PlayStation VR2: The first hands-on

When the original PlayStation VR launched in 2016, it already felt a bit dated, being outclassed by the room-scale VR of its PC competitors with its stationary setup and PlayStation Move controllers. Thankfully, PlayStation VR2 puts things on an even footing. Room-scale VR is on offer here thanks to headset-based inside-out tracking, and the controllers feel on par with Meta’s latest.

PSVR2 also brings some new features to the table. The eye-tracking is a first for a VR headset, as is the haptic feedback built into the headset itself. The controllers also utilize the same haptic feedback and adaptive triggers found in the PS5 DualSense controllerwhich will be all the more effective with good implementation paired with the immersion of VR.

However, it’s also still rooted – or should I say – connected to the past. Like other PC-based VR headsets, the PSVR2 requires a wired connection to your PS5. It’s a single thin cable that’s relatively uninhibited, especially compared to its predecessor’s cluttered cables, but it might feel limiting for people who’ve grown accustomed to the Meta Quest 2’s cable-free experience.

Last week I was at PlayStation HQ in the US for the first PSVR2 hands-on. I’ve played four games: Resident Evil Village VR, Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge Enhanced Edition, The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners Chapter 2, and Horizon Call of the Mountain. let me tell you everything

Let’s start with the hardware itself. PlayStation VR2 has a similar headset design to its predecessor, with a band that rests on the part of your head and wraps around your neck. This gives a nice weight distribution that doesn’t feel front-heavy like some VR headsets can. There is a button on the back of the band that pushes it out when pushed, as well as an adjustment dial that allows you to further tighten the band if needed. There’s also a button on the face mask that allows you to slide it in or out, making it easy to put the headset on and then adjust it to a comfortable position. While I didn’t test it that way, a Sony rep did show that there’s ample room inside the headset for glasses. Once the headset is on, there’s a dial on the top left of the face unit, which adjusts the lenses to make sure everything’s sharp.

I didn’t notice the dreaded “screen door” effect at all.

The OLED panels inside offer a resolution of 2000 x 2040 per eye at up to 120 Hz. This is the highest resolution available among mainstream VR headsets and offers an excellent level of visual fidelity. I didn’t notice the dreaded “screen door” effect at all during my time with the system. This is further aided by something called foveated rendering, which essentially means the system uses its built-in eye-tracking to increase the resolution of whatever you’re looking at.

PSVR2 uses four cameras built into the headset to track the controllers and your surroundings from the inside out. When you first set up your play area, the system will ask you to slowly look around as it scans the area – including the floor and ceiling – and assigns you a safe area to play. From there you can draw lines on the ground to manually add or subtract area, just like Meta’s headsets. There’s also a button on the bottom right of the headset that activates a pass-through camera, allowing you to see your surroundings and record your controllers.

Speaking of controllers, their design is relatively similar to that of PC VR systems. Each has a thumbstick, two primary input buttons (triangle and square on the left, circle and cross on the right), and a PS and Options button each. For triggers, there’s an L2/R2, which is activated by your index fingers and serves as the primary trigger for weapons and other handheld devices. R1/L1, meanwhile, rest under your middle/ring fingers and are used to articulate grasping objects.

The controllers also have capacitive capabilities, so they can detect whether you’re touching the controller or not, even if you’re not pressing a button. This is relatively similar to Valve Index’s “Knuckles” controllers, although I found the finger tracking isn’t quite as accurate as Valve’s implementation. Valve’s controllers also have a strap across the back of the hand that keeps the controllers in place when you fully open your palm, while PSVR2 controllers require you to at least lightly grip them at all times. This was most evident when playing The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners, where simply closing my hand to grab a gun wasn’t enough, and instead I had to hold down the L1/R1 bumper with my middle and ring fingers. The button isn’t particularly hard to press, but when I have to hold it down for long periods of time — like when you’re holding a gun or knife — my hand started to tire and cramp after playing for more than 20 minutes or so.

The controllers also feature the same haptic feedback and adaptive triggers as the PS5’s DualSense controller. Unfortunately, I didn’t really notice any of the game demos I’ve played. All of the developers I spoke to mentioned plans to implement both features in their games, but other than Horizon Call of the Mountain, they weren’t present in the demo builds I played. I also didn’t notice the triggers doing anything special in Horizon, but the section I played only used a bow and arrow, so I didn’t have any other weapons to compare the feel to. The developers told me that other weapons later in the game would continue to use the triggers, such as a large mounted ballista that would feel heavy.

