Update (Feb. 22): PlayStation VR 2 is already getting better. During the pre-release period a week ago, we found the headset’s library sorely lacking. But now that it’s publicly available, games such as Resident Evil Village, Gran Turismo 7, and No Man’s Sky have gotten updates, and we’ve been trying all these titles in VR. While they haven’t completely changed our initial opinion about the headset’s exorbitant $549.99 price point, they have gone a long way toward fleshing out the PSVR 2 library.
Resident Evil Village is downright terrifying. HDR capability, combined with the headset’s 3D audio, makes Ethan’s early trek through the dark forest, complete with the gory entrails of dead animals and the scurry of footsteps nearby, all the more palpable. By the time I entered the first cabin on the outskirts of the titular village, I was shaking, but I was sold.
What’s more, Village makes great use of the VR 2 Sense controllers. Each weapon features a unique reload process. The flashlight must be pulled from the inside pocket of Ethan’s jacket. And the melee attack scheme — including a block mechanic, as well as punching and knife thrusts — is responsive. I plan on playing much, much more of the game (the entire story mode has made the move to VR) and will share my thoughts in a separate post down the road. I’m particularly excited to see Lady D in all of her virtually realistic glory.
I also plan on diving deeper into No Man’s Sky, which has had substantial updates to its content across the board since I last played it in 2019, and Gran Turismo 7, a game that, based on my first hour, puts even Horizon Call of the Mountain to shame in the looks department.
Suffice it to say, this is the initial volley of VR updates I was hoping for when I first shared the thoughts below on Feb. 16.
PlayStation VR 2’s qualities snuck up on me. I was about to finish Tetris Effect: Connected’s “Downtown Jazz” stage, and decided to let my last tetromino drift slowly to the bottom of the grid — the better to take in the rooftops, street lamps, and fire escapes surrounding my floating avatar. The block landed, my last line evaporated, and the digital facsimile of New York vanished in a shower of white motes. I stood from my chair, opened the VR Quick Settings with the tap of a button, and set a wider play area before switching to Horizon Call of the Mountain. Out of curiosity, I removed the headset and glanced at my watch. Three hours had passed since I sat down to play.
I’ve spent the better part of two weeks with PlayStation VR 2, and it’s been permeated by cases like this: not mind-blowing holy shit moments, but rather, cumulative instances where everything just works, seamlessly and comfortably, making the hours melt away. The headset’s library of new games is woefully lacking at the moment, and its $549.99 price tag is as exorbitant as they come. But mechanically speaking, it’s a solid foundation. And if Sony can maintain a steady flow of substantial games to the peripheral’s library, I might be inclined to recommend it somewhere down the road.
PSVR 2’s elevator pitch is simple: virtual reality, pulling from the power of the PlayStation 5. It allows for 4K HDR display, eye tracking, haptic feedback, 3D audio, and a wide field of view, among other things. For a full rundown of every bell and whistle, you can read PlayStation’s exhaustive FAQ. I won’t bog this review down with information that’s already been assembled elsewhere.
Instead, let’s turn our attention to Horizon Call of the Mountain, the presumed showpiece for all of said bells and whistles.
The linear spinoff of Guerrilla Games’ open-world series begins in a canoe, meandering down an azure river under a vibrant jungle canopy. I’m immediately struck not only by the range of colors, but also by the detail and the lighting: Shadows play across the water as the boat passes beneath particularly large palm fronds, and the clothing of my two fellow travelers shifts between coarse leather, scarred metal, and textured cloth. The wind stirs the jungle in every direction. It’s nowhere near as good-looking as Horizon Forbidden West, of course, but it is the most attractive game I’ve seen in VR.
It takes a few minutes before I notice the “foveated rendering” — essentially, the headset’s eye tracker drops the resolution in my peripheral vision in order to enhance it in the area where I’m focusing. The aforementioned quality in environmental details notwithstanding, I did notice the resolution taking a bit too long to sharpen in several cases, especially throughout combat encounters later on. The result is a beautiful game that tends to look a bit blurry when I’m not standing still. Regardless, the eye tracking is a godsend when aiming for specific parts on enemy machines. Provided my bow and arrow are aimed in the correct general direction, the projectile will (usually) land right where I’m looking. During one fight with a group of Glinthawks, it made me feel like Legolas as I sniped the freezing canisters on the flying opponents’ chests.
