If there’s one thing that undersells the PSVR2 it’s the name. Yes, it has probably been through the ringer with 50 different pitched names, and yes it does clearly convey that it’s a follow-up to Sony’s previous efforts, but wow does it understate how much of an advancement you will soon have in your hands. The PlayStation VR2 is a quantum leap, placing it parallel, and in many ways ahead, of the very best VR headsets on the market. This headset and its included controllers are an engineering marvel, and with Sony at the helm they’ve taken every precaution to make it as easy to use as humanly possible. It’s time to put on the headset, but let me tell you…when they tell you that new worlds await you, you might not be prepared for what comes next.
The first thing you probably want to know is how this compares to the first iteration. Why should a PlayStation 5 owner purchase a PSVR2? Well, there are a number of reasons, and they are laid out handily in this chart below. I’ll drop that in, and then we’ll take a look at the ones that really matter and why:
Setting it up:
Do you remember hooking up your PSVR? It had a manual with labeled cables, a second box for everything to connect to, and if you had the first iteration, it completely disabled your ability to capture. It also had lights on the end of the controllers and had to be in direct vision of the PlayStation 4 Camera. That camera would look for colored lights (nine of them in all) on the headset and controllers to map your position in space, but it also meant you had a very limited amount of movement. If you weren’t facing the camera, tracking began to suffer. Turning around was completely out of the question. This made games like Iron Man VR from Camoflaj (a fantastic game, by the way) an exercise in constantly resetting your position. Put simply, some games did it ok, some did it poorly, but due to limitations of the hardware at the time, nobody did it very well – especially compared to what’s available on PC. If you need a reminder on that setup…well, Sony has you covered:
Hooking up the PlayStation VR2 is an absolute breeze. Ready? You take the 14.7 foot long USB-C cable connected to the HMD (sorry, it’s not wireless) and you plug it into the front port of the PlayStation 5. That’s it. You’re done. You don’t even need that PS5 camera. If you were expecting more, well, sorry – there’s nothing else. You are ready to play. Talk about simplifying your workflow! Bravo to Sony Engineering and their work. I don’t know what I expected, but I imagined it’d be more complex than this. The “Hey, can I check out your PSVR2?” question just got a whole lot easier to say “Absolutely!” to when it inevitably gets asked.
With the headset plugged in, it’s time to configure the PlayStation 5. Surely that’s complicated, right? It turns out, that’s been slimmed down as well. Gone are the “stand in the box. No…really, stand in the box. Stand MORE in the box.” days, replaced by a simple scan that uses the four forward-facing cameras to look over your play space and assess whether you have enough room for room scale play or not. I could describe it, but why not just see it for yourself?
The room setup for the PSVR2 very much reminds me of the setup sequence Valve has been using for PCVR for years, only Sony has done it better. Much, much better. You’ll select between three different positions – sitting, standing in place, or roomscale. Sitting is for small rooms and, well…for sitting. I don’t know what you expected there. Standing is for games you can play in an entirely stationary fashion, giving you about 3 feet, 4” in every direction in a circle without moving your feet. This should accommodate nearly anyone’s living space. If you have a little more room, however, you’ll want to use Roomscale. Roomscale allows movement of up to 6ft, 7in. in all directions. Using the cameras embedded in the headset you’ll scan the room, using the PSVR2 Sense controllers to effectively “paint” the go/no-go zones of your area. Maybe that means cutting out a sofa, or making sure you don’t run into your fireplace. You can make the space your own, and it’ll stay that way as long as you return to the specified “center” next time you play. Elsewise you’ll need to repeat the setup with wherever else you move, but frankly it’s so simple that it’s not even an inconvenience. I switched up play styles frequently and at will without any issue.
On the Meta Quest 2 you can tap the side of the headset to enable a virtual passthrough. The PSVR2 has a similar feature. Once your play space is defined you’ll press the function button on the headset to enable this visual passthrough, meaning you can quickly check your surroundings without having to take off the headset. This is also handy for staying hydrated – use something with a straw, and drink often. It’s the key to staving off nausea, if you happen to suffer from that. The passthrough image is black and white, but it’s more than enough to be able to, in my case, start and stop capture on my PC, make sure the dogs are behaving, or just quickly check that I’m not way off position from where I want to be – a good safe distance away from my TV.
One of the things that PSVR1 did extraordinarily well, and even to this day some PC games lack, is the ability to enable second screen viewing. VR is inherently a solo experience most of the time, but if you are hanging out with friends they might want to see what you are flailing at. Well, PSVR2 has what they are calling “Social Screen” experience, pushing content to the screen in a 2D format. All of the videos you see on our channel are examples of this capture. The only hitch is the few moments between when the user puts on and turns on the headset and starts a game. For whatever reason the TV is black. This is problematic with new users as you can’t help them negotiate menus, especially if they are unsure of where to click next. It’s a minor thing, but one I hope they fix.
