Today sees the launch of Sony's latest virtual reality headset, the PlayStation VR 2, which aims to offer a generational step up on the company's original VR headset.
Announced in February 2022, the PSVR 2 follows up on 2016's PlayStation VR, which had sold 4.2 million units worldwide as of March 2019.
Launching alongside Guerrilla Games and Firesprite title Horizon Call of the Mountain (more on this further down), the PSVR 2 features two 2000 x 2040 OLED panels, native 90 or 120 FPS, eye tracking, adjustable interpupillary distance, and haptic feedback both in the headset and its two controllers. All that for a RRP of $550, to which you'll have to add the price of a PS5 if you don't already own one.
Unlike most VR headsets, the PSVR 2 doesn't come with built-in speakers, but instead boasts noise-cancelling earbuds.
Sony's latest VR headset has benefited from positive reviews so far. A lot of reviewers focused on whether the offering was good value for money considering its price point, and whether it's worth it compared to other VR offerings currently on the market.
While critical conclusions might be similar across reviewers, the reasons to get there were varied as the experience of wearing a VR headset can be so different from one person to the next. Some thought the headset was very comfortable, some didn't, some experienced motion sickness, some didn't, some thought Horizon was a killer app, some thought it wasn't much more than an excellent tech demo. But all agreed that the PSVR 2 is a great improvement from the PSVR.
"PSVR 2 joins in on that fun with one of the best headsets you can presently buy"Claire Jackson, Kotaku
"VR is not the Future of Gaming™," wrote Claire Jackson in her review for Kotaku. "Rather, it’s an active, thriving, wonderful part of its present with many great experiences to enjoy. PSVR 2 joins in on that fun with one of the best headsets you can presently buy."
Looking at the headset's specs, she added that the PSVR 2 "bests the latest Meta Quest Pro ($1,500 new) and Valve Index ($1,000) in several areas, such as resolution."
"And those headsets require a powerful PC to enjoy PSVR 2-equivalent gaming performance," she continued.
Henry Stockdale agreed with Jackson in his review for Upload VR, saying that the PSVR 2 is "cheaper and easier" than PC VR setups, "with the added bonus of Sony-exclusive titles that aren’t available elsewhere." He added that even though the PSVR 2 isn't as competitively priced as the standalone Meta Quest 2 ($399), it "provides high-end VR with the ease-of-use inherent to console gaming."
He added: "Coupled with decreased loading times thanks to PS5’s solid state storage, it’s a monumental step up from the original PSVR."
The PlayStation VR 2 is very easy to set up and use, which was mentioned in most reviews as a big plus.
"Setting up the PSVR 2 is a breeze, which is a far cry from the original headset's mess of cables, cameras, and breakout boxes," said Tamoor Hussain in his review for GameSpot. "This time around, it's as simple as plugging a single wire into the front of the PS5. Each Sense controller must be physically plugged into the console via the USB port, but just once to pair them."
He added that the "process is streamlined to the point where it requires almost no interaction from the user beyond advancing tutorial prompts and informational text boxes."
"As someone that went through the ordeal of dealing with Oculus accounts, Facebook requirements, and migrations to Meta, this frictionless experience was very much appreciated," he continued.
In terms of comfort, the PSVR 2 headset was a bit more divisive among the reviews we looked at.
"Setting up the PSVR 2 is a breeze, which is a far cry from the original headset's mess of cables, cameras, and breakout boxes" Tamoor Hussain, GameSpot
"The original PSVR was lauded as being the most comfortable headset on the market, and PSVR 2 can also claim that accolade, as it is even more comfortable to wear," Hussain said. "It may feel a little heavy for those who are used to the lighter Meta Quest 2, but the weight feels well-distributed, so I didn't have the neck-fatigue issues that I feared may crop up during longer sessions."
Kotaku's Jackson described the adjustment period that every VR owner goes through, figuring out how to adjust the headset so it's comfortable for your specific needs. While she ultimately found a way that worked for her, she wrote: "Here at the Kotaku offices, others reported similar experiences: The headset can very easily feel uncomfortable, specifically around the nose area."
While she appreciated how light the headset is (560 grams), the uncomfortable aspects can be heightened by some in-game actions, she also explained.
