PlayStation VR2 hands-on: Expensive but one hell of a headset

With the PlayStation VR 2, Sony is attempting to bring PC-level performance to its console-based VR platform. To wit, the PS VR 2 for the PS5 has a higher resolution than its predecessor and runs smoothly thanks to the addition of eye trackers that enable foveated rendering.

We’ll talk more about foveated rendering further down below, but it essentially allows the headset to dedicate more processing power to the area where your eyes are looking and less processing power to the areas you aren’t focusing on.

Also impressive is the fact that the PS VR 2 doesn’t need the PlayStation Camera or the PS3 Move Motion controllers that the original PS VR used. The PS VR 2’s new upgraded controllers feel better in the hand and can be tracked by the sensors on the headset itself — solving two of our biggest issues with the original headset with one elegant solution. This could easily be one of the best VR headsets yet, at least for console gamers.

We have our reservations about the headset — which is a bit disconcerting considering the high $549 price — but fans of next-level VR experiences on consoles have a lot to be excited about when the PS VR 2 comes out in mid-February.

PS VR2 price and release date

The PS VR2 will release on February 22, 2023, with pre-orders available for the headset now. In terms of pricing, you’re looking at $549.99 / £529.99 / €‎599.99 / AU$879.95. That number might be a bit of a shock — after all, the PS5 only costs $499 here in the US. That’s a bit pricey for an accessory for a console, and it’s worth keeping that number in mind as you continue to read through our thoughts below.

PSVR 2 design

The PS VR 2 at CES 2023.

(Image credit: Future)

The PS VR 2 is a wired VR headset with 6 degrees-of-freedom movement and inside-out tracking. The second part might sound confusing if you don’t read a lot about VR headsets, but all it means is that the PS VR 2 doesn’t need external cameras for tracking and it will track you in all directions. At 560g (1.2 pounds), it’s only about 60g more than the Meta Quest 2 (1.1 pounds) but almost 100g heavier than the HTC Vive (1.03 pounds).

The PS VR2 has a 110-degree field of view and twin 4K HDR displays with a resolution of 2,000 x 2,040 in each eye. That’s a huge upgrade on the PSVR, which had a 100-degree field of view and a 1920 x 1080 OLED display.

Before now, the PS VR used an intermediary connection box to connect the headset to the console but, thankfully, the PS VR 2 doesn’t need one. It can connect straight to the PS5, which should hopefully prevent some of the issues around HDR passthrough that people had with the original PlayStation VR.

To keep you from moving outside the play zone, the PS VR 2 now uses a guardian system of blue grid lines that will appear when you get close to the boundaries you set. It’s similar to what we’ve seen on the HTC Vive and Meta Quest headsets, so it makes sense that Sony’s not trying to reinvent the wheel with the feature.

The PS VR 2 at CES 2023.

(Image credit: Future)

In terms of specs, the PS VR2 has a 110-degree field of view and twin 4K HDR displays with a resolution of 2,000 x 2,040 in each eye, a huge upgrade on the PSVR, which only had a 100-degree field of view and a 1920 x 1080 OLED display.

If there’s one issue with the specs, however, it’s that there’s no audio from the headset itself — you’ll have to connect a pair of headphones for sound. That might not sound like a big deal, but when you plan on using a headset for hours at a time (especially one as heavy as the PS VR 2 is) you’ll wish that you also didn’t need to wear a pair of headphones, too.

PSVR 2 Performance

Horizon Call of the Mountain on PS VR2.

(Image credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc.)

To demo the PS VR 2, Sony was using Horizon Call of the Mountain — one of the headset’s biggest launch games.

I was led through a quick calibration process where my inter-pupillary distance (IPD) was measured and set, and then the camera inside the headset got to work tracking my eyes. The whole process took about 3ish minutes — something that probably annoyed everyone behind me in line waiting to play the game, but not as time-consuming as setting up a PC VR headset for the first time.

While Call of the Mountain is set in the same world as the other Horizon games and is chock full of the same dinosaur-robot hybrids, it doesn’t star the series’ protagonist, Aloy. Instead, you’re a captured tribes person who, coincidentally, also knows their way around a bow.

The game’s visuals, right off the bat, looked great. The PS VR 2’s 4K HDR Fresnel OLED screen really displays an exceptional amount of detail — although, because there’s no way to bring the lenses super close to your eyes, you’ll still see some black around the edges of the lenses. It’s also here that we can see foveated rendering happening. Anywhere you look, you’ll see more detail in the picture. Hold an object close to your eyes — like, say, a book — and you’ll be able to read anything that’s written on it. The PS VR 2 does this by ratcheting up the detail in the areas where you’re looking and reducing detail in places you’re not.

Moving around the world is done by pressing down the X and Square buttons and pumping your hands up and down. It’s a strange system — and we prefer warping over it — but it gets the job done. Once near a wall with white chalk marks, you can start free climbing.

The only major issues I had with the game, and my experience with the PS VR 2 in general, was that looking up to climb put a lot of pressure on the bridge of my nose. The headset carries almost all of its weight in the front, so looking up puts a strain on both your neck and your nose where the headset rests.

Maybe the weight of the headset will become more natural in time, but after spending half an hour with it, it was one of the biggest issues I experienced.

PS VR 2 game lineup

What we played, Horizon Call of the Mountain, is leading the charge as the PS VR 2’s flagship title, but it’s not the only game that will be available on the headset.

Some of the other blockbuster titles coming are Resident Evil Village, which will be a free virtual reality upgrade for the base PS5 game, as well as No Man’s Sky and the most popular VR game of all-time, Beat Saber.

Outside of these tentpole titles, the PS VR 2 will have a number of other games coming, although many of them have been launched previously on other headsets so they’re a bit less exciting. Games in this group include Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge (which was released on the Meta Quest 2), The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners, Pistol Whip VR, After The Fall and Cities VR – Enhanced Edition.

Of all the titles announced so far, Horizon seems to be the only real platform-exclusive. That might not matter to some folks, but others might feel a bit uncomfortable shelling out so much for Sony’s headset when it can play 99% of the same games on another, cheaper option like the Meta Quest 2.

PSVR 2 outlook

The PS VR 2 at CES 2023.

(Image credit: Future)

When the original PS VR headset came out, I felt like there was so much opportunity for console VR. It wasn’t as good as PC VR back then, but its price made it accessible — especially once Sony dropped the price by $100. While it’s now on par with PC VR, the PS VR 2’s price is a big obstacle to overcome. It’s more expensive than the console you’re playing it on, which could make it a tough sell.

Still, major upgrades to the headset including a higher resolution and wider field of view — plus no longer needing a camera or old PS3 controllers — mean that there’s good reason to be excited about the PS VR 2.

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