PlayStation VR2 review: Best-in-market VR, but where are the games?

ST Reporter Osmond Chia testing out the PlayStation VR2 headset and controllers on Feb 21, 2022. ST PHOTO: RYAN CHIONG

SINGAPORE – The PlayStation VR2 takes consumer virtual reality to new heights on almost all fronts. But a lack of compelling titles, its hefty price tag of $869 and possible headaches stand in the way of it seeing mainstream success.

Gamers will also first need a PlayStation 5 console, which costs upwards of $700, taking the overall price of entry into VR past $1,500.

The Straits Times tested a VR2 loaned from Sony in February.

Launched last Wednesday, the VR2 is a breeze to set up thanks to thoughtful design and user experience.

Once plugged into the PS5 via a lengthy USB-C cable, the system prompted me to install an update to run the VR2, then calibrate the controllers and eye-tracking within the visor.

To map out the play area to prevent players from knocking into objects, the VR2 system requires players to scan their surroundings.

Tracking cameras captured my room seamlessly before adjustable virtual walls surrounded me to demarcate the area of play.

Breaching the virtual wall will force the game to pause and activate a pass-through mode, letting the user immediately see his surrounds clearly for safety. Pass-through vision can also be quickly activated with the tap of a button at the bottom of the headset.

The equipment provided in the box feels premium and ergonomic. A head strap comes with a convenient adjustment mechanism that ensures the headset can fit snugly on a range of head shapes, while the visor can be shifted to fit a player with glasses.

The roughly 10-minute setup is longer than that for usual game consoles, but it was well worth it once I stepped into a game world as meticulously rendered as post-apocalyptic action adventure game Horizon Call Of The Mountain.

The VR2 exclusive is a spin-off of the critically acclaimed PlayStation franchise and is designed to showcase the VR2’s capabilities.

And they sure were on full display.

The VR2 Sense controllers convincingly convey grip and other sensations, such as drawing a bow or the splashing of water. ST PHOTO: RYAN CHIONG

The VR2 Sense controllers, which pack the same uncanny haptic technology found in the PS5’s DualSense controller, convincingly convey grip and other sensations.

The triggers tighten to simulate the stretching of a bow, and the controllers, which fit snugly into each hand, gently shiver to recreate the splashing of water.

The graphics are some of the best I have seen in a headset, setting the bar for VR gaming.

At around 110 degrees, the wider field of view compared with the VR2’s predecessor brings players closer to lifelikeness, enveloping them in the game world.

Backed by the heavy-duty PS5, the VR2’s visuals are worlds apart from what self-contained VR headsets can accomplish today.

The roughly $600 Quest 2 – widely used as the test bed for many VR projects – is no match for the higher-priced and better-equipped VR2 and looks dated, with graphics akin to that of games from the PlayStation 3 era.

Games on the VR2 run smoother and render sharper details.

The VR2 headset offers field of view of about 110 degrees - wider than its predecessor, and its visuals are worlds apart from what self-contained VR headsets can accomplish today. ST PHOTO: RYAN CHIONG

Players enjoy faster load times and higher graphical fidelity partly thanks to the PS5’s ray-tracing technology, which gives the visuals reflections and added depth.

This is especially noticeable in lighting and water effects, like the glistening sea scapes and canals I visited in kayaking simulator Kayak VR: Mirage, which are made all the more realistic.

It may have a 4K Oled panel, but users should not expect the same visual quality as seen on gaming monitors or big television sets.

Users can still distinguish pixels if they squint hard enough; images can also be distorted if the visor is not sitting at a sweet spot in front of your eyes, requiring the headset to be readjusted occasionally.

The awe I felt did not last long, though, as a headache set in after roughly 20 minutes of gaming.

While the VR2 offers a compelling alternative to traditional gaming, dizziness remains an obstacle that technology has yet to overcome. ST PHOTO: RYAN CHIONG

The highly detailed action set pieces are a spectacle to behold, but the rapid movement – jumping, climbing and dodging to avoid attacks from Horizon’s towering robot creatures – soon became disorienting, causing me to feel nauseated.

I was unable to keep up with the pace of the game even as I was eager to continue battling hordes of bots as the game’s hero, ironically taking away from the fantasy that gamers long for when taking the reins of a video game hero.

Gamers with better “VR legs” than me – or the ability not to feel sick while playing VR – may well be able to fully enjoy the VR2 as a compelling alternative to traditional gaming.

But for many players, dizziness remains an obstacle that technology has yet to overcome.

It also remains to be seen if the VR2 will have a steady supply of games to justify buying it.

The overall price of entry to virtual reality, with a VR2 and a PS5, will cost well past $1,500.  ST PHOTO: RYAN CHIONG

The VR2 will have more than 30 games in its launch window, but the selection of triple-A titles – such as horror-driven Resident Evil Village and racing game Gran Turismo 7’s VR update – is a far cry from the standard line-up of launch titles that draw players to new consoles.

Reports that Sony has halved its forecast for shipments of the VR2 to about a million units after a disappointing pre-order window do not inspire much confidence in the system – nor the VR sector.

For now, nothing beats the sheer escapism of sitting on my couch with a controller in hand, battling swarms of enemies for hours on end without the risk of nausea.

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