"For example, when playing Horizon Call of the Mountain, you spend a lot of time climbing and looking up. The second I’d look up, I’d feel the weight of the PSVR 2 pressing against my face, again specifically that upper region of my nose where I’d almost always have marks afterwards. This ruined a fair few sessions I had initially thought would go more smoothly. I’d be genuinely into a game, look up, and just, ugh, the headset felt like shit again. The illusion of the game world broke and I’d think, 'there’s a thing on my head that hurts and it costs half a grand'."
Upload VR's Stockdale had a pretty comfortable experience with the headset, saying that it kept external light out completely, and "comfortably fit around [his] glasses, much more so than Quest 2."
In her review for The Gamer, Stacey Henley said that, in her case, the headset could become uncomfortable after prolonged play, "especially with glasses," but it never was more than "mild annoyance." Still on the comfort topic, she added that being connected to the PS5 with a wire can be a bit awkward as the cable twists easily.
"Sharing this device with someone will really suck (I hope you both have good ear hygiene)"Claire Jackson, Kotaku
That's a feeling Tamoor Hussain shared, saying: "After the freedom of Quest 2, being tethered to the PS5 was a little annoying initially, as it is also a limiting factor on the range of movement you have. I found that a part of my attention was always dedicated to making sure I don't get too engrossed in-game, so as to not send my console crashing to the ground. But the trade off is being able to leverage the power of the PS5, which has a noticeable impact on how ambitious games can be."
On the audio side of things, neither Stockdale or Jackson were really happy with the earbuds.
"Sharing this device with someone will really suck (I hope you both have good ear hygiene) and using earbuds that block out all external sound leads to a level of isolation that prospective players, especially those new to VR, should be aware of," Jackson wrote.
Stockdale added: "The biggest disappointment is Playstation VR2’s audio. Just like the original PSVR, your options are either TV audio or the detachable 3.5mm in-ear headphones that come in the box. While the original PSVR had volume buttons on the cord (and later on the headset itself in a revised model), there’s no physical volume buttons on PSVR 2. Volume is only adjustable via the ‘Sound’ settings in the quick menu."
Stockdale was however impressed by the PSVR 2's eye tracking feature, which follows your line of sight in-game.
"Horizon Call of the Mountain lets you navigate menus with eye tracking, for example, and one mission highlights areas of interest upon looking at them," he explained. "Rez Infinite lets you target enemies with eye tracking, which is a fun novelty, while Moss: Book 2 follows the player’s gaze and illuminates interactive objects around the environment. PSVR 2 also supports eye-tracked foveated rendering, a technique which eases rendering demands by following your gaze and only rendering that specific region in high resolution."
"That's an eye-watering cost for a peripheral, especially when it comes with no charging station"Stacey Henley, The Gamer
As already mentioned, the PSVR 2 comes with two controllers, but the charging station to power them is not included and needs to be purchased separately. Jackson argued that "no one should use PSVR 2 without the optional charging station." That opinion was widely shared by The Gamer's Henley.
"The PSVR 2 is being marketed for $549.99/£529.99, while a new PS5 is available from several UK retailers for under £500," she wrote. "I don't always include price in my reviews, because money matters in differing degrees to different people, and most games stay within a similar price bracket, but that's an eye-watering cost for a peripheral, especially when it comes with no charging station.
"The controllers last anywhere between three to eight hours when playing different activities across different games, but then no one marathons eight hours of VR gaming so the battery life is not an issue. The fact the lack of a packed-in station and the PS5's single front port means only one can be charged at a time is a major nuisance, however."
Horizon Call of the Mountain
While the PSVR 2 has mostly impressed reviewers on the hardware side, what about its software lineup? The headset launches with around 30 games, which Stockdale said is an "impressive library." But most of them are ports, he pointed out, "which might prove disappointing for existing Quest 2 or PC VR users."
"Unsurprisingly, Horizon Call of the Mountain is the big standout here," he continued. "It’s not a big open world adventure like Zero Dawn, but there’s a sizable campaign that demonstrates the headset’s strengths better than PlayStation VR Worlds ever could on PSVR."
Henley said she spent the majority of her time with the PSVR 2 playing Call of the Mountain (you can read her separate review for The Gamer here) and called the title a "killer app" adding that "pushing such a visually spectacular game is genius."
"Horizon Call of the Mountain is the big standout [...] It demonstrates the headset’s strengths better than PlayStation VR Worlds ever could on PSVR"Henry Stockdale, Upload VR
"Horizon is the perfect showpiece for the PSVR 2's sense of scale and depth, as well as its ability to deliver rapid motion (like raging rivers or waterfalls) in crisper definition than most VR headsets can manage," she added. "In terms of physically putting the headset on and just looking around the world, VR has never had it so good.
