Most people’s introduction to virtual reality has been in the form of a totally wireless headset called the Meta Quest 2. If you’ve been thinking about the future of self-contained VR goggles and the AR glasses that will likely follow in the next decade, Sony’s latest VR product may seem disappointing. Unlike the Quest, the PSVR 2 is a cabled VR headset that needs to be plugged into a PlayStation 5 to work.
You might not be so disappointed if you tried it, though. While the PSVR 2 does need to be tethered, it’s quite possibly the best luxury home VR experience that exists right now.
Powered by vivid OLED displays, fantastic vibrating controllers with their own unique force-feedback triggers, and running on the high-powered graphics that the PlayStation 5 pumps out, this hardware can run laps around the Quest 2. And did I mention it works wonderfully with my super-chunky glasses?
Seven years after the first PlayStation VR first arrived for the PlayStation 4, Sony has finally perfected plug-in console VR. But there are downsides, one of which is that the headset alone costs $550, on top of the $500 PS5 console.
I first tried the PSVR 2 last fall and was impressed then. Now, after trying it at home for a week, I’m still impressed. For anyone who wants a ticket to what will likely be the best-looking VR games on the planet (unless you have a high-end gaming PC and expensive VR hardware), the PSVR 2 does for games what I had hoped the work-focused Quest Pro would have.
But, with a Feb. 22 launch date in a year that looks full of VR headset competition (Vive XR Elite, the Quest 3 and Apple’s possible headset debut), this feels almost like a soft launch.
There are plenty of launch games, but few are exclusives — or even new. The real possibilities of the PSVR 2 still feel untapped, and my big unanswered question is how many original games Sony will unleash to make the most of its potential. And will a more affordable PS5-PSVR 2 bundle arrive at some point to make this more budget-friendly?
I don’t know. But I do know right now that the PSVR 2 is my favorite dedicated VR gaming hardware, even with its tethered cable. I still think the Quest 2 offers more value and freedom of movement for its price, but the PSVR 2 shows glimpses of how good the future could be. Playing games on the PSVR 2 doesn’t just feel like VR — it often feels like a PS5 game has leapt out and surrounded me. Unlike what I’m normally used to in standalone VR gaming, the best PSVR 2 games feel as detailed as PS5 games on my TV.
Inside the box: What the first PSVR should have been
The contents of the PlayStation VR 2 may not surprise anyone who’s bought a VR headset recently, but it’s a big breath of fresh air for anyone who had the original 2016 PlayStation VR. Gone are the weird cables and breakout boxes; there’s just the headset with its long cable, a pair of Sense controllers, some earbuds and an USB C-to-A charge cable, also needed to initially sync the controllers to the PS5.
It’s amazing how easy the setup process is compared to the multicable project it was with the first PSVR. That USB-C cable permanently attached to the headset is your one-cord ticket into Sony’s VR worlds, and you just need to plug it in (and get set up with room boundaries and eye tracking, more on that below). The controllers charge up using USB-C or an optional, sold-separately charging dock.
You can check out our unboxing hands-on thoughts, but it’s all good news for someone who doesn’t want this to feel intimidating to install.
The headset: Refined, glasses-friendly, not perfect
Yes, there’s a long cable attached to the PSVR 2 headset. It’s part of life in this headset, and I wish it were wireless. That being said, the cable is pretty long (4.5 meters, or 14.7 feet), which should cover most rooms. The original PSVR had a similar-length cable. It emerges from the side of the headset, and sometimes I found it dangling weirdly to my side, or tangling around me as I turned several times in some games like Horizon: Call of the Mountain. Cabled VR has its downsides; I worried I’d maybe run my office chair over it or damage it somehow. It means you can’t use PSVR 2 in any room other than the one your PlayStation 5 is set up in. I’ve been spoiled by wireless VR.
The headset tightens to your head with a single knob, similarly to the original PSVR, while the front visor slides in and out to meet your eyes. The eyepiece is wide and the rubber gasket around it is too, and it fits fine over the same super-wide glasses that don’t even fit into the Quest 2. This might be the best glasses-friendly VR headset on the market. That being said, my glasses lenses sometimes bumped against the PSVR 2 lenses when I tightened the headset, so be careful.
The OLED HDR displays are pretty great, too. The 2,000×2,040-per-eye resolution feels sharp, although not quite “retina-level” resolution like you’d get on a 4K TV or your phone. Meaning that I can still make out a bit of pixelation. That being said, it’s vivid, detailed and bright, with a 110-degree viewing area that’s larger than the Quest 2. I do, however, sense a bit of blur or bleed when I move my head at high speeds, a bit more than I’ve noticed on the Quest 2 or Quest Pro.
