I’ve long awaited Sony’s next step in virtual reality gaming and technology ever since we first saw patents for what would become the PS VR2 Sense controllers. I’ve especially been waiting for this moment in hopes that someone would give me a reasonable alternative to the Meta Quest 2, which I think is a very good and accessible HMD held down by bad corporate policies and agendas. Finally, the PlayStation VR2 is here. Does it scratch all the itches I’ve been waiting for it to scratch? Mostly yes. It’s not only an exceptional improvement over the original PS VR, but also a solid console-based contender in the VR space. It doesn’t check every single box, but it does make me excited to see what studios will develop for Sony’s promising new hardware.
Ultimate ease right out of the box
Anyone who had an original PlayStation VR will remember the nightmare of setting up and maintaining the space for it. The original headset required setup of a PlayStation 4 Camera, an external hard drive, a dedicated USB port on the PS4 and power outlet separate from the console, and space for the headset itself alongside about four different cables. The PlayStation VR2 impressed me right out of the box with just how little clutter it adds to my gaming space. It contained the headset, its connecting cable (one cable about 15 feet in length with a USB-C connector), left and right Sense hand controllers, earbuds that attach to the headset, and a secondary USB-A-to-USB-C cable that you can use to pair the controllers to the PS5 and charge them. The only problem here is there’s only one secondary cable, so you’d have to charge the Sense controllers one at a time with the stock PS VR2 contents.
Nonetheless, this made the PS VR2 a breeze to set up right out of the box. Once you plug the PS VR 2 in for the first time and power it on, the PlayStation 5 auto-recognizes the headset and takes you through first-time setup immediately. It only takes about 10 to 15 minutes to pair and calibrate all of the PlayStation VR2 hardware to your liking and then you’re free to use it on whatever games and apps are available to you. The PS VR2 has three setups for play space, including Seated, Standing, and Roomscale modes (the last of which requires a 6x7-foot space) and the single 15-foot cable ensures you’ll have plenty of slack to work with in that space. If you ever need help with any function of the PS VR2, the PS5 also offers a wealth of easy-to-access tutorials on how to operate and adjust many of its functions.
One of my favorite things to see in my operation of the PS VR2 was the ease with which I could adjust my play space and other settings. I tested a lot of games that played better in either standing play (Jurassic World Aftermath and Horizon Call of the Mountain) or sitting play (Tetris Effect: Connected, Cities VR, and Demeo), so color me delighted that I could set “temporary” play spaces for a single session in which I could set it to sitting or standing as I pleased. It made matters super easy when I wanted to adjust my stance for whatever game I wanted to play. You can even adjust it in the middle of games in just a few button presses.
I also felt like the PS VR2 was pretty easy to put on and take off. It continues the original headset’s style where you put the headband on, turn the knob on the back of the band to tighten it to your noggin, and then you press a button on the display and slide it to adjust to your face. Finally, a knob on the headset adjusts the lens focus and width to your eyes. All of these options were easy to handle and made the headset rather comfortable. With just one wire and no battery to worry about since it’s operating directly off the PS5, the PS VR2 feels extraordinarily light and comfy. One of the few issues I ran into is that with just a fixture around the back of your head, it can slip a bit, which may require some vertical adjusting if you don’t get it right when first putting the headset on. I also had issues getting the included earbuds to stay in my ears, even with the multiple-sized ear inserts included. Thankfully, these were the few annoyances I noticed in the comfort factor of the hardware. It’s still a wonderfully snug and comfy headset beside those qualms.
The comfort and ease of setup on the PS VR2 would be meaningless if the headset itself didn’t deliver in performance. Thankfully, it did a great job of meeting my demands with only a handful of caveats. The headset handled games running from old goodies like Vacation Simulator and Rez Infinite up to completely new titles like Horizon Call of the Mountain with rarely any issues. In fact, it introduces new technology that makes re-exploration of some games well worth players’ time.
Eye-tracking is an all-new feature to come to the PlayStation VR2. It might seem gimmicky, but I found it handles exceptionally well. Games like Rez Infinite had entirely new control schemes built off of the eye-tracking tech and demonstrate an incredible level of accuracy when it’s put to work. However, this is also obviously a feature that will be nearly impossible to calibrate and use for anyone with certain eye issues. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting extension of the PS VR’s hardware and one that performs admirably. The PS VR2 also got a Passthrough Mode that not only allows you to chart out your play space, but you can activate it with the touch of a button to observe your surroundings whenever you feel like it.
One thing I didn’t expect out of the PS VR2 but found myself attracted to immediately was the inclusion of haptic feedback in the actual headset, in addition to those in the PS VR2 Sense controllers. At first it was unsettling, but the way in which various games used it quickly made it one of the most immersive and interesting features in my testing. My first experience of it came during a session of Tetris Effect: Connected. When the music swelled and the beat dropped in the game’s impeccable soundtrack and levels, the vibration of the headset and controllers in tandem with the 3D sound enveloped me in a way that made me feel deeply engaged in the entire vibe of the game. I’m not ashamed to admit the sheer intensity of the experience made me a little weepy at just how beautiful it was.
