For the time, Sony's PSVR headset was competent and functional. It didn't push the boat out compared to other devices, but by making itself at least somewhat affordable, Sony struck gold with the best-selling VR headset to date. The firm is now looking to beat the sales of the device with PSVR2, except it's going about it in a different way.
The follow-up is high-end, expensive, and state-of-the-art — just ignore the single cable connecting it to a PS5. It feels like a grab for the enthusiast market first and foremost before widening its reach in later years. The tech, games, and experiences need to back that proposal up, though. A recent hands on session with PSVR2 has proven to us, at least, that Sony knows what it's doing.
From its lightweight feel to the next-gen Sense controllers, everything about the device feels premium. Gone are the dated PS Move wands of the PS3 era, replaced with futuristic pads that track movement much more accurately. But in the context of a Horizon Call of the Mountain demo, the big differentiator is eye tracking.
Once the headset is strapped on and calibrated — easy-to-use settings, buttons on the device itself, and system-based tutorials make this a doddle — it's all about rewiring your brain to control cursors with your eyes rather than your head. Admittedly, this took some getting used to (we were still moving our noggin about to some degree by the end of the demo) but once you've got the feature memorised, it makes navigation much easier. Just look at a menu option to select it instead of holding a PS Move wand out, or divert your eyes to an object to skip a button press. There's a lot of potential to take interactivity to a new level using the feature; it's at least what very much sets PSVR2 apart from its predecessor at launch.
Working alongside eye tracking are the new Sense controllers, which adopt the circular nature of other VR headsets on the market. All the buttons you'd expect on a PS5 DualSense controller are present except for the touch pad, which is implemented into the trackable motions of the input readers.
When playing Horizon Call of the Mountain, they allow you to scale cliff sides with pinpoint accuracy, either slotting your hands into crevices or using vines to pull yourself along. It all feels natural, with the thumbstick letting you turn the camera and properly get your bearings before clambering along. The Sense controllers much more accurately track your motions, with little in the way of movement problems or the need to troubleshoot.
This all happens with a good degree of comfort. Sony's first PSVR headset for PS4 was famed for being easy to put on, adjust, and then provide little issue as you played Astro Bot Rescue Mission or Blood & Truth for hours on end. After roughly an hour with Horizon Call of the Mountain, the same can be said of PSVR2. Many of the comfort options on the headset itself are the same: a button on the back of the main plastic strap lets you stretch it to first place around your head. The visor covering your eyes can be pushed back and forth to find the right spot, and then the lens is adjusted using a scroll wheel to remove any blurriness. It's all then locked in place with a wheel to tighten the headset on your head. We can't speak to how it feels after multi-hour sessions, but first impressions are positive. We'd happily slip back into the collaborative effort from Guerrilla Games and Firesprite Games.
Of course, PSVR2 comes with the obvious tech upgrades to help it look and run better than what was possible on PS4, but we came away from our demo excited by its potential to improve immersion first and foremost. With eye tracking switching some interactions from button presses to retina scans, you can do so much more with less action. With upgraded hand tracking in the Sense controllers, developers can create more complex functions to widen what's possible in virtual reality.
It all comes across as the next big step for VR. Using Horizon Call of the Mountain as its showpiece product, PSVR2 represents what some PS5 fans feel they still haven't gotten from their main console just yet: a genuinely big leap into the future of gaming technology. It remains to be seen how the headset will hold up over longer periods of play or what the game lineup will look like beyond the launch window, but Sony has packed PSVR2 full of reasons for it to be an even bigger success than the generation past.
PSVR2 launches on 22nd February 2023, and you can check out All PSVR2 Launch Games through the link. Have you got your pre-order in yet? Share your responses in the comments below.