The audio’s less impressive, at least with the included earbuds. A pair of plastic buds on a plastic bracket pop into the headset’s rear strap and dangle down. The PSVR 2 doesn’t have off-ear ambient audio like the Quest 2 and other headsets often do. Putting in the buds means isolated sound, but you won’t be able to hear others around you (something I often need when playing around kids to make sure I’m not ignoring them). The 3D audio sounded just OK to me, but you can plug in your own headphones. The headset also works with Sony’s over-ear Pulse 3D wireless headphones, which sound much better — but they also made my face sweat more. (The Pulse USB adapter slots into one of the PS5’s USB-A ports, while the PSVR 2 goes into the front USB-C port.) Weirdly, the headband has its own earbud storage of a sort: You pop the buds into weird, little grippy cut-out holes. It feels like I might damage the buds when I pull them back out, though, or leave some ear gunk in there. It feels like a pretty inelegant audio solution for a high-end headset.
The PSVR 2 also has two features you won’t easily find anywhere else.
Built-in headset vibration kicks in with some games, feeling like a rumble for your face. It sounds crazy, but it adds a basslike kick in cinematic experiences, and feedback that works with the controller haptics to make environments feel even more immersive.
There’s also eye tracking, a feature likely coming to a lot more VR headsets. The Meta Quest Pro has eye tracking but doesn’t use it much in its early apps and games. Sony uses the feature a lot more. PSVR 2 games use a technology called foveated rendering that optimizes graphics quality only where it senses your eyes are looking directly, which can boost graphics without you noticing the missing detail around the edges. Some games also use eye tracking for experimental controls. In Horizon: Call of the Mountain you can navigate menus and aim with your eyes, and games like Tentacular and Rez Infinite use it, too.
I’ve had problems having eye tracking work with my thick glasses in VR before, and it took a few tries to set up the PSVR 2 for it to finally work. (Tip for glasses-wearers: Make sure the headset’s moved close enough to your glasses.).
The headset is reasonably adjustable, too. Besides sliding in closer or farther from your face, there’s also a dial to adjust the distance between lenses (called IPD, or interpupillary distance) to fit different eyes. Sony’s setup software makes adjusting the fit pretty easy.
The headset controls aren’t easy to access with a headset on, though. A recessed power button at the bottom of the headset is hard to fumble for, and a button triggering the passthrough cameras to see around you is less easy to find than, say, double-tapping on the side of the Quest 2.
That said, the black-and-white passthrough cameras offer sharper detail than the Quest 2 cameras do, although they aren’t in color like the Quest Pro.
Easy to set up
Setup and functions feel very similar to the Oculus Quest. Four built-in cameras on the headset handle all the room tracking, so you don’t need a camera mounted on your TV like with the older PSVR hardware. The new controllers can track movement in space and also have all the buttons, analog sticks and triggers that other VR controllers enjoy. The PSVR 2 scans your room, meshing out a play area by painting your walls and obstacles with polygons, similar to AR headsets I’ve tried like the Magic Leap. It ends up suggesting a play area based on that, but you can adjust the drawn boundary to your liking. It’s a nicer process than the Quest.
The PSVR 2 recommends a 6.7-by-6.7-foot play area for full movement, but that’s a lot of space. My office has around five feet by four feet, and it was fine. Much like other VR headsets, when you come to the edges of your play boundary, glowing grid-walls warn you and can sometimes interrupt the flow of gameplay a bit.
The controllers Are Pretty Sick
Sony never had a true dedicated game controller for VR before — the original PSVR made you use the terrible old PlayStation Move wands. The Sense controllers are a long-awaited upgrade, and they’re all you’d expect them to be.
The Sense controllers feel a little more sleek than the Quest 2 Touch controllers, as if they’re part spaceship. The spherical orb feel is more prominent, and the button-stick layout is more gentle and curved. They’re light, too. The buttons and sticks are smaller than the DualSense controller’s but feel just as good. Equally stellar are the triggers, which have the same force-feedback as the DualSense. Some games make you press harder to make a weapon fire, or when climbing a cliff. These controllers don’t have a D-pad, though, or the DualSense’s clickable touchpad; this means you’ll still need a DualSense to play non-VR PS5 games on the headset.
