Playstation VR 2 Hands-on: 8 pros, 3 cons & a question
Should I cancel my PSVR 2 pre-order or go for it? Maybe this will help you.
It's 2 p.m. on Tuesday at Neu-Isenburg, Sony's German headquarters. I shake hands with PR boss Jochen Färber, looking forward to trying out the Playstation VR 2 for the first time. He looks at me, raises his eyebrows, and says, "But your appointment isn't until tomorrow?"
We quickly uncover the culprit in this confusion (spoiler: I did it!). But Färber and his team are lenient. The daily schedule is changed, the meeting with the boss is canceled, and the demo is prepared in no time at all.
I am as grateful as I am saved. I'm about to try out the successor to the PSVR. However, my expectations are subdued. Yes, the data looks good, yes, everything is better than with the PSVR, yes, the previous reports of all people who were on before me also read well. Nevertheless, I somehow didn't really want to get excited about it yet.
I'll have a look for myself first.
Disclaimer: Everything written here is a first impression based on about 30 minutes of playtime with a single VR game (demo of Horizon Call of the Mountain) and needs to be verified in a detailed test.
Playstation VR 2 spec sheet
There's no spec prelude, just the link to the PSVR 2 info article and spec sheet. You guys want to know what it's really like, not the same numbers you've already seen, right?
8 Reasons FOR Playstation VR 2
The reviews I've read or heard about PSVR 2 so far are positive, to be sure, but are missing something – excitement. Are we too jaded or critical to recognize a great new platform when we have it on our heads?
I'm stunned by my hands-on play session. Playstation VR 2 will be the platform for VR gaming for months and years to come, according to my hands-on impression (remember, tests have yet to confirm this!).
It could even wholly replace PC VR for me. In the future, I will play high-quality, graphically impressive VR games quickly and easily in my living room. I don't see a VR platform of equal quality and accessibility in the near future. PC VR is far too fiddly, and standalone VR can't come close to keeping up graphically.
Do you want reasons? Here they are.
1. Accessibility is fantastic.
Put on PSVR 2, select the game, and off you go. There's no faster or easier way to immerse myself in VR games that also look great, thanks to the power of the Playstation 5.
Even the initial setup is simple: scan the room, post-process the gaming surface, calibrate the eyes for gaze detection - done. That's how it should be.
2. It's as comfortable as a plush helmet.
Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration. The forehead rest of the Halo head mount does give me a "VR face" with the typical pressure points. But there is no unpleasant pressure feeling during use.
The comfortable Halo head mount comes from the PSVR, where the Visor rests on the face but isn't pressed. This way, I can (probably) play in VR for hours. The headset fits loosely underneath with room for glasses, or I can simply get prescription inserts.
3. Are these still fresnel lenses, or what?
The lenses are improved because I don't even notice they're Fresnel lenses when I'm wearing them. It's only today, as I'm typing this article, that I notice and wonder, did the lenses actually have grooves?
Yes, the lenses of the PSVR 2 have comparatively fine grooves. Nevertheless, I do not notice any god-rays or glare effects. The general picture impression is also sharp and clear.
This could be due to the fact that I hardly have time to look for high-contrast situations to make a comparison. Horizon Call of the Mountain is so colorful and looks so good with the PSVR 2 - why are we actually talking about lenses when they're not even noticeable?
4. Finally, real VR controllers for Playstation.
I don't miss the PSVR's light-up dildos for a millisecond. The new Sense controllers fit perfectly in my hands, and I quickly get used to the arrangement of the classic Playstation buttons. The only drawback is that the tracking rings cause collisions with the headset when I arc in Horizon.
So expect to punch yourself in the face computer sometimes.
5. Tracking is now modern and mostly very good.
With inside-out tracking, the unspeakable tracking lights are finally a thing of the past. The new tracking works flawlessly most of the time, similar to what I'm used to with standalone VR headsets like Quest 2 or Vive Focus 3.
However, I do experience moments when the Sense controllers lose tracking briefly, such as when I move a controller very close in front of or next to the VR headset. That wasn't the rule, though - when reaching for an arrow over my shoulder in Horizon, everything works just fine.
Compared to the Move controllers, the new Sense controllers are a significant improvement. Extended tests will be needed to show whether the tracking behaves differently depending on the lighting conditions.
