooner rather than later. Only one charging cable is provided, and the PS5 only has one front-facing, so you’ll have to get creative when charging them, or do yourself a huge favour and snag a charging dock that will take care of both at once.

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Similarly to the original, you can play non-VR titles while using the headset by way of a huge screen floating in an endless black abyss, but I’m not sure who would find practical use in doing so. There is a certain cinema-like appeal to it, but the fidelity on the flat surface doesn’t measure up to the VR-specific titles. It is handy to be able to switch out into the PlayStation UI and change games, enter a party and whatnot though, so it’s far from a complaint.

My attempts at making mechanical dino friends didn’t really work out

The not-so-virtual elephant in the room surrounding the PSVR 2 is obviously the price. Coming in at $879, the headset is priced higher than the PS5 console that you’re required to have to play it on. I’m of two minds though. The tech is unreal, and I can’t imagine Sony is making a massive profit from the units themselves, it’s also nice not needing a high-end PC to run it on, but there’s a Sony-sized caveat that can’t be ignored. Like the original VR and the Vita before it, the platform will live and die on the software developed for it. Currently, there are a few dozen titles available, many which have either been released elsewhere or feature a VR mode in an existing game, with the significant exception being Call of the Mountain. While the current catalogue includes a few standouts, with more on the way, the PSVR 2’s biggest concern is continued support.

Final Thoughts

If it’s not already blatantly clear, I love the PSVR 2. Re-entering the VR space seemingly with something to prove after the fun-yet-flawed first outing, Sony has released a peripheral that rivals other high-end devices on the market. The vibrant 4K visuals are stunning, the high refresh rate creates smooth movements, and the inside-out and eye-tracking are complete game changers. Completing the package are the Sense controllers that (aptly) make sense, providing a comfortable and intuitive way to interact with the virtual worlds you’re in. The entire experience is immersive and undeniably impressive, but that’s only if you shell out the cash for it. The high price is an entry barrier that will have many interested parties turning away, exacerbated by the current middling software line-up. Supported correctly, the PSVR 2 could be an absolute killer, so let’s just hope Sony sticks with it.

Review unit supplied by the manufacturer 

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PlayStation VR 2 Review
A Virtual Revolution
A huge evolutionary step forward from the original in every way, the PSVR 2's iterations and innovations culminate in a virtual reality experience that's both immersive and engaging on levels unseen in conventional gaming.
The Good
4K visuals are detailed and stunning
Easy set-up and smart configuration
Eye tracking is phenomenal
Attractive, comfortable design
The Sense controllers are intuitive and accurate
The Bad
It costs more than a PS5
The Sense controller battery is limited
The current game catalogue is slightly lacking
Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

PlayStation VR 2 Review
A Virtual Revolution
A huge evolutionary step forward from the original in every way, the PSVR 2’s iterations and innovations culminate in a virtual reality experience that’s both immersive and engaging on levels unseen in conventional gaming.
The Good
4K visuals are detailed and stunning
Easy set-up and smart configuration
Eye tracking is phenomenal
Attractive, comfortable design
The Sense controllers are intuitive and accurate
The Bad
It costs more than a PS5
The Sense controller battery is limited
The current game catalogue is slightly lacking
Written By Adam Ryan

Adam's undying love for all things PlayStation can only be rivalled by his obsession with vacuuming. Whether it's a Dyson or a DualShock in hand you can guarantee he has a passion for it. PSN: TheVacuumVandal XBL: VacuumVandal Steam: TheVacuumVandal

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