The PlayStation VR was kind of a big deal. At a time where VR gaming was still making early strides and most hardware was prohibitively expensive and also required beefy PC hardware, PlayStation’s solution was comparatively affordable and worked with a device that tens of millions already had in their homes. The result is that it saw a fairly decent wave of popularity and gained a sizable library of games. It’s flagged in the years since though, especially with the advent of high-quality standalone VR headsets like the Meta Quest with their vast game catalogues and far superior input options.
That’s what makes the PlayStation VR2 such an interesting proposition – with PS5 consoles having gone up in price and the new headset costing a hefty $880 will nicer hardware and the promise of some exciting first and third-party exclusives be enough to recapture an audience? While I can’t really answer any of those questions just yet, I have had the chance to try out the PlayStation VR2 for myself at Tokyo Game Show, and I can at least attest to the quality of the experience. Spoiler: it’s excellent.
Getting myself strapped into the new iteration of PlayStation VR felt like second nature thanks to it bearing quite a similar mechanical design to its predecessor. That’s a good thing, since the OG PlayStation VR was a breeze to put on and adjust to fit. Like before, a button on the back lets you loosen the support to put it over your head, and then a dial tightens it as much as you’d like. There’s still a button on the top right of the headset that you can use to move the lenses further or closer to your face, but there’s also now another dial on the left side to change lens distance to adjust the focus on the fly – an immediate boon for someone like me who constantly had to fuss with the software on the PlayStation VR to get the clarity I needed.
The whole thing is just as comfortable as the original, if not more thanks to a much better fit around the face area. That’s especially true if you’re a glasses-wearer like me, the difference in comfort with my specs on in the PlayStation VR2 compared to the old one was night and day. It’s hard to make a direct comparison to my headset at home when it comes to weight, but it’s definitely lighter. The single USB-C cable barely adds any extra weight or “pull”, to the point where I would forget it was there – a far cry from what I’ve had to deal with on the original iteration of the PlayStation VR with its massive, clunky cable arrangement. I also very much appreciated the inside-out camera array which is not only useful from a gameplay perspective but lets you “see through” the headset while you’re setting up, and the feed-through is shockingly crisp and clear.
Once I had the headset fitted it was time to get my hands around one of the PlayStation VR2’s biggest changes; the Sense controllers. Now admittedly I’ve had very little experience with competing headsets like the Meta Quest but it’s nice to know us PlayStation VR users will finally get to play with the big kids when it comes to having a proper VR controller experience. Chuck those horrid Move wands out (probably don’t, recycle or donate them or something) because this is how VR was meant to be played. After a few seconds adjusting to the button layout, my hands naturally rested exactly where they needed to be in the orb-shaped devices, with my thumbs on the joysticks and my fingers resting on the adaptive triggers and L1/R1 bumpers. I didn’t get a chance to see how the finger touch detection stuff worked, or much of the haptic feedback, but from a comfort and playability perspective the Sense controllers on the PlayStation VR2 blow previous solutions out of the water.
The one game I was able to demo with the PlayStation VR2 was Resident Evil: Village, thanks to Capcom, and when I say the experience was transformative I’m not exaggerating in the slightest. The PlayStation VR2 headset does for Village what the PlayStation VR did for Resident Evil 7, only even better thanks to the impressive new hardware. For starters, it’s gorgeous. RE:V already looks great but the VR version, clearly helped along by the power of the PS5, looks every bit as stunning. There’s a presence to the environment that was missing on the older VR hardware with its obvious screen-door effect, lower resolution and cut-back details. Now, it’s a far less compromised experience that comes off as incredibly lifelike, and the new OLED HDR displays in the headset are phenomenal. Even when I was looking, trying to see any kind of screen-door or visual noise I genuinely couldn’t.
Resident Evil: Village plays like a dream in VR, too. The Sense controllers are a perfect fit for a first-person action experience, making it easy for me to walk around as I normally would with the analog stick and use both my hands to interact at the same time. The demo takes place in the early section of the game where you’re first introduced to the infamous Lady Dimitrescu, and boy is she imposing in VR. The absolute height on this spooky queen, I bloody tell you, it’s truly not apparent until she’s standing tall over your limp body after being dragged unceremoniously through her home by her daughters. Sorry to everyone asking me if you can give Lady D a big smooch – Ethan Winters just doesn’t have the height.
When it comes to combat in the VR version of Village, at least as far as using the knife and handgun in this portion, it’s incredibly intuitive. The L1/R1 bumpers are smartly placed right under where your middle or ring finger will likely sit, meaning you hold them down to simulate a “grab” action. To interact with objects in the game, or pick up a weapon from your waist holster, you simply “grab” and hold onto it. From there, in the case of the knife you can slash away at foes or even throw it at them by swinging and letting go of the button. The handgun is a very natural point-and-shoot situation while you’re holding it – and you’ll need to reload by physically grabbing ammo from your side with your other hand, emptying the clip, putting the new one in and then cocking the gun. That may seem like a lot in the heat of the moment but it quickly became second nature and feels great to pull off under pressure. You can even dual wield the knife and handgun if you’re a badass.
Though my time was relatively short, I’m already convinced. The PlayStation VR2 is without a doubt the experience that users of the original version have been imagining since we first stepped into the shoes of Ethan Winters, and it’s only fitting that those are the same shoes I filled this time around. Whether it’s the superior comfort, the amazing OLED displays, the impressive eye-tracking tech, the brilliant controllers or just the exciting software slate, just about everything you could ask for in a second iteration is here. If you’re lucky enough to have a PS5 and the expendable income for a nearly-$1000 VR headset, I can’t recommend it enough.