Between pitched battles and light puzzle-solving, Call of the Mountain features climbing — a lot of it. The better to show off the VR 2 Sense controllers, I imagine. Like the PlayStation 5’s DualSense and DualSense Edge, the VR 2 Sense’s triggers change resistances based on the in-game action. When climbing, this manifests by necessitating a firmer finger grip toward the bottom of the trigger’s range. After longer ascents (Call of the Mountain features side-quest-like “Legendary Climbs”) my fingers were actually sore. Combined with the over/under movement of my arms as I climbed up cracks and sifted along ledges, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t need a bit of a pause at the top of the cliff. (It’s worth noting that my co-worker, Russ Frushtick, experienced significant motion sickness issues when playing Call of the Mountain, even with the comfort settings maximized. If you’re a casual VR user that needs a teleport movement, which Call of the Mountain does not have, to keep from getting sick, you may find this game too much to handle.)
Through it all, though, the VR 2 Sense controllers were both comfortable. They weigh about the same as the Meta Quest 2’s controllers, but their motion-sensor rings are larger and wrap widely around the wrists, as opposed to Meta’s, which curl over the thumbs. Having played a bit of Resident Evil 4 VR on Quest 2 this week as a point of comparison, I have to give the nod to the VR 2 Senses. Paradoxically, considering their bigger size, I actually thought about them less while playing — and the fewer things that remove my focus from the games themselves, the better.
In fact, it seems as if Sony took pains to mitigate any distractions that might arise while playing. The accordion of rubber around my eyes, separating my face from the headset, prevents any room light from seeping through, provided the headset is adjusted properly. The headphones, which hang from the rear band, are just the right length so the wires don’t pull on my ear or, alternatively, sag too low.
If, like me, you’re enamored by the Quest 2’s ability to boot up in any room of your home without being tethered to a console, the PSVR 2’s USB-C cord will definitely be noticeable — even when draped down the left side of your torso, which I found to be the most out-of-the-way place for it to rest without pulling on the headset’s rear band. All things considered, though, this cord feels like a small price to pay for the benefits the PS5 could offer in future games.
Tethers aside, these touches all make way for what’s happening in front of my eyes. I barely notice the VR 2 Senses in my hands, the better to see the rainbow of lichen growing in damp crevices during a prolonged climb. The headphones rest firmly in my ears, the better to enjoy the 3D audio, which signals a raging river below me, a blazing fire to my left, and the mechanical grunts of a Watcher in the weeds to my right. If anything does pull me out of the experience — I found the headset’s haptic feedback to be a bit more annoying than engrossing, so I turned it off — a slick UI pops up with the click of a button.
As is the case when hopping between Rez Infinite, Moss, Thumper, and Song in the Smoke: Rekindled, one of PSVR 2’s strengths comes into play during my longer sessions with Call of the Mountain: It’s an exceedingly comfortable headset. The weight falls evenly between the thick forward pad and the soft rear band, preventing aches and pains on my forehead or the bridge of my nose. Plus, with one button to extend the forward visor and another to release the grip of the rear band, the headset is also a breeze to adjust. Aside from tousled hair and the general unease that comes with walking freely back in the real world, I’m no worse for wear after extended play sessions. I don’t think the Meta Quest 2 is an uncomfortable headset, especially when incorporating third-party add-ons. But comfort, for me, is paramount for VR, at a stage when many of the other major hurdles of the form have been mounted.
As a proof of concept, and as a microcosm for what the headset’s games could look like in the future, Call of the Mountain works. But like most proofs of concept, it’s never going to pull me back. My favorite moments with PSVR 2 have been with games like Tetris Effect: Connected or the phenomenal Before Your Eyes — titles that aren’t new by any means, but instead, carryovers from other platforms, different headsets, or even previous generations. This is just as much a signifier of these games’ lasting appeal as it is an indictment of PSVR 2’s lack of system-selling titles. But still — I’m eager for something that feels genuinely new, to better justify the PSVR 2’s existence, and that extremely steep price point.
Because it’s not really the motion controls, or the eye tracking, or the haptic feedback that I’m most excited for when I boot up PSVR 2. I’m most excited by the headset’s very elevator pitch: VR, backed by the power of the PS5. It’s entirely possible that, one week from now, with VR updates to Gran Turismo 7, No Man’s Sky, and Resident Evil Village (the latter of which, in my opinion, could be a system seller in itself), that promise may come to fruition, and I’ll have exactly what I wanted: a comfortable, intuitive VR headset capable of capturing the long-form magic of some of my favorite games on PlayStation 5. Yes, PSVR 2 has tons of potential — but right now, that’s about it.
PlayStation VR 2 will be released on Feb. 22. The peripheral and accompanying software were reviewed using a pre-release unit provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.