I was a massive fan of PlayStation VR at launch, spending a bunch of time with a variety of launch titles, but it all became a little bit hard with the breakout box, and more easily accessible headsets such as the Meta Quest (and subsequent Meta Quest 2), but after going hands-on with the PlayStation VR2 earlier today, I really feel like PlayStation is going to have a lot of people rushing to pickup its VR headset once again.
Ever since Kieron’s super positive PlayStation VR2 impressions where he tried out Resident Evil Village back in November, I’ve been really eager to try out some of the improvements that he spoke about, and he definitely wasn’t selling short how much all of these improvements come together to provide an immersive VR experience that we haven’t really seen before.
I’ve seen a lot of chatter about the fact that the PlayStation VR2 uses a cord to connect to the PS5. I can understand why this might be a bit disappointing if you’ve a wireless Meta Quest user, but it’s a massive improvement from the PlayStation 4 solution which required multiple cords to be connected to both the console and power. It was actually a really welcomed drop in weight over the Meta Quest 2, and I came out of it feeling a lot more comfortable than I would a Meta Quest session, so honestly, it’s a non-issue (and maybe even a benefit).
Immediately when putting the headset on, the 4x resolution bump to 4K from the original PlayStation VR was felt everywhere from text to the visuals on-screen. The original PlayStation VR had a noticeable screen door effect due to the resolution, but that was nowhere to be seen here with crystal clear graphics showing up on screen. If you’re wanting to check your surroundings or grab your controllers, you can push a button on the bottom of the headset, to get a pretty clear black and white version of your surroundings.
After getting comfortable with the variety of intuitive adjustments that you can make to the headset fit, you’re prompted on-screen to make sure the headset is straight and your eyes are correctly in-line with both lenses. I then setup eye tracking and this is where I started to become really impressed. I had to do a quick setup following a light around the virtual screen with only my eyes, but once that was done, I was able to navigate a quick on-screen tutorial where my eyes acted as a cursor with the on-screen UI also reacting to blinking or closing eyes completely.
Jumping into the Horizon Call of the Mountain demo, I was immediately able to test out the eye tracking by navigating the menus, and it worked super well once I got used to moving my eyes rather than my whole head.
The first part of the demo had me in a raft, whilst a number of familiar Horizon robots swam and flew past me. I was able to reach out into the water and feel the haptics rumble through the controllers, in a much more immersive way due to how your hands perfectly grip around each controller.
I was able to also test out the finger touch detection in where the PlayStation VR2 Sense controllers can detect if your fingers are on the four R2/R1/L2/L1 buttons as well as your thumb resting on the analogue stick. It worked really well, but honestly, as a whole, the new controllers are just miles ahead of the PlayStation Move controllers, both from an ergonomics point of view and just how PlayStation has carefully put every PS5 button onto these controllers.
I was quickly set free into a more open part of the game where I was able to walk by lifting up the left and right controllers in sync, in a walking motion, and then it came to climbing, and this is where I was able to get a glimpse of how much better the controller tracking is utilising the four cameras that are built into the headset.
Whilst the PlayStation Move controllers would often lose tracking or not feel quite right, these were bang on in terms of every ledge that I grabbed whilst climbing stuck.
Whilst it’s hard to talk about the overall quality of Horizon Call of the Mountain at this stage, it definitely felt like a fully realised AAA experience, with exploration, combat and story all playing a big part in the game.
The best test of the PlayStation VR2 experience came when I was placed against both a Watcher and a Thunder Jaw in separate experiences. It felt very familiar to a Horizon game in the sense that you were using your bow and had to hit weak spots to knock machines’ components off, but you then had to worry about dodging and staying out of the way in these somewhat on-rails encounters.
The Thunder Jaw experience was honestly overwhelming to the senses, with all of the different haptic experiences in both the controller and the headset and needing to take the actual giant down.
It’s really hard to explain but the actual headset itself has haptic feedback too, so you can really feel every single rumble and tumble of the giant beast, and when you’re finally defeated, you feel a pretty significant thud to the head.
I think the most exciting thing about PlayStation VR2 outside of huge improvements to things like the resolution and controllers, is the fact that there’s so many new little features for developers to make use of, with everything from eye tracking, to finger detection, to the adaptive triggers, to the haptics in both the headsets and controllers, there’s just so much more immersive potential for games to have in the PlayStation VR space.
The PlayStation VR2 releases on February 22nd, 2023.