The haptics feel great, too. The ripples and rumbles are more nuanced than any other VR controller I’ve ever tried, and it makes a difference. In Tentacular, I felt like my wiggly tentacle-hands were jiggling. Star Wars: Tales From The Galaxy’s Edge finesses its various guns and tools to make it feel like they’re reverberating in my hand. In Horizon: Call of the Mountain, I can feel the tension of the bow and arrows I’m using.
Battery life might be the one downside. I’ve seen the controllers start to run low after a few hours of gaming, although they recharge quickly over USB-C or with Sony’s separately-sold charge dock, which costs $50 and was included in our review package. The charge dock comes with little contact pin dongles that slot into the controller’s USB-C slots so they can rest right on the dock to charge, allowing you to charge both controllers at once. Then again, you could also just plug them both into a standard charger instead.
There are adjustable hand straps on both controllers that also snap off in case you want to skip them. I keep them on to be safe.
Games: A few standouts, many ports, no PSVR backward compatibility
I’ve played about 16 games so far of Sony’s PSVR 2 launch library, and they’re very good games, but many of them are familiar ports of stuff I’ve played on the Oculus Quest and other headsets for years. Some of these games, like Star Wars: Tales From The Galaxy’s Edge Enhanced Edition, Tentacular and Rez Infinite, have gotten graphics upgrades, or added more advanced haptics effects or optional eye-tracking controls.
I’ve been most interested in Sony’s flagship exclusive, Horizon: Call of the Mountain. Set in the Horizon RPG game universe, it’s more of a linear adventure than a true RPG experience. But it’s a wonderful demo of the system’s power. The gameplay so far has been a mix of archery-based attacking (think In Death: Unchained) and climbing (think The Climb 2), with a bit of Half-Life Alyx thrown in. I’ve gotten stuck at a pretty tough boss battle, though, which brings up something I’ve noticed: The game controls aren’t always easy for me to use.
Some PSVR 2 games are VR-only. Others are PS5 games getting free PSVR 2 upgrades. Those games — notably No Man’s Sky, Gran Turismo 7 and Resident Evil Village — are ones I haven’t played yet. Access to the updates is hitting closer to PSVR 2 launch, so I’ll update this with my impressions when I can.
It’s a bummer that all the existing PSVR games from the last seven years aren’t automatically backward-compatible, though. Without an update, you can’t play them on PSVR 2 at all; blame this on the new hardware using different controllers and tracking technology, perhaps. Some games are getting PSVR 2 updates, many of them are charging extra for the new version, but I hope more follow. There are tons of original PSVR exclusives (Super Stardust, Wipeout, Blood and Truth, Paper Beast) that are being left behind. It’s also a shame that original PSVR owners don’t get a reward for their commitment, and instead are being made to repurchase so many games. After all, the PS5 can play PS4 games. The PSVR 2 should have found a way to figure this out.
And where is Astro Bot? My favorite, wonderful Astro Bot, the magical mascot that Sony uses to guide players through strange new interfaces like… the first PSVR, or the PS5 at launch. Oddly, nowhere to be seen (yet, anyway). I could have used the little guy. Or, at least, some sort of more casual, beautiful way to enjoy PSVR 2 beyond Horizon’s intensity.
This existing library of launch games is strong but not good enough for the PSVR 2 to justify its price yet. By the end of 2023, hopefully, that will change.
Is this good enough to replace my TV?
Short answer: For me, no. But it’s getting oh so close. You totally could use this as your gaming display for the PS5 and just play everything in it. 2D games float on an adjustable size screen in front of your face. I played a bunch of Madden 23 on it. It works! It’s good! But still not great. I still find it a bit below the vivid ultracrisp detail I’d expect, but the gap is seriously closing. This is approaching “retina display” level, but still not quite there.
Oddly missing: No metaverse ecosystem
Unlike VR headsets like the Quest 2, which have social apps, ways to create avatars and places to watch concerts and build worlds, the PSVR 2 surprisingly skips all of this at launch. It’s really just beautiful hardware to launch VR games. There’s no “home” space, and no social apps like VRChat or Rec Room are on PSVR 2 yet at the time this is being written.
I’m sure some of that will change this year, but it makes the PSVR 2 feel less like a future-facing metaverse device and more like a hardware extension of the PS5. That might be good news for some people, since I find the Quest 2 has gotten a bit messy and overloaded with buggy features lately. Still, in a year where it looks like VR and AR devices are popping up everywhere, it can make the PSVR 2 seem a half-step behind.
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