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Sony PSVR 2 hands-on: A massive jump forward from the original
The highly anticipated Sony PlayStation VR 2 is almost here, with a launch date set for February 22nd. At CES 2023, I had an opportunity to test out Sony’s latest VR headset for myself. Although my time with the PSVR 2 was brief, at about 20 minutes, the experience was amazing.
What’s new with the PSVR 2
When it launched back in 2016, the PlayStation VR was an incredible way to experience virtual reality at a much more affordable price than PC VR. Six years later, it’s starting to show its age. Although the PSVR 2 looks quite similar to its predecessor aesthetically, I’m happy to say it is a massive leap forward.
While the original PSVR had an LCD panel with a 960×1080 resolution, the Sony PSVR 2 upgrades to 4K HDR OLED panels with a resolution of 2000×2040. The field of view is also slightly improved at 110 degrees versus 100 degrees in the original.
The Sony PSVR 2 has everything I loved about the PSVR, while addressing almost everything I didn't.
The difference in quality is very noticeable. Obviously, the Sony PS5 has more power than the PS4, but the improvements to the resolution and quality of the lenses are still very obvious. Even the lenses are different this time, as the PSVR 2 features Fresnel lenses with an IPD lens adjustment dial. Basically, this lets you improve the spacing to better match the distance between eyes.
Of course, the visual quality isn’t the only improvement. The Sony PSVR 2 features eye-tracking that is very responsive and easy to configure. Once it’s set up, the headset moves naturally with you anywhere you look. This feature is used a lot for menu navigation, as well as in the games themselves obviously.
Sony also brings haptic feedback to the PSVR 2 headset, meaning you’ll actually feel things when they hit your head. Basically, you receive light vibrations to certain parts of the headset. Sony also introduces its new Orb controllers, ditching the antiquated PS Move controllers used by most PSVR games. These controllers are touch sensitive, have the same great haptic feedback you’d find on a PS5 controller, and are honestly just really comfortable to use. The actual design isn’t too different from other modern VR controllers like the Quest 2.
No more external camera, PSVR 2 now has them built right in.
You no longer need an external camera with the PSVR 2. The original PSVR used an outside camera to track you, but this is no longer the case. There are now four cameras embedded within the headset, making the external camera unnecessary. The addition of cameras in the hardware also means the PSVR 2 supports pass-through viewing. Simply put, that means you can hit a button and quickly get a black-and-white visual of what’s going on in the real world.
Sony has also slimmed down the number of cords involved in hooking the headset up. The original PSVR included an external processor unit that used several wires to connect the headset and the PS Camera. The PSVR 2 still uses a wire, but it’s only one slim cable now. I would often bring my PSVR to family events at my mom’s, so I appreciate the simpler setup here.
What it’s like using the PSVR 2
Let’s start at the beginning. As soon as I put on the headset I was greeted with a floating head with circles in the place of eyes. From there, I followed the prompts and adjusted the positioning of my headset and the IPD dial until it highlighted the circles to indicate the alignment was successful.
Once this was completed, I started my demo of Horizon Call of the Mountain, though not without first going through a quick in-game calibration of the eye controls. From there I jumped right into the demo.
It begins with a cutscene explaining you’re basically a good-for-nothing criminal, or so you’re told by the NPCs with you. You’re on a small boat, and they are taking you somewhere. Honestly, it was hard to follow the story with everything going on in the demo area, but the small taste I did get definitely left me wanting more — especially as a huge Horizon fan.
PSVR 2 is a lot of fun, but it also made me realize I can't climb (virtual) ladders very well.
For the first few minutes, my experience is basically a stationary one. I can’t move around the boat, but I sure can take in the sights. This includes watching several robots as they hunt for humans to kill. What really impressed me was the haptics here, though. When the tallneck (a giant robot with a tall neck) passed us in the boat I could actually feel the vibrations of its movement. Not just in my hands, but in my head as well.
There were plenty of little touches that made the experience all the more immersive. For example, when an NPC touched me I literally felt it, which was a bit weird. Also, you can reach into the water and splash around, grab objects with amazing accuracy, and more. I was also really into watching my virtualized hands, as I was impressed to see the individual figure movements as I pressed certain spots and buttons on the controller.
Interacting with the environment was a lot of fun, but it also was a bit of an adjustment. I had to climb a ladder early into the demo, and I really struggled with it. Like a ton. I fell off more times than I care to admit, just like a noob. I eventually found it was because I kept lightly touching the controller and triggering my hands to release. The sensitivity is actually a good thing as it is much more immersive; it just takes some getting used to.
Is the PSVR 2 worth it?
My time with the PSVR 2 was brief, but I was very much left wanting more. Of course, the answer to whether it’s worth it for you will really depend. If you are a PS5 owner and are intrigued by VR, absolutely. If you don’t already own a PS5 the answer gets harder.
At $550, the PSVR 2 isn’t cheap — $150 more than the self-contained Quest 2. And again, with the PSVR 2, you also need a $500 PS5 on top of this. That said, you get what you pay for, and the PSVR 2 feels much more like a high-end PC VR experience than the original PSVR ever did.