I must admit that the PlayStation VR2 didn’t seem like the wisest investment at the beginning of the year. Sure, it’s a seismic leap over its predecessor, which worked on old tech like a single camera and PS3-era Move controllers. But we’re still talking about a headset that costs more than the PS5 console itself, which you of course need to use it. It also has no backward compatibility with your old library of PS VR1 games, and a lack of genuine new exclusive games at launch to make it stand out.
In fairness, Horizon: Call of the Mountain was a pretty decent showcase for the headset. The Sense controllers enjoy the same haptics and adaptive triggers as the DualSense, and harnesses the PS5’s power to display jaw-dropping vistas that do the OLED 4K lenses justice. But it’s still no Half-Life: Alyx, not enough of a killer app to make you drop over £500 for. Not in this economy.
So imagine my surprise that 10 months later, my PS VR2 hasn’t just been gathering dust. It still gets regular use.
A Gran old time
Granted, I also write reviews for a living. As such, I have an incentive to want to cover more VR2 releases to make it worth the investment. On that front, I was surprised I got to cover considerably more games for the headset than I had expected. But even outside of that, one of the main reasons I’ve been able to come back to it in my own time is because of the VR update for Gran Turismo 7 that arrived at the headset’s launch.
Sure, it’s just an update to an older game. The VR2 library is still considerably padded out with older titles, though at least many have been free upgrades. But getting behind the wheel and being able to actually look around to see my rival drivers to the side side or catching the glare of their headlights in my mirrors has been so utterly transformative for me. When paired with a racing wheel like the excellent Thrustmaster T300RS, it’s unbeatable.
Vroom to improve
While I already thought GT7 was fantastic, as I said in my review last year, I hadn’t stuck with it. This is especially true in light of some controversial post-launch updates that increased the grind. It all felt like an aggressive attempt to steer players into microtransactions, though that was later rolled back slightly. But the experience of driving in VR has been such a joy that I’ve taken to carving out time for weekly Sunday drives just for the fun of it. The recent winter update, which added fairly attainable Weekly Challenges, has been a nice bonus incentive.
Admittedly, there’s a whole lot of faff to setting up my desk with the racing wheel and pedals every time. That’s without mentioning the need to place castor cups to stop my chair from moving when my foot’s pushing on the pedals, but it’s always worth it. The good news is that the headset is the quickest and easiest part to set up. All you need is a single USB-C cable to the front of the console and then a quick room scan. Folks used to the convenience of all-in-one headsets might balk at the tethering but it’s been no issue in my small room set-up. That the cameras are already embedded in the headset means I can also stand facing a different position than my TV, and reduce the risk of accidentally smashing that expensive OLED screen with any strenuous motions.
The lack of first-party exclusives from Sony’s own studios has nonetheless remained a bit of a sticking point. Besides Call of the Mountain, the platform holder has just published two other titles, The Dark Pictures: Switchback VR and Firewall Ultra. Both somehow managed to disappoint, compared to the glowing reception their predecessors had on VR1’s vastly compromised hardware.
But then you do have to remember that, going as far back as the PS1 era, it’s never just been about what its own studios can do. What Sony has instead been doing is supporting third party developers with the VR expertise. So during an otherwise barren summer there were still exclusives such as the excellent telekinetic roguelite shooter Synapse and futuristic racquet sports game C-Smash VRS.
More to the point, PS VR2 has been getting more new games towards the end of the year as well, such as Ghostbusters: Rise of the Ghost Lord and Arizona Sunshine 2, the latter a zombie shooter that also has hands-down the best dog-petting mechanics in any game. Admittedly, these are third party titles also released on PC VR and Meta Quest 3, and I think it’s fair to say it’s the latter’s recent release that these games have had their schedules revolved around.
But does that mean PS VR2 is obsolete in the face of the new all-in-one headset if you had hesitated? Not necessarily. If you’re a PS5 owner then being able to have that console power your headset’s experiences is still a huge benefit, while I’m less fussed about mixed reality compared to wanting a more immersive higher fidelity VR experience, which is what VR2’s HDR OLED lenses and head haptics do an excellent job at.
VR 2 the future
Overall, the first year of PS VR2 has been similar to PS5’s first year, where what’s new has been the improvements over how it feels to play rather than new games. I like to hope it’s not complacency on Sony’s part and that in 2024 its own studios that gave us VR1’s excellent exclusives like Blood & Truth and Astro Bot VR are actually busy cooking something up for the new headset. With Valve for whatever reason not bringing Half-Life: Alyx beyond PC VR and Meta busy acquiring more VR studios for its own exclusives, PS VR2 needs to do more to stand out even if the hardware is impeccable.
Except of course there have been some outstanding exclusives by way of VR modes. I’ve already raved about GT7 but then let’s not forget Capcom has also been having a heck of a year, having added a free VR mode for Resident Evil Village at launch before ending the year with a VR mode for Resident Evil 4 Remake. I may have found this remake falling short of the original game in some areas but in VR it’s a hall new experience, and one that even surpasses the Quest port a couple years ago.
You can quibble over the details that these aren’t exactly new games and more of a fancy extra, but when VR doesn’t just feel game-changing, elevating your sense of immersion, but is also a completely free upgrade, I really can’t complain. It’s not been perfect and hopefully Sony considers a price cut soon, but there’s a future in this headset yet.