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(Pocket-lint) – Sony is returning to virtual reality with PSVR 2, a complete overhaul of the VR headset that originally launched on PlayStation in 2016.
With the launch of next-generation headphones on February 22, 2023 – and pre-orders are now open – Big changes are coming. First shown to the public at CES 2023, we were ready to put it through its paces.
There’s not much to glean from a brief test of a new VR system, but it’s clear that the PSVR 2 has what it takes to deliver a great performance. The image quality looks like a true next-gen experience, and PSVR 2 can play an important role in conquering a new space for VR gaming.
Yes, the headset costs the same as the PS5 – and it only works with the PS5 and doesn’t support older PSVR games – but if all the experiences live up to those first moments of Horizon Call of the Mountain, then the game will be worth the candle.
But as with all new devices and formats, there will be a huge demand for content: asking people to buy an expensive headset without the gaming line-up to really take advantage of it would be a disaster. The company has committed to 30 games so far, with Gran Turismo (via an update) also confirmed at CES 2023.
Therefore, the ball is in the court of publishers and developers. This could be a big moment for VR gaming, with PlayStation having the upper hand, but the hardware has left us excited for the future of PSVR 2.
Sony PlayStation VR2 first test: First experience playing with the next-gen VR system in Horizon Call of the Mountain
- Excellent design
- Easy to configure
- Eye tracking looks great
- The Sense controller is nice and light
- Amazing visual performance.
- Not great quality
- It is expensive.
Design and production
The PlayStation VR2 is designed to integrate with the PlayStation 5 and is exclusive to that console, connecting via a single USB-C cable.
The packaging is actually split into two parts, the headphones and the Sense controllers. Starting with the helmet, it breaks down into a halo-style strap that supports the visor portion of the pack.
This design will be familiar to you, as it is similar to the original version, with a well-padded adjustable strap for a soft wrap around the head. A dial on the back lets you tighten the headband for precise adjustments, while buttons on both the ruler and the headband make it quick and easy to release to fit or remove the PSVR 2.
What’s great is that you can simply press the button to slide the visor off your face if you need to get out into the real world quickly.
First impressions are of a comfortable, balanced and very aesthetic headset, but also easy to fit and use. We also found it to be very good at cutting light leaks thanks to the padded cushion around the visor.
Headphones are provided, but they are headphones. For the purposes of this demo, we used Sony’s Pulse 3D headset, which is fine.
The Sense controllers have wrist straps, so you don’t have to worry about dropping or throwing them if you get too excited, but they’re light enough to prevent fatigue, with a series of buttons that fall in logical places.
The design of VR handheld controllers seems to be going in the same direction, but the Sense controllers are a bit smarter than the others because they also detect your finger movements – which can help in games, or just let you do tricks. gestures or pointed fingers. Yes, you can give the middle finger if you want.
A few words about configuration
We haven’t had a chance to fully configure the system, but we were able to perform some calibrations that you’ll need to get the most out of PSVR 2. These calibrations are for setting up one of the new features: Eye Tracking.
Once you have installed the helmet, you can enter the calibration phase. You’ll then see how the helmet sits on your head, allowing you to adjust it to level it, for example.
You can then calibrate eye tracking, which is simply tracking a point on the screen. It takes a few minutes, but once it’s set up, you’ll be able to make choices in the UI by looking at the options instead of using a hand-controlled virtual pointer.
While there wasn’t an obvious eye-tracking addition in the game we played – Horizon Call of the Mountain – it’s clear that eye-tracking will be a big part of the user interface. Just seeing what you want to choose feels much more natural.
Of course, there’s no need for an external camera with PSVR 2, so setup is easier than the original PSVR, there’s literally only one cable to connect to the console. It’s also really nice that once you’re in VR you can be shown the buttons of the Sense controllers – the system can tell you which button to press, for example.
PSVR 2 performance
The biggest talking point around PSVR 2 has been the next-gen specs. It is known that Sony has equipped the next-generation headphones with a pair of OLED screens 2000 x 2040 pixels, supporting up to 120 Hz and 110 degrees of viewing.
Specs mean nothing if they don’t give you an edge, and Sony’s decision to use Horizon Call of the Mountain as a demo is absolutely intentional. It is a visually stunning game and launch title for PSVR 2, set in a familiar world that players know from Horizon Zero Dawn and Forbidden West.
That it’s graphically rich is no surprise, but we weren’t quite prepared for the visual richness of the experience. This is where these specifics become important, as they foster a sense of total immersion in this alternate reality.
These exceptional laptop GPUs make gaming on the go a real pleasure.
Call of the Mountain tackles some technically difficult elements, such as venturing into a river and dealing with moving water. But that’s not a problem, because it has great transparency and a really natural feel to the environment you’re in.
Of course, you can look in any direction for a rewarding view, and when you encounter a Broadhead, the scale is breathtaking, not to mention the detail as it passes over you.
All this is also related to haptic feedback, both in the Sense controllers, but also in the headphones themselves. It’s surprisingly effective, and while we can’t claim to have experienced the full range of uses for the openings, we’re already impressed with how it can enhance the VR experience.
Front cameras to see
The cameras are now placed on the front of the PSVR 2 headset, meaning you can see the real world at the push of a button. This is a popular feature in VR headsets, so it’s a good thing that Sony offers it as well.
However, if there’s a first criticism to be leveled at PSVR 2, it’s this transparency system. Press the button and you’ll get a fairly poor-quality black-and-white view of the world.
We’re far from the performance we get with mixed reality headsets. Compared to HTC Vive XR Elite – which we also demonstrated at CES 2023 – PSVR 2 is not as good.
The question is, of course, how much you will need this functionality. On the PSVR 2 it’s more of an occasional or emergency feature, while on the Vive XR Elite it’s a core feature, hence the huge gap in quality.
PSVR 2 is truly a new generation of VR gaming. Although we’ve only spent a short amount of time on any of the launch titles, it’s clear that PSVR 2 has the power to deliver an out-of-this-world experience. However, it’s an expensive system and it will take a solid pipeline of games to justify the expense.
Written by Chris Hall.