The controllers feature the same haptic feedback and adaptive triggers as the PS5’s DualSense controller.

In addition to the controllers, the headset itself also has haptic feedback built in. Again, this was most notable for me while playing Horizon VR – either it wasn’t implemented in the other games yet, or wasn’t present enough to remind me of it. Anyhow, I found the feature to be a nice addition to the haptic landscape, although mostly I only noticed it when I took damage or was otherwise knocked around. It wasn’t distracting or uncomfortable at all, but I also didn’t particularly feel like it added a level of immersion I couldn’t live without. I suppose the implementation, like the haptics of DualSense, will vary from game to game and it all depends on how much effort developers put into using it.

The headset doesn’t have built-in audio, instead you can either rely on the audio from the TV/speaker or a pair of headphones – either connected wirelessly to your PS5 or via a 3.5mm headphone jack on the PSVR2 headset. I found this solution a little disappointing compared to the Valve Index’s off-ear spatial audio, as it required a pair of headphones if you wanted spatial audio. Personally, I found the headset-headphone combo to be a little clunky and unwieldy, making it difficult to get the VR2 in the perfect position in front of my eyes.

Climb higher

The marquee launch game for PlayStation VR2 is Horizon Call of the Mountain, a standalone entry in the Horizon series. During the events of Horizon Zero Dawn, you play as Ryas, a disgraced former Carja soldier who was released from prison early in the game for reasons still unknown.

Ryas is a skilled rock climber, and much of Call of the Mountain’s exploration gameplay involves traversing the peaks of Carja Sundom. This means physically moving your hands from hold to hold and pulling yourself up and over cliffs, cracks and other climbable areas. The climbing paths are similar to those in something like Uncharted or Tomb Raider, but moving your hands to climb these routes feels vastly more satisfying than simply holding down a climb button.

The exploration part I played was relatively linear, but the verticality of the level design and how the paths sometimes fold over on themselves as you reach greater heights makes it feel like it’s far from being easy in one to move in a straight line. And while I didn’t experience it during the demo I played, the developers at Horizon told me that the levels would have multiple routes to the finish, with lots of nooks and crannies to explore.

During these exploration sections, you can shoot at targets with a bow and arrow. In the section I was playing, this simply ignited some beacons, which seem to mainly serve to get you used to shooting in VR, but I wouldn’t be surprised if later areas required you to shoot switches or levers to solve puzzles solve or paths to open .

The other half of Call of the Mountain gameplay is battling the mechanical beasts of the Carja Sundom. When you enter combat, the game shifts into a circular arena where you are bound to a ring-shaped path with your opponent in the middle. You can dodge left and right by holding the a button and swiping your right arm, which is used to both move along your circular path and dodge incoming attacks. The attack uses the same bow and arrow pantomime as the exploration sections – hold the right trigger and reach behind your shoulder to pull out an arrow, nock it to the bow and pull back, aim and release the trigger to shoot.

I played two combat encounters, the first against a single one of the raptor-like Watcher enemies, which attacked with tail slaps and charged slow-moving balls of energy. The other was a boss fight against a massive Thunderjaw, which had a much larger circular arena littered with cover pieces useful for hiding from its barrage of lasers, missiles, and other attacks.

Thankfully, PlayStation VR2 feels like a modern entry into the VR landscape, with premium visual fidelity and comfortable ergonomics. Its haptics and adaptive triggers, if implemented well, will be a welcome addition to the immersive experience. As with any new hardware, the question now is whether there will be enough games to make the investment worthwhile. First-party games like Horizon Call of the Mountain are certainly helping to allay those fears, and while nothing has been announced yet, I’d be shocked if the standout Half-Life: Alyx didn’t make it to the platform.

The other important question is the price. The original PSVR launched for $399, and given the hardware on offer here, I wouldn’t be surprised if PSVR2 launched for $499 – especially given the inflation-driven price increases that have recently impacted both the Meta Quest 2 as well as the PS5 itself have hit territories in many cases. Still, PSVR2 holds great promise for PS5 owners looking for an easy (read: non-PC-based) way to access a high-end VR experience.

For more information on PSVR2, check out the trailer for the PSVR2 versions of Nobody’s heaven and Resident Evil Village. And for everything else in the world of gaming and tech, stay tuned to IGN. PlayStation VR2: The first hands-on

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