No matter whose headset you buy, be it HTC, HP, Meta, Varja, or anything in between, they all have one very irritating problem – lens fogging. Well, Sony has cracked the case. By placing a small vented fan on the underside of the device, the lenses are kept at a temperature and humidity that neither my wife (who runs extraordinarily hot during VR sessions) or I had any lens fogging whatsoever. No matter how hard I exerted, or how intense the action got, there simply was no fogging up the PSVR2. It’s magnificent, and I cannot believe nobody had done it sooner.
Putting the headset on my head the first thing I noticed was that it was very comfortable, weighing in around the same amount as its already-light predecessor. In the chart we see that it’s been put on a bit of a diet, coming in at 40 grams lighter. For reference, 40 grams is roughly the weight of two AA batteries, so it’s unlikely you’ll feel that. What’s more important, however, is how that weight is distributed. The headset itself is a little bit wider than its predecessor, likely to accommodate the extra 10 degrees of visibility. It’s also a fair bit shorter from top to bottom. All of this is incredibly impressive as Sony has packed four cameras into the front of this headset for controller and headset tracking, as well as an infrared camera for tracking on each eye (thanks to a partnership with Tobii – you’ve heard lots of good things about them if you have read GT long enough). ALL of that tech fits in this new smaller and lighter headset – ain’t tech grand?
The screen section is yet another undersold statement. Yes, both systems used OLED for its screen. The difference here is that the PSVR2 is more than double that of its predecessor. It even adds in another 10 degrees of Field of View (that’s what you can see left and right in your peripheral vision) to round things out. A normal field of view is around 210 x 150 degrees, so a wider field of view helps with overall immersion.
There’s a section about panel refresh rate in the chart above, and by any measure it looks the same – 90/120 Hz. If you are new to VR, you need 90 fps or better for things to be smooth enough to not cause nausea. Low framerate will put you on your butt, so it’s crucial your headset can keep up – and both devices can. The difference goes back to the lenses – the PSVR2 can hold that 90/120 Hz mark while maintaining double the resolution.
Speaking of lenses, there’s a huge improvement that is exclusive to the PSVR2 – IPD. IPD or Interpupillary Distance is the measured distance between your two pupils. If the lenses aren’t correctly aligned, you have a recipe for a near-instant headache due to eye strain. Some HMDs on the market allow you to adjust these by pulling them along a detented channel, with stops at the most common values. The PSVR2 blows that out of the water as it does it automatically. Using the same eye-tracking system I mentioned above, it calculates where the center of your pupil is and then adjusts the lenses accordingly. Gone is the need to adjust your lenses when a different person picks up the headset, and gone are the lame little paper rulers that come with so many HMDs. This is a huge step forward, and frankly not one I expected on a non-enthusiast headset.
Looking at the Sensor section of the graph above, you might notice that both sides are the same – no change between the first and second headset. Sony is again underselling. While the same sensor types are being used, the fidelity and speed at which they measure are vastly different. Both use a combination of accelerometers and gyroscopes to keep track of positional movement in space.
I only have one real complaint with the hardware – the cable. The PSVR2 uses a rather lengthy, near 15 foot, USB-C cable. Unfortunately it’s permanently attached to the HMD. It would be wonderful if this could be swapped out without having to exchange out an entire headset, but it’s frankly a minor nitpick. They’ve taken precautions with a stress-relieving housing, and the cable seems sturdy enough, though it’d be nice if it was braided. A man can wish, right?
Don’t throw away that camera just yet:
If you did happen to pick up a PS5 camera, even though it’s not used for tracking the VR headset any longer, that doesn’t mean it’s not of use. Using a special broadcast mode, you can record yourself with the camera and then include yourself in the scene. It’s one thing to describe your motions, it’s another for a player to see it. Those frenetic arrow pulls when squaring off against a Thunderjaw? Yep, those are never going to stop being funny to me, and now I can share that whole goofy experience with all of you!
What is Foveated Rendering?
Foveated Rendering is the technique where eye tracking is used to reduce image quality in your peripheral vision while keeping the area where you are looking at maximum quality. What’s most interesting is that you don’t see any of this while you are inside the headset, but you most assuredly do in capture. You’ll see that the edges are somewhat blurrier, but not so much that it’s a bad experience. Those who put on the headset, however, have a completely different experience. Frankly, it might as well be magic for how well it works. Like much of VR, it’s something you’ll have to see for yourself to understand. That said, now that I’ve seen it in action, I can’t imagine going back to a headset that doesn’t have eye tracking. It’s a whole new world, and it belongs to Sony now.
Haptics – haptics everywhere!
