The most striking thing when first opening the PlayStation VR2 box is how empty it is. Two controllers, an extra USB cable, and the headset.
Anyone who has used VR on other systems will be wondering “where are the sensors, where are the cables, where’s all the other stuff?”. This is why the PS VR2 is going to get virtual reality headsets into more homes than any other system before.
Look and feel
The headset and controllers look elegant in a very sleek, modern, minimalist kind of way that perfectly fits with the style of the console. There is absolutely nothing here that doesn’t need to be here, and instead of being utilitarian and brutal, the engineering minds at Sony have packaged it into a very esthetically pleasing form. Simple white with black accents, the four cameras/sensors on the front are reminiscent of tech used by Sam Fisher from 'Splinter Cell'. There is one cable leading from the headset to the console again keeping with the theme of simplicity, and ensuring you won’t get tangled up during play.
The controllers fit nicely into the hand and are intuitive to use. They are light enough to be comfortable to use for extended play sessions, while also being heavy enough to feel sturdy. Using the attached safety strap means the user won’t worry about throwing the controller across the room, allowing them to become more immersed in the virtual world. The motion sensors very accurately detect and display where your hands are in relation to your head, so picking things up, using objects and interacting with the world around you all feel very natural and comfortable.
One of the issues with many VR headsets is that they just aren’t comfortable to use for extended periods. While the PlayStation VR2 takes a little bit of manoeuvring to get into the right position so that it’s tight but not too tight, focused for your eyes and comfortable, once there one would almost forget they’re even wearing it. And of course, this gets easier each time you put it on. Focusing the lenses is very easy to do too, the whole unit can move towards or away from your face, and the lenses themselves can move away from or towards each other. Again, this takes a moment the first time you're setting up but takes seconds on subsequent plays. The headset also features vibration feedback which is quite a surprise the first time you experience it.
The visual display is extremely high fidelity at a resolution of 2000 x 2040 per eye, and refresh rates of 90Hz or 120Hz. The most important part of VR is immersion, and having each game’s world displayed to you in such high quality is a huge part of why the VR2 will almost certainly be a success. The different games available at launch each have their own art style and feel, and the incredible display recreates them so well and so smoothly that you will instantly feel transported to a new universe as soon as you press start on another game. Add to this the included earphones have different sets of tips as you would expect for a snug fit to offer great sound quality and isolation from the outside world.
Through the play sessions for this review, the FPS were great, and the high refresh rates meant the gameplay was smooth throughout. Along with the quality of the display this is extremely important, as any visual tearing or stuttering would have been immediately immersion breaking. Having high FPS and low-quality visuals, or high-quality visuals and low FPS is not a good mix for virtual reality, and the power of PS5 is well able to serve up both.
Setup and play
The user experience is shockingly simple. Take out, plug in, and play. You can choose to play either standing or sitting, and the on-screen/in-display instructions are clear on the differences between the two. You can choose to play in a preset play area or use the cameras and sensors on the headset to take a scan of your room, and then virtually map out your play area. This means you can manually set a virtual barrier to stop you from punching your TV.
Most of the games tested allow for either play style, while some are set up only for sitting. Both play styles are viable and really depend on the mood/energy of the user. If you want to get some exercise in, choose to stand; if you want a more relaxed session but still want to get transported to another world, choose sitting. If you think sitting while exploring an alien planet or making your way through a virtual jungle isn’t as immersive as standing – you're right. But not to the extent that the immersion is broken. Every other aspect of the VR2 experience comes together so well that only an insignificant percentage of the immersion is lost compared to standing, and every game remains enjoyable. Through the playtest, it was always nice to have the option of sitting to play after a long day.
Games at launch
While there is still a review embargo on the games coming so impressions can’t yet be shared, the official PlayStation blog has revealed thirteen games available at launch and teased that 30 will be available in the near future.
Some modern classics like 'Gran Turismo 7', 'No Man's Sky', and 'Resident Evil Village' will be getting release day patches to allow VR, some PS VR1 titles will offer free or reduced-cost upgrades to VR2 capability, and there will be some brand-new entries into existing franchises like 'Horizon Call of the Mountain'.
Gaming is already a fairly expensive hobby, and all VR has a higher-than-usual pay-to-play element. While it’s not cheap at €599.99 without any games, and having the pre-requisite of owning a PS5, it’s still one of the most cost-effective ways to get into VR, and probably the best value for money. A comparable VR headset, the Valve Index, costs over €1000 at release and also required a very beefy PC to run it – the minimum recommended spec would cost another €1000 or so.
If you’ve been eager to get into VR but couldn’t justify the price tag of a new PC and VR headset then maybe a PS5 and VR2 will be a bit more palatable for you. The games will have their own reviews but there’s something there for everyone - from self-identified hard-core gamers to super casual story-mode enjoyers.