PlayStation VR2 hands-on: a major upgrade

Sony’s PlayStation VR2 may not be coming out until next year, but after months of drip-feeding news, the company finally let press go eyes and hands-on with the VR headset. Even after just a little bit of time with the device, it seems like the new headset will be a major upgrade from the original PSVR in nearly every way.

Let’s start with the hardware, which we already know a lot about. For one thing, it has a much more modern look that closely matches the PS5’s design language, and you’ll only need to plug it into your PS5 with one USB-C cable. The headset itself has an OLED screen, offers a 110-degree field of view and 4K HDR, and supports frame rates of 90Hz and 120Hz for smoother gameplay. Unlike its predecessor, you won’t need to set up external cameras to follow your movements; instead, the headset has four cameras built into the front of the display. The new orb-shaped PSVR2 Sense controllers include adaptive triggers and haptic feedback (like the DualSense) and can also detect finger touches. 

The PSVR2 headset on a table.

Here’s the headset.
Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

But what does it feel like to actually play games on the PSVR2, with all of its new bells and whistles? The actual PSVR2 hardware was a joy to use. Like most modern VR headsets, it lets you adjust the head strap to make sure everything rests comfortably on your noggin, and you can tweak the inter-pupillary distance (IPD) so that the actual lenses inside the headset are the right distance for you. The screens looked great, though things sometimes felt just a little bit hazy at the edges, which could also happen with the first PSVR.

Sony’s new Sense controllers were a marked improvement. The original PSVR relied on Sony’s Move controllers — which, you might remember, looked like funky wands with glowing balls on the end — and they had a few issues. The original PSVR setup sometimes had trouble tracking the glowy balls, which could ruin the immersive experience of VR, and the first version of the Move controller used a Mini USB port for charging. Sony thankfully fixed that last complaint by switching to Micro USB (so maybe it wasn’t a huge upgrade). 

The Sense controllers, on the other hand (pun intended), seem like they’ll be far better. The haptics were excellent, which may not be too surprising if you’ve felt Sony’s excellent haptics in the DualSense. The touch detection was a really handy way to interact with VR worlds. Sure, you can pick up weapons, but it also allows you to flex your fingers and interact with objects in a more natural way. It wasn’t perfect, nor was it available in every game we tried, but when it worked, it added an extra layer of immersion.

A close up shot of the PSVR2’s Sense controller for your left hand.

The Sense controller.
Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

A person holds the left and right PSVR2 sense controllers in their hands.

And here’s what it looks like to actually hold the Sense controllers.
Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

The PSVR2’s single-cable setup was much appreciated. The original PSVR required an extra box and a bevy of cables to work, so just plugging one cable directly into a PS5 is a way less complicated solution. (Though it’s not as nice as a fully standalone no-wires headset like the Meta Quest series.) And usually, VR games require you to take a break every now and then so you don’t develop a pounding migraine. But that wasn’t as much of an issue with the PSVR 2. You can go for a decent chunk of time without feeling the strain.

As for the games themselves, we got to try a few titles: Horizon Call of the Mountain, a version of Resident Evil Village optimized for PSVR2, The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners Chapter 2, and the newly-announced Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge Enhanced Edition. 

Horizon Call of the Mountain was the most technically advanced — probably because it was built from the ground up for the PSVR2. The sense of scale in the game is amazing, and watching a gigantic mechanical dino walk directly overhead felt like visiting a post-apocalyptic Jurassic Park. Rock climbing was also incredibly fun, provided you resisted the urge to look down at the chasms below. The new Sense controllers vibrate when you touch objects, so it added an extra layer of physicality when you draw your bow and shoot an arrow. We were also immensely impressed at how much thought went into building an interactive world. Can you just… break plates and toss boxes off a cliff? Yup! Can you pick up a hammer and bang a gong, even though there’s no plot reason to do so? Also yes! 

A screenshot of a player holding a bow and arrow in the PSVR2 game Horizon Call of the Mountain.

A bow and arrow in Horizon Call of the Mountain.
Image: Sony

The other games were fun, too. Resident Evil Village had a spooky vibe, and it’s legitimately terrifying when the undead get all up in your face. (Poor Ethan Winters, he really does go through it.) Meanwhile, you can get creative in exactly how you whack walkers in The Walking Dead: Saint & Sinners Chapter 2. Sure, mowing through them with chainsaws is fun, but we highly recommend making zombie shish-kebabs with a katana.

One thing we don’t know yet? The cost; Sony didn’t share that as part of the hands-on event. But with Meta’s new high-end Quest headset on the horizon (of which a prototype leaked this weekend) and Apple’s long-rumored “Reality” headset apparently close to launching, hopefully, Sony prices the PSVR2 headset competitively (maybe around $400?) to encourage PlayStation gamers to pick one up.

Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

We can’t wait to experience Sony’s new take on VR once again. The “early 2023” release window makes it seem like we won’t have to wait too long into next year to finally play more — and we’re crossing our fingers that buying the hardware won’t break the bank.

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