"The controllers are incredibly responsive and reactive too. I'm not a fan of the DualSense in general, and feel Sony has a tendency to oversell the technical aspects, but there's a greater level of control than I have seen in VR here. It occasionally guesses incorrectly when you try to grab two things near each other, and a double-handed grip is a struggle, but the smallest movements are incredibly precise. Call of the Mountain features playable instruments, paintbrushes, and intricate keys for the PSVR 2 to get to grips with, and the delicate control it offers while slathering paint on a rock wall is more impressive than the blue and orange vistas the game pushes to the forefront."
Hussain agreed with the killer app denomination (you can read his Horizon review for GameSpot here), adding that Call of the Mountain is "a reminder of how transcendent a high-quality VR experience running on powerful hardware can be."
However, there's a catch, he continued: "As impressive as it is, eventually, I couldn't help but think about the VR experiences I had when the technology and games first became available, what they are now, and how little they've evolved. For its part, Horizon Call of the Mountain developer Firesprite has done an exceptional job of taking the tried-and-true gameplay ideas and mechanics that VR has to offer and executing them superbly in a AAA VR title.
"Should you spend nearly $600 just to play Horizon Call of the Mountain? Almost certainly not"Claire Jackson, Kotaku
"Call of the Mountain is virtual tourism in a fantasy world at its most engrossing; it's one of the best climbing games I've ever played; the bow and arrow combat is incredibly satisfying; and the game even has a story that fans of the Horizon series will enjoy experiencing. But at the same time, each of the components of this game exists elsewhere, in other experiences, for other devices, and I've done them before many times."
For Jackson (who also wrote a separate Horizon review for Kotaku), Call of the Mountain is a great title for VR newcomers but it might not convince VR veterans.
"Should you spend nearly $600 just to play Horizon Call of the Mountain? Almost certainly not," she said. "Horizon has a killer setting, and in some ways Call of the Mountain manages to bring it to life. At various points, particularly during long climbing sequences, the impressive tech of the PSVR 2 let me feel like I was actually in this world. But when the action starts it feels too rigid and too scripted, which is the opposite of what I seek in VR. It is not simulating the reality of this world, it’s just feeding you little vignettes with cutting-edge tech. Call of the Mountain has some fun sequences, and it’s definitely worth trying if you get the chance, but it’s hard not to feel disappointed by all its untapped potential."
Concluding her review, Stacey Henley pondered over the necessity of the PlayStation VR 2 and whether or not it feels like a must-have piece of kit.
"The PSVR 2 is the best VR headset I have ever used, but does that even matter? VR's sky-high price tag continues to be a dealbreaker, and the fact several companies are now wading in and making the medium feel even smaller with exclusivity deals makes it hard to recommend. It's the streaming wars all over again, except Netflix costs $500 and only has seven shows.
"For VR enthusiasts looking to upgrade, or even first-time buyers with money to spare, it's easy to recommend PSVR 2. It has some issues, but they're far outweighed by its technical efficiency. For those on the fence though, you can find a PS5 for cheaper than the PSVR 2, and right now, I think that's difficult to justify."
In his concluding thoughts, Tamoor Hussain mentioned that the biggest challenge facing the PSVR 2 is that "there's nothing that truly distinguishes it from the competition."
"It's the streaming wars all over again, except Netflix costs $500 and only has seven shows"Stacey Henley, The Gamer
"What I found myself missing was something that charmed me in the way [Astro’s Playroom] did when I turned on my PS5 for the first time," he said. "Or a game that showed me something new and only possible in a virtual reality video game experience. "
He added that the PSVR 2's future is closely linked to whether there will be ongoing support for it, giving players a reason to join in by offering "exclusive and unique experiences."
"What Sony has created is a VR headset that can exist in the space between the affordable-but-underpowered Quest 2 and the expensive-but-powerful Index," he continued. "But much of what it offers can be found on cheaper devices like the Quest 2, which has the added benefit of being standalone and wireless. For enthusiasts – and people willing to push through motion sickness, like me – it's very impressive hardware that needs more software to actually impress them.
“I hope that Sony and its partners start thinking outside of the box a bit more when it comes to games, and commit to supporting the platform long-term in a meaningful way – the excellent hardware deserves as much. If they do, the future of PSVR 2 will be exciting, but for now, that excitement is built on the same thing VR has always enticed hopefuls with: potential."