On the flipside, the haptics can also be used to immerse you in the most unsettling of vibes. When I was playing Jurassic World Aftermath, running and hiding from velociraptors, the game sometimes employed a heartbeat effect when I was in danger of being spotted by the creatures. That heartbeat effect reverberated through my hands via the Sense controls and through my head via the headset, making the fear of being caught in this deadly hide-and-seek survival game all the more palpable. If you don’t like any of that stuff, it’s worth noting once more that the PS VR2’s settings are just a couple button presses away and headset vibrations are one of the options you can turn off with ease.
The PS VR2's Sense controllers are also extremely neat. For being larger compared to a lot of other VR controllers, they feel light and easy to handle. Sony has also worked the adaptive triggers into them, making control in various games that much more engaging to the senses. This included drawing an arrow in a bow in Horizon Call of the Mountain or hitting a Tetris in Tetris Effect: Connected. The only thing that bothered me is that since you have to put your hands through a ring to grip them, that ring was a little small for my hands, which are on the extra large size. Once my hands were through, the controllers were comfy, but taking off and putting on the controllers was definitely a bit more of a hassle than I've experienced with other VR options.
I will say my experience with the PS VR2 wasn’t without a few other issues. One of the problems I faced in performance when using the headset was just how fast the PS VR2’s Sense controller batteries would drain. I could probably only get about 3 hours out of a full charge on the controllers. Thankfully, these controllers can be charged fairly quickly, but if you only have the stock PS VR2 contents at your disposal, then you have to charge the controllers one at a time, get another USB-C wire, or invest in the extra cost of a cradle that will charge both controllers simultaneously (I would recommend the last option if you have the spare cash because the ease and speed of simultaneous controller charging is worth it).
I also ran into occasional issues with the inside-out camera tracking. The PS VR2 requires a very well-lit room to remain accurate. I had several combined light sources to try to make sure my VR space was well-lit at all times, but I still had occasional desyncing issues as the camera tracking got confused, particularly when I tilted my head downwards during seated play. Generally, the PS VR2’s answer to this is to pause the game, go to Passthrough Mode, and direct you to fix the situation.
It’s pretty easy to get right back to play from the pausing situation, but the other outcome of desyncing was that sometimes gameplay or view would be thrown off-kilter before the inside-out camera tracking caught up and sorted things out. At the lightest, this meant my virtual hands would end up in weird places. At worst, it meant my view would contort in ways that were sometimes dizzying. Thankfully, this wasn’t persistent enough to ruin the experience or make me horribly nauseated. Generally, the PS VR2 handled like a dream come true for such minimal setup.
Vast new virtual opportunities
Ultimately, the PlayStation VR2 will strive or collect dust based on what kind of games it’s supported with, but the opening library is good to kick things off and there are plenty of other fun things currently on the way. The biggest hurdle to overcome here is definitely spending the $549.99 USD price tag on top of a PS5 console itself. That doesn’t even include the charging cradle which I feel is almost mandatory to alleviate the controllers’ poor battery life. That said, performance, setup, and ease-of-access-wise, the PlayStation VR2 is something the VR gaming space has desperately needed outside of a few occasional hiccups. The Meta Quest 2 finally feels like it has comparable competition in practicality. I just hope Sony sticks with it and continues to make the PS VR2 a contending VR gaming platform.
This review is based on a sample unit provided by the manufacturer. The PlayStation VR2 comes out for the PS5 on February 22, 2023. Be sure to learn more about what games are launching with the PS VR2 on Day One.
PlayStation VR 2
- Extremely easy setup
- Headset is light and comfy
- Wide variety of options & accessibility to tweak them
- Headset haptics aid immersion
- Eye-tracking is highly accurate
- Play area can be adjusted easily at any time
- Sense controllers are comfortable & responsive
- Passthrough can be accessed with one button
- Good selection of launch day games
- Big price tag on top of PS5
- Inside-out tracking sometimes desyncs
- Sense controller battery life is extremely short
- Sense controllers could be difficult for big hands
- Earbuds fall out a bit too easily
- Room must be incredibly well-lit
- Headset sometimes slips vertically
TJ Denzer posted a new article, PlayStation VR2 review: A new generation of immersion
You can operate the PSVR2 with a Dualsense controller and the surround sound is really stellar. When I was winding down on game testing, I'd enjoy the heck out of YouTube and CrunchyRoll. I also played Tetris Effect in non-VR since I hate playing Tetris on thumbsticks and it was as delightfully immersive an experience as the rest. Like playing in a very well-performing digital theater all to yourself.
The light blocking hood on the PS VR2 is ridiculously soft and malleable and provides good spacing between the face and the lenses. I had my spouse put it on over his glasses and he said he didn't feel it touching or moving his glasses at all. You'd have to really mash this thing up against your face when you have it on to do any damage.