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We put Sony's PlayStation VR 2 headset to the test with its big launch title.
Games sold separately
The PlayStation VR 2 is a welcome leap forward for Sony's virtual reality offering, but there are some elements that hold it back. Horizon Call of the Mountain is a visually-impressive launch title but arguably it's not enough to justify paying full whack.
The PSVR 2 release date is very close now, and RadioTimes.com has already tested Sony's new headset to bring you this detailed PSVR 2 review. We've also tested its big launch title, Horizon Call of the Mountain, and a number of other PSVR 2 games.
You may remember that the original PSVR launched back in 2016 as an optional add-on to the PS4. That first attempt ended up hosting some of the best VR games, including the brilliant Astro Bot Rescue Mission, but it never really took off in a mainstream way. (It was also a pain to connect, needing various cables and a camera to work.)
Five million units were eventually sold for PSVR 1, which sounds impressive until you find out that over 100 million PS4 consoles have been sold over the device's lifetime. Considering that only something like five per cent of their PS4 user base made the transition to VR, we would've forgiven Sony if they quietly shelved the idea.
However, you've got to respect the tenacity here because Sony has done exactly the opposite of taking the easy way out. The hardware giant has developed PSVR 2 instead, leveraging the power of the PS5 to take your virtual gaming life to new levels. But how does it hold up? Read on to find out!
The PSVR 2 headset is a definite improvement on PSVR 1, with a much easier set-up process and vastly improved graphics capabilities. That being said, the fact that your headset always needs to be plugged in does feel like a shame when the Meta Quest 2 and Pico 4 headsets offer similar experiences without a wire in sight.
In terms of games, Horizon Call of the Mountain doesn't feel like an essential play and likely isn't the 'system seller' that Sony needs to push VR into more people's homes. Hopefully, bigger and better games will follow in time, as this feels like a headset that lots of people would enjoy if they gave it a chance.
Let's backtrack a bit. What actually is the PSVR 2? In short, this is Sony's shiny new VR headset — it plugs into a PS5 and allows you to play a swathe of virtual reality titles on the powerful console. The games are all sold separately, though.
In the box, you will also get two wireless PlayStation VR 2 Sense controllers — you hold one in each hand, using both traditional buttons and motion controls to influence the action on the screen. These controllers have decent battery life (similar to that of a normal PS5 controller) and can be charged up using any USB-C cable. There is one included in the box, handily enough.
The PSVR 2 price is £529.99 when you buy the headset from PlayStation Direct. Note that traditional retailers like Argos and Currys are not yet carrying PSVR 2 stock, so you have to go directly to PlayStation if you want to order one.
That price, which seems prohibitively expensive for casual players, includes two Sense controllers but doesn't throw in any games. On that same PlayStation Direct webpage, you'll also see a bundle that costs £569.99 and adds Horizon Call of the Mountain into the mix.
You can also buy a Charging Station for the PSVR 2 controllers that costs £39.99 — this is totally optional as the controllers charge just fine with the included USB-C cable.
On first look, the PSVR 2 design looks like a total winner. As we said in our PSVR 2 preview, it looks much cleaner and smoother than the original PSVR, with a less clunky design that is much easier on the eye. The addition of four outward-facing cameras has been made without sacrificing symmetry, and the whole thing looks much less messy with one cable rather than the multitude that PSVR 1 needed.
The Sense controllers look great, as well, borrowing the round design that has become popular on other VR platforms. They feel great to hold and the wrist straps are easy to use if you want that extra safety. It took us a little while to remember where all the buttons are (it feels a bit odd that Triangle and Square are in your left hand), but once the muscle memory kicked in there weren't any complaints there.
Our only real complaint about the PSVR 2 design is that the headset itself, while comfortable to wear, is a bit chunky when it comes to storage. With the head strap extending over the top of the headset, the whole thing is actually too 'tall' to fit in the drawers of our TV stand. We've taken to keeping it in the box it came in, which does create an extra stage of faff when it comes to setting up a play session.
In terms of what's new under the hood, it's worth noting that the PSVR 2 is a major upgrade on the PSVR 1 from a technical standpoint. It offers 4K HDR gameplay on an OLED display with a 110-degree field of view. That's 10 degrees more than PSVR 1, which only offered 1080p resolution. This is the same difference you would've seen if you've upgraded from a HD TV to a 4K one in recent memory.
PSVR 2 also offers eye tracking, allowing you to navigate menus and complete simple tasks without using the analogue sticks at all. Plus, there is haptic feedback in the headset itself and in the Sense controllers, adding to the immersion with vibrations (similar to those in the DualSense controller).
Thanks to the on-headset cameras, you no longer need to set up an external camera in your play area. Instead, these built-in cameras will scan your surroundings and help you set up a safe activity zone every time.
There is also a dedicated button on the headset that allows you to see through the cameras and check your surroundings — handy if you've got a pet or a partner that could wander in at any moment. All these quality of life changes help to make the PSVR 2 experience feel like a significant leap forward.
One thing we would've loved to see, in terms of features, is a wireless mode. Although the biggest and glossiest games understandably need to be plugged into the sheer power of the PS5, it would be nice to play simpler titles with more freedom of movement. Sadly, that cable is welded on and the headset does nothing unless you plug it into the console.
Any gaming device is only as good as the games you can play on it, and this is where PSVR 2 is looking a little bit thin at launch.
Horizon Call of the Mountain, a virtual reality spin-off to the Horizon Zero Dawn franchise, is the main event in terms of day-one releases. The game offers some stunning scenery and there is a certain thrill to seeing those familiar animalistic machines writ large in a fully immersive environment.
