There's no getting around it – Virtual Reality is the future of gaming. No longer an experiment, the expected release of Playstation's next model of VR headset, along with Meta's investment in the VR marketplace, cements the former fad as the foregone future.
Last week, the official PlayStation blog gave readers a revealing preview of four user experience features you can expect from the upcoming PlayStation VR (PSVR) sequel — somewhat predictably known as PSVR 2. And while they’re all big steps forward for PlayStation, anybody who has ever worn a Meta Quest headset may wonder what the fuss is about.
First up is “See-Through View,” which, as the name suggests, allows you to see through the headset to examine the outside world and to make sure that no attention-seeking pets have wandered into your play area unawares.
Sony also says that it’s to see where you’ve put your PSVR 2 Sense controllers without taking the headset off, which suggests it won’t be mimicking the Quest 2 functionality where AR control pads appear on screen to guide you to them.
Next up is a customized play area. Because people don’t typically have dedicated Holodeck-style VR spaces free of soft and hard furnishings, PSVR 2 will let you shape the play space to whatever shape your room allows.
If you get too involved in enthusiastically beating up virtual zombies and reach the edge of your virtual border, a warning will pop up before you accidentally punch your TV. That’s an occupational hazard, as fans of the ‘VR to ER’ subreddit will know.
Both of these features are possible because of a change in how the tracking system works in PSVR 2. With PSVR 1, you sit a single, dedicated camera above your TV to track your movements in a very small play area. While it felt mind-blowing in 2016, it had serious limitations, including the fact that if you turned around, the camera wouldn’t know where you’d gone, like an infant confused by peek-a-boo.
With PSVR 2, the cameras have been relocated to inside the headset pointing outwards — just as they are with Oculus Quest 2. This is generally superior, as it means your play space can essentially be any size as the cameras move with you. There’s no risk of wandering out of shot or concern about where you’ll find space for all the extra cameras.
The third announcement is entirely new: the ability to broadcast yourself while playing. Just plug in a PS5 HD camera, and you can not only stream what you are seeing to Twitch or YouTube but also show your real-time reactions. Well, the parts of your reaction unobscured by the white plastic visor, anyway.
Finally, there’s Cinematic Mode, which isn’t just old to Oculus Quest owners but also to PSVR 1 users. In short, while the main purpose of PSVR 2 will be to run dedicated games in an immersive 360 degrees, you can also play normal ‘flat’ games and movies with the headset on. Why would you want to? Well, it’s like having your own giant cinema screen all to yourself.
To be clear, while PSVR 2 appears to owe a bit of a debt to the trail blazed by Meta and the Oculus Quest, Sony’s next-gen VR system is going to be leagues ahead in almost every respect.
The Oculus Quest 2 was released in 2020 and packs roughly the same grunt as the year’s best smartphones, thanks to its built-in Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 chipset. PSVR 2, meanwhile, will lean on the enormous 10.3 teraflops of power at the PS5’s disposal, making everything look significantly more realistic and… well, less like a two-year-old smartphone game.
But it doesn’t just stop there: the PSVR 2 headset itself will output a resolution of 2,000 x 2,040 per OLED eye panel, with a field of view (FoV) of 110 degrees. The Oculus Quest 2’s LCD panels, meanwhile, are stuck at a comparatively low-res 1,832 x 1,920 with a 90-degree FoV.
So why is it only better in “almost every respect”? Unlike the completely wireless Quest 2, PSVR 2 will need to be tethered to the PS5 with a USB-C cable, which highlights another elephant in the room: price.
Rumors point to a $400 to $500 MSRP which, of course, doesn’t include the $499 cost of a PS5 it needs to run. The Meta Quest 2, meanwhile, can be had for as little as $249, thanks to Meta’s aggressive pricing and aging internals (although the company has signaled a price increase on the horizon in August.)
Will PSVR 2 be worth the extra money? That depends on how well Sony supports the headset when it comes out. Most reports suggest that it will be in 2023, and until then, we’ll just have to persevere with Horizon Forbidden West in its regular flat form while we count down the days and hours.
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Alan Martin is a freelance writer based across the Atlantic in London, with bylines dotted across the web and in print. Specializing in technology, games and internet culture, you’ll likely find him running, playing through Spelunky for the millionth time, or cheering on his beloved Derby County.