“And Jesus wept, for there were no worlds left to conquer.” Any Community fans reading this review will know that this quote is a reference to a season six episode when Dean Craig Pelton first experienced virtual reality.
The episode showcased how the obsession with VR at the time failed to deliver on the promise, offering nothing more than what felt like expensive demos (we’re looking at you Batman Arkham VR).
Has that changed at all now that the PlayStation VR2 launched locally late last month?
We spent the past two weeks with the PS VR2 to find out if it is indeed a better experience than its predecessor, as well as weigh in on its steep asking price, which is currently more than the PS5 console needed to use it at R13 499 (RRP).
Here is what we learned.
Knowing your surroundings
Let’s start with the hardware on offer, which consists mainly of the newly designed headset, left and right Sense controllers, and earphones.
The VR2 headset features a new display – namely an OLED panel that supports 4K HDR (2000×2040) per eye and an approximate 100 degree field of view. It is a notable upgrade from the previous model, and that brings a few degrees more fidelity.
This means content is sharper and clearer, with adjustments to the angle of the headset, tightness of the rear band and distance between the two lenses making experiences more pleasant in general. The upshot of this is less eye strain, but we’ll touch on actual gaming a little later.
Setting up the VR2 is a relatively simple process, with the UI from PlayStation easy to understand. One element we were not keen on, however, was the setting up of the play area, which often requires you to scan the environment as the headset maps your surroundings.
The first time we tried it we gave up after 10 minutes of scanning, restarting the process before we were finally successful. This process might have to be redone depending if you start a new play session standing or sitting, as well as if you start moving to the edge of the designated play area.
In our experience, the best solution is to clear as much space as possible, with three metres by three metres being ideal. Also be aware of anything hanging low from your ceiling, like pendant lights, as we bumped to our own on more than one occasion while reaching for a ledge in Horizon Call of the Mountain.
As for the Sense VR2 controllers, they do take a little getting use to, especially when it comes to the R1/L1 and R2/L2 triggers, which are key to playing most games we’ve experienced thus far.
The same goes for the placement of your hands while wielding the controllers in-game, as you find yourself fiddling about or taking three of four swipes at interactive elements before you get things right. There is a learning curve here, which can be a little frustrating at times, especially if the game you’re playing requires quick thinking or a fair deal of responsiveness.
The controllers also need to be charged in order to use, with USB Type-C ports on the front of each controller. For some reason though, PlayStation has seen fit to only package one cable for the controllers, which seems a tad odd given the asking price of this piece of hardware. You can of course use the charging cable from your DualSense controller, but again we would have liked two in the box instead of one.
The last thing worth mentioning is the cable that goes from the headset to the USB Type-C port on the front of the PS5 console. The cable sits over your left shoulder while playing, and can sometimes get in the way while playing. We’re nitpicking here, but it feels like it should have been situated elsewhere.
Not all equal
Now for the games, and here, not all games are created equal. In the main we played a handful of the AAA titles that released alongside the launch of the PlayStation VR2, as well as some other PS5 ones that have been ported to work on this new headset.
This is where we need to talk about motion sickness. It is something that PlayStation is acutely aware of, with notification popping up frequently during the setup process, as well as playing.
When we started using the PS VR2, motion did strike on occasion, but it was very dependent on the game we were playing.
For example when we fired up No Man’s Sky, shortly after jumping into our spaceship to begin exploring for other planets, motion sickness hit, as the sensation of doing flips and tumbles in space was perhaps a bit too much too quickly.
In Call of the Mountain, things were a little better, and only after a few intense fights against enemy targets, did we feel the need to sit down and take a break.
Gran Turismo 7 though, did not yield any ill effects. It may be that you play the game with only the headset and DualSense controller instead of the Sense VR2 ones, but we mustered a solid hour of gameplay before we decided to take a short break and hop right back in.
As such, for those who may suffer from motion sickness, it is highly dependent on what you play. As a general rule of thumb though, shorter bursts that slowly increase over time is the best approach to trying out the PS VR2 in our opinion.
In terms of the choice of games on offer, there is a good mix, and the fact that some ports are available is welcome, especially given the price of current-gen titles these days.
That said, given the fact that something like Call of the Mountain, which is one of the hero launch titles for the PS VR2 costs R1 100 and serves up about a dozen hours of playthrough, does not quite equal bang for your buck in our view.
Something like Gran Turismo 7, however, is far better value in our view. As such, while there is s decent library to get stuck into, we think things are still a little hit or miss when it comes to titles you’ll want to pick up again and again.
We noted something similar when the PS5 first released in 2020, there is a distinct lack of hero games to support the hardware. Perhaps that will change in the coming months and years, but for right now the options are a little limited if we’re honest.
The PlayStation VR2 is an impressive peripheral. Better visuals, interface, hardware, and options in terms of playing titles make a stronger case for giving virtual reality gaming a try.
There is, however, one significant critique – price.
At R13 499 (RRP), the PS VR2 is more expensive than the console needed to use it, which too is not on the cheap side. It is therefore a substantial outlay for players who may only have a passing interest in VR, and are not the kind of diehard fans that such an asking price demands.
As such, while delivering a good gaming experience, the PlayStation VR2 falls into the category of want instead of need. Much like some of PlayStation’s other branded hardware and peripherals, only when the cost comes down with future iterations will it begin to hold true value.
FINAL SCORE: 7.5 OUT OF 10.