But this does feel like more of a side show than the main event, especially when compared to the vast open experience of last year's Horizon Forbidden West. Here you'll spend a lot of your time climbing various tall structures, and you might find your arms aching and your enthusiasm waning as this gets more repetitive and less exciting.
The combat, when it comes, is a lot more fun. You can craft powerful arrows on the fly, scan your foes for weak spots and dodge their attacks with motion controls. (You can also switch to a more traditional control scheme, if you'd prefer.) This is where the game feels most thrilling, and it makes the slog of climbing feel worth it for the most part.
It's hard to see Horizon Call of the Mountain as a 'system seller', though, and that's what Sony really needs for this platform. As a spin-off from one of their newer in-house franchises, focused mainly around climbing, it doesn't feel like an essential play. Its graphics are great, though, and it offers a strong proof-of-concept for what the PSVR 2 can do. The same goes for the visually stunning VR mode recently added to Gran Turismo 7.
A number of third-party games were also supplied to test out with the headset, and we had some fun trying them all out. Again, though, nothing really stands out as an essential experience that makes it seem worthwhile to drop £500 on the hardware.
Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy's Edge is a fun, throwaway jaunt through a few small corners of that galaxy far, far away. Again, it shows you what a first-person action game could look like on this hardware, but its thin storytelling and short runtime make it seem more like a tech test than a fully-fledged product worth forking out for. That being said, in this and Horizon, dispatching foes in first-person VR does feel great when it goes well.
We had a different kind of fun with Moss: Book Two, the sequel to an old PSVR favourite, where you guide a sword-wielding mouse through a series of puzzles and combat scenarios. Moss opts for a third-person perspective of sorts, with the player looking down on the action as your rodent friend runs around on screen. This allows you to interact with the action in a different way, using the analogue sticks to control the mouse and your motion controls to move other objects around in the space.
PSVR 1's best game was Astro Bot Rescue Mission, a platformer that used a similar format to Moss, allowing you to control a cute character through traditional controls and do other things with motion controls. Sadly, there's no Astro Bot sequel launching with PSVR 2, but we're still hoping that Astro will return at some point (his inclusion in the PS5's built-in demo certainly makes it feel like Astro is still in Sony's plans).
In terms of third-party titles, we also tried out a fun rhythm action game called Thumper and a chilled boating game called Kayak VR: Mirage. There is plenty to play on PSVR 2 at launch, it would seem, but none of it feels particularly weighty. The existence of cool new indie games like The Last Worker does give us hope for the future, though.
Looking ahead, we do think it would be good if Sony announced some future plans to whet players' appetites. A VR version of God of War could be great, for example, and it's easy to imagine the Leviathan Axe flying into Kratos's hand as the Sense controller wallops your palm with haptic feedback. For now, though, all we have are proof of concepts. Based on this launch-day selection, the future of VR looks like it could be epic, but it hasn't arrived just yet.
Setting up the PSVR 2 headset is wonderfully simple. Because the headset only has one cable, all you need to do to get started is to plug it into the USB-C port on the front of your console. Do that, turn it on, and your PlayStation 5 should start on-boarding you into VR immediately.
Instructions on screen will show you how to connect up your two Sense controllers and create your virtual play space, the latter of which is done using the cameras on the front of the headset. They will scan your surroundings and help you find a safe space to play in, which only takes a couple of seconds.
It's also easy to tweak your set-up later, with the Options button adjusting your display and bringing you back to the centre of the action whenever you hold it down. We'd recommend checking your settings from time to time, especially if things seem to go out of focus at any point.
In terms of performance, we don't have any qualms with the PSVR 2. We didn't experience any crashes or glitches that seemed to be caused by the hardware. We had a few little hiccups in Horizon Call of the Mountain (including one moment where our character simply floated away), but that seemed like more of a software situation.
The PSVR 2 feels great to wear and easy to play with for decent stretches of time. The controllers, too, deserve a special shoutout. They feel just right in your hands and have a good amount of grip to stop you from dropping them.
If you're worried about motion sickness, we'd say that you're in pretty safe hands here. Although some players will always be susceptible to lurches of the stomach, you should be okay if you remember to tweak your settings to your own personal preference wherever possible.
Most games have a variety of sensitivity options when it comes to freedom of motion, and there's no shame in embracing the softer side of that if you need to. We did just that in Horizon, which has a fun alternative to analogue-stick control (which our stomach really can't handle in VR sometimes), allowing you to move in the game by feigning a walking motion with your hands instead.
All in all, the PSVR 2 feels like a solid and reliable platform for VR, and it's certainly a step up on the last generation. Here's hoping that, in time, it gets the games it deserves.
We'd say that, for now, the PSVR 2 is probably only worth buying for hardcore VR enthusiasts. It doesn't have many exclusive titles yet, and unless you're a die-hard Horizon fan, Call of the Mountain probably won't be enough to tempt you into making a purchase at this price point. And that's okay!
If you do consider yourself a VR fan, and you have some disposable income, this is a great headset and it's definitely worth adding to your collection. Of course, only time will tell how long Sony supports it for and what kinds of games it receives, but we'd hope that it will have plenty to offer over the next few years.
If you're stuck in the middle and sitting on the fence, we'd say that it's worth keeping an eye on the PSVR 2. It feels like a strong platform and Sony has already invested a lot in it. Perhaps you can start saving now and then pull the trigger when a game you really want hits the market.
For now, the only place to buy PSVR 2 is from PlayStation Direct, Sony's official website for PlayStation hardware. At the time of writing, the likes of Argos and Currys are not yet carrying stock of the headset, but we'd expect that to change in time.
PSVR 2 launches Wednesday 22nd February and you can order yours from PlayStation Direct.
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