The DualSense controller that shipped with the PlayStation 5 is absolutely magnificent, offering a completely different tactile experience than any other platform, including anything offered on the PC. Sony took that same technology and moved that directly into their new headset and Sense controllers, and to the same incredible effect. Well beyond simple vibration, the nudges, buzzes, and subtle hits and responses you get out of the Sense controller approximates a lot of experiences, and frankly nobody else is even coming close.
The best part of the DualSense and now the Sense controller is the adaptive trigger set. These can change the way a gun fires, simulate a jam, and even make two weapons feel entirely different. During Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge I had a sequence where I had a rifle in one hand and a blaster in the other. The triggers felt completely different from one another, and unless I’m mistaken, so did the recoil.
When playing Horizon: Call of the Mountain, I could feel the tension of drawing my bow, and the music in Rez Infinite or the way a piece snapped in place in Tetris Effect: Connected both carried a satisfying bump.
Though I’ve not seen an in-game use for it quite yet, the Sense controllers support finger touch detection. From what I can tell, it can sense your thumb and first two fingers individually, and the last two as a bundle, though I’d be happy to be proven wrong. Gesture-based controls and gameplay impact is a long way from simply throwing a peace sign, but it’s a start – we’ll see what the industry does for it.
We’ve come a long way from “bzzz, bzzz”, and at the risk of repeated hyperbole, it’s a game changer. While I’m not a huge fan of the straps that ship with the controller – they are frankly a little cumbersome to get in and out of compared to something like Vive’s Knuckles, but you can’t beat how comfortable they are in the hand.
Enough Tech Jibberish – how does it play?!
We’ll be reviewing a good portion of the launch titles in individual reviews, but let’s talk a little bit about the overall differences. Eye tracking is not a gimmick, first of all, instead allowing you to navigate menus quickly by simply looking where you want to select and then pressing a button. It sounds like it would be cumbersome, but it’s intuitive and simpler than you might think. The screen door effect that was ever-present (and doubly so during loading sequences) on the PSVR1 is completely gone on these new higher-fidelity OLED displays. It helps bring to life the full power of the PlayStation 5. If you were expecting a graphical downgrade just because Horizon Zero Dawn jumped to the virtual world, you are in for a treat.
The screens on the PSVR2 are absolutely magnificent. The clarity is frankly above what I have with a HMD that costs over $1300, and with a refresh rate to match. In Horizon: Call of the Mountain, you can see to…well, the horizon. More than that, the game is rendering out that far because you can hit targets at the very edge of your vision. I’m sure there will be plenty of folks who will jam a camera through the lens, take them apart, and otherwise analyze these to a level well beyond what I can do, but let me just say this – no matter the cost, there isn’t an HMD on the market that looks a clear, runs as cool, or reacts as quickly as this headset. No joke – this is the new standard for all VR, and everyone just got put on notice.
The Last Stop on the Tour – the Price.
There is one box missing in the tech spec list – the one denoting price. The PSVR2 will set you back $550, or you can pick up a bundle with Call of the Mountain for an extra $50. The PSVR1 cost $399 at launch, but let’s take a closer look. In both cases you had to have a PS4 or PS5 respectively to play, so I’m omitting that from the math. Remember when I said you had to buy a camera for the PSVR1 to work? Well that was another $60 at launch. There were plenty of games that would use a DualShock controller, but many, if not most games, required the Move controllers. Those things are ultra-rare nowadays, especially since they arrived on the PlayStation 3, but they shipped with the Eye camera (which does not work with PSVR1 as it cannot judge depth well enough for VR tracking), so you are still in for $99 for the Move set, and another $60 for the camera. Unless you wanted to charge the Move controllers with a pair of cables, you probably bought the dock for them – I know I did. That’s another $20 to $30 depending on whether you went official or not. Let’s add it up.
PSVR1 all-in cost: $558 to $588 with chargers
PSVR2 all-in cost: $550 + $49.99 for charging station
I guess it makes sense to take a second and really calculate out the cost before you get too excited – Sony hasn’t raised the price, they’ve simply bundled it all together in one piece of tech. With as much hardware as this new piece of equipment has in it, this price has to be costing Sony money on every sale. Such is the nature of the console market, but you can’t argue with the results.
We’ve finally reached the stage where it’s likely you can pick up a PS5 without too much effort, and right in time to launch what has to be the biggest quantum leap Sony could have made. Sony was already knocking it out of the park on the software side, and with 100 PSVR2 titles in production heading into 2023 and beyond, it seems like their dominance is set to continue well into the future.
Sony PlayStation VR2
With bleeding-edge tech, Sony launches the single best VR HMD on the market. It does everything right, and in many ways does things well beyond any competitor at any price. Congratulations Sony – you just changed the game.
- Unbelievable clarity
- Excellent positional 3D audio
- Infinitely simple to setup and use
- Price technically hasn’t gone up from PSVR1
- Foveated rendering is an absolute game changer
- And so much more….
- Wrist strap is kinda crummy?
- I wish the USB-C was user-serviceable