Let's get one thing clear: at the end of the day, this is still No Man's Sky. That might sound silly, but the excitement surrounding the huge Beyond update may have had people hoping for an unrecognisable, utterly transformative new experience. Beyond does many things to the game, but at its core, this is the very same space exploration game that caused a stir when it arrived in 2016. If you hated the grind for materials and the need to craft parts and top up your health bars, you'll likely still hate it now.
That being said, Beyond adds so much to the title it's borderline ridiculous. The headline new feature is full PlayStation VR support, and the good news is that it's been implemented wonderfully, despite a graphical downgrade. Fire up the game with your headset on and you'll finally be able to appreciate the size of your ship, alien creatures, and planets. Scale is something that's been imperative to the No Man's Sky experience from the off, but in virtual reality, the vastness of the procedurally generated universe is freshly impressive.
DualShock 4 and Move controllers are both supported in VR. The former keeps the controls mostly the same as you're used to, although you'll use the gyro sensor to aim your weapon, while the latter introduces an entirely different way to play. With a wand in each hand, exploring alien worlds becomes a more tactile adventure, and it translates fairly well. Reaching over your shoulder to grab your gun is a nice touch, as is mounting menus and inventories to your wrist. On-foot controls will take some getting used to, however. This is a game with lots of systems and lots of inputs, and while the developer has done an admirable job of fitting everything onto two Moves, it's still a bit finicky.
Flying your ship is where the motion controllers feel most natural, as you'll use one hand for the throttle and the other for the joystick. It's been said of this game since the early days that it'd be a natural fit for PSVR, and while it isn't perfect, the fact the whole game can be played this way is excellent.
You can even play with others whether they're also in VR or not. The expanded multiplayer is the other major addition, and it's pretty easy to find other explorers thanks to the Nexus. You can summon this social space station basically anywhere in the cosmos, and heading inside will put you in a server with a handful of other players. From there, you can meet up, go out on missions together, show off your ships and bases, and more. From our experience, the frame rate struggled while in this area, and other players' ships lagged considerably as they came and went. If you can deal with these performance hiccups, the Nexus is a smart way to encourage people to play together.
What's noticeable is that creatures and environments appear to have had a revamp. We've always liked the visual style of the game, but it's more diverse now than it's ever been, and seeing NPC aliens walking around and generally being more expressive is a small but welcome change.
We've not even really touched on the new building features, which essentially let you create even crazier bases, or improved interactions with alien wildlife. No Man's Sky is now packing a pretty hefty amount of things to do, which is pretty good when you remember no one initially had a clue what you were meant to do at all. But, going pack to our original point, there are so many layers that it can all be quite confusing. Even if you're a lapsed player who's put a lot of hours in, we'd highly recommend starting a fresh save. Beyond does a lot for the game, but it's still a dense, sometimes obtuse experience, so there's nothing wrong with going through the basics again.
What do you think of No Man's Sky Beyond and its new features? Have you been playing in PSVR? Has this update finally won you over? Recharge your shields in the comments below.