I used the original PlayStation VR headset a lot at launch. Watching my cousin fall over trying to beat a level in Superhot VR, terrifying my unsuspecting friends with Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, and marvelling at the level design in the first Moss game are among some of my favourite gaming memories.
After a while, though, I simply couldn’t be bothered with the set-up required. As an owner of a launch headset, I had to unplug it completely to use HDR on my TV, and the number of cables meant getting it ready to use again was more trouble than it was worth.
Getting an Oculus Quest 2 a couple of years ago, I couldn’t believe how easy and seamless virtual reality could be. Wherever I was, I could just take the headset out of its case, put it on my head, and jump into a game. The image quality was good enough too.
From the moment you open the box, it’s clear the effort Sony has put in to make PSVR 2 more approachable. There’s the headset, each of the controllers, a small box with all the legal nonsense and headphones in, and one cable. To get it going, you take it out of the box and plug it into the front of your PS5. Turn it on and you’re all ready to go. There’s next to no setup once you put it on your face.
There’s one admittedly annoying cable coming out the back of the headset, which goes to your PS5, but otherwise, PSVR 2 is infinitely more comfortable that the debut system.
The headband extension button and screen movement button work just as the original’s equivalents did and the tightening dial returns too. However, the design of the headset is improved in every other way.
Arguably the greatest levelling-up is in the cushions that surround your eyes. Soft, almost collapsible rubber surrounds the screen, blocking all outside light without sitting tightly against your face. It’s a masterstroke in design that heightens immersion more than I ever expected.
Light protruding from where the headset meets your nose is something I’ve always noticed as a glasses-wearer when using my Quest 2 and original PSVR headset, so it’s great that PlayStation has found a solution for that for their next generation system.
It’s worth noting too that PlayStation VR 2 is absolutely fine if you wear glasses. In fact, it’s probably the most comfortable VR experience I’ve had without taking my glasses off.
Beautiful OLED display
The OLED screen in the headset is also excellent. I was stunned by the vibrancy of the colours when first loading into Kayak VR and the level of detail in Horizon Call of the Mountain is pretty incredible.
As you’d expect from VR, the resolution doesn’t match that of your standard TV display, but it’s the colours in PSVR 2 that amazed me. The intricate fantasy world of Moss 2 pops just as much as the sprawling mountains in Horizon - visually, the experience really is excellent.
Unique features of its own
PSVR 2 has two unique features too: eye tracking and haptic feedback in both the headset and controllers. Once you’ve calibrated it, the eye tracking is impressive and I can see it being used in some genius ways in the future.
From the launch lineup, I’ve not played anything that uses it in a particularly interesting way, but it changes the game completely when it comes to menu navigation.
In games that utilise the system's eye-tracking technology, there’s no pointing your controller vaguely in the right direction anymore. Just look at the tile you want to select and you’ve got it. Such a simple addition removes a lot of the frustration of VR, and I can’t wait to see what original ideas evolve from its implementation.
The haptic feedback and vibrations are simple additions but surprised me just as much. It’s not something I ever thought I needed playing Quest 2 or PSVR, nor do I care for it much when playing standard games on PS5, but it really levels up the immersion in PSVR 2.
The headband vibrates as you clear lines in Tetris Effect Connected or hit perfect runs in Thumper, and the controllers rumble as you take on machines in Horizon Call of the Mountain. The transitions between levels in Tetris Effect and Rez Infinite are incredible now, making two of the best VR games even better.
Where PlayStation VR 2 misses when it comes to immersion-building is in how it uses sound. A small pair of in-ear headphones come with the headset and they smartly connect to the underside of the headband, ensuring you don’t lose them and they can easily be slipped in and out of your ears while you play.
The issue is, they’re awful quality and not particularly comfortable. After a few uses, I opted for using my standard TV/Soundbar audio setup as it was still better than using the headphones. It may be a little awkward due to the design of the headset’s headband, but a proper pair of headphones could be used instead if you want your head to be enveloped in more plastic. It’ll make for a more immersive experience at least.
When it comes to movement tracking, led by eight cameras on the front of the headset and sensors in the controllers, PSVR 2 rivals headsets multiple times its price.
It’s smart, consistent, and precise in how it tracks your movements, allowing you to move around seamlessly without it getting confused. Turn your head the wrong way or sit at the wrong angle and the original PSVR would get confused. There’s none of that here.
It also makes the set-up and alteration of play boundaries really easy. Whether you’re sitting down or standing up, the headset scans your surroundings (watching it do that is really cool) to create the perfect play space.
PlayStation VR 2 can be a little fussy, though. It’s more sensitive to lighting situations than rival headsets. You can’t play it in the dark, like you could the original headset, with PSVR 2 requiring consistent and even lighting. With all my living room lights on, I had instances of the tracking losing itself momentarily - not even long enough for me to read the error message that appeared. At times, I found it hard to find the right lighting balance for the headset to let me play in peace.
PlayStation VR 2’s Sense controllers, which are responsible for a lot of the excellent tracking, are great too. They feel really nice to hold, being much lighter than they look. The bit you hold is actually pretty small, as are the buttons and thumbsticks on them, but they’re all really well-placed and feel natural to use in-game.
I was a little concerned by the small thumbsticks at first, but they work perfectly for the angle at which you use them and each controller is weighted perfectly to ensure you’re not stretching for buttons or losing positioning at annoying moments. The shoulder buttons and triggers are in natural places for how you hold the controllers and the additional buttons you’d find on a DualSense are just a short move away from the thumbsticks.
The PSVR Sense controller charging dock, which is sold separately, is almost a necessity, though. Much like the DualSense any PS5 owner will have, the Sense controllers don’t hold their charge for long, and you can only charge one at a time with the cable provided. Therefore, you need to plan ahead and charge each one individually before an extended play session.
Consider that additional £40 outlay when pricing up the full cost of PlayStation VR 2 after the headset and any games you want.
Lacklustre launch lineup
While it’s an excellent device and it doesn’t take anything away from the quality of the headset and any individual experience, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that PlayStation VR 2 is severely lacking big, new launch games.
Horizon Call of the Mountain is gorgeous, but is an unoriginal climbing game for the majority of it. Away from the combat and incredible visuals, it doesn’t do anything to really show off the unique features of PlayStation VR 2.
Kayak VR is a similar case. It’s also beautiful, but it’s not a system-seller by any means. It’s cool for a while, and could be a great option to quickly show a VR newbie, but it’s not something you’re going to be spending hours and hours with.
Beyond those two games, there’s little else that isn’t a port. Yes, Tetris Effect, Rez Infinite, Moss Book II, Pistol Whip, and more are some of the best VR games available for any headset, but the issue is they are already available for any headset. I played Tetris Effect for the first time coming up on five years ago, it shouldn’t be a flagship title for a new headset, even if it’s one of my favourite games ever.
There’s no game that’s widely original like Astro Bot Rescue Mission or a full-quality experience like Half Life Alyx, at least not yet.
That’s the biggest issue with PSVR 2. Is it a brilliantly designed headset that uses the power of the PS5 in impressive ways and streamlines the high-end home VR experience? Yes, it is. Would I recommend you fork out over £500 for one right now? Only if you’re a VR newcomer or upgrading from the original PlayStation VR. Otherwise, wait until we know that more new games are coming in the near future.
PSVR 2 unit provided by PlayStation for review.