6. What amazing images!
Do you think Half-Life: Alyx is Best? Is Kayak VR the most beautiful? Horizon eats you for breakfast!
Seriously, the VR game looks incredible! Rich colors, realistic and cleanly animated NPCs, powerful and detailed robots, amazing water, and that wide view!
Why should I buy a $2,000+ PC with all the software fiddling and space problems when I can get a competitive (maybe better, thanks to foveated rendering?), much more space-saving and accessible device for half that?
7. It has haptics galore.
The thin accordion face mask gently hugs the face to block out light, but it doesn't vibrate. Instead, the vibration motor is located in the forehead rest of the halo strap. Also, the Sense controllers come with the improved DualSense technology that you may already know from the PS5 controller. The Sense controllers feature adaptive triggers and a finer vibration feel.
The vibration on the forehead takes a bit of getting used to if they happen unexpectedly. With context and gently embedded in the action, as they would be in a good game, it's a blast. I don't notice until afterward that the vibrations in Horizon aren't "shoved in my face" but are used purposefully to create a higher level of immersion. For example, during explosions, I think I can feel the shock wave on my head due to the slight vibration.
8. Aiming at menus with your eyes? Check.
After calibrating eye-tracking, I can control selections in the menus of the PSVR 2 and in the game menu of Horizon Call of the Mountain my gaze. Look and press X - that's the new operating process. Efficient and fast.
I did have a few problems with the upper eye-tracking area, though, perhaps due to hasty calibration. Otherwise, this type of menu navigation works quite wonderfully.
3 reasons AGAINST Playstation VR 2
1. Headphones are necessary.
The headset doesn't include speakers, and therefore, you can't hear audio without headphones. For many gamers, this is an automatic decision regardless of the headset, so this detail might not matter.
On the other hand, headphones compartmentalize (this can be intentional and useful, but it doesn't have to be), increasing the effort required to immerse yourself in a VR game. The improved sound you get with headphones doesn't quite outweigh these drawbacks, in my opinion.
At least there are in-ear headphones that can be attached to the back of the Halo Strap so that the additional "setup time" is somewhat minimized.
2. There's still a cable.
I didn't notice the cable during my play session. I don't necessarily have to physically turn around and wrap the cable around my feet while playing since turning is also possible via the analog joysticks. Besides, it's just a thin USB-C cable that plugs directly into the front of the PS5.
But still, if only on principle, it needs a cable, which is an intrinsic flaw. I also understand that wireless solutions are not yet ready to be put into operation quickly and easily. Sony didn't want to cause configuration stress, and the focus was on guaranteeing consistently high quality.
I remain stubborn: it's a damn cable.
3. The price is good but not cheap.
While it's true that the combined cost of a PS5 and a PSVR 2 is quite a bit cheaper, at about $1,050, than the total cost of a PC plus VR headset, $550 for an accessory is a notable expense. For many people, this could a purchase that they'll want immediately but will need to save up for.
Quality and performance are - as it looks at the moment - obviously worth it. But will the Playstation VR 2 be used often enough to make the investment worthwhile? That depends on the amount of VR games available and their quality. The launch lineup of the PSVR 2 does not completely convince die-hard VR enthusiasts.
This brings us to the big unknown that could theoretically spoil everything.
Will there be enough high-quality VR games on a regular basis, Sony?
THAT'S the big question. The hardware base seems better than ever after my brief trial, indeed better overall than anything else on the market.
But VR headsets will only be used if they have high-quality, engaging applications. As we saw with PSVR, even with five million units sold, a VR headset can quickly fade into irrelevance if no good VR games follow. The same is true for PC VR. After the peak with Half-Life: Alyx, almost nothing with equal impact arrived. The SteamVR statistics show that PC VR is losing, and that is primarily due to a lack of content.
So the future of Playstation VR 2 will depend on how often Sony and other developer studios launch exciting, high-quality VR titles. Sony will have to keep investing if the PSVR 2 is to be a success. If gamers have to rely on indie games and ports of old VR games, this opportunity could fall short.
If, however, AAA games are regularly released with VR modes or even as full-fledged VR games, then the user base will grow, matching the frequency with which these games are released. With nurturing, it will grow faster than with the PSVR, because the Playstation VR 2 is a top-quality VR headset that can be enjoyed for several years.
If, and only if, Sony shows staying power and strategic consistency with the software.