“We believe in generations” was the tagline for the PlayStation 5’s marketing campaign, but maybe, this would be more appropriately reflected in the PlayStation VR2 (PSVR2). The new virtual reality headset has been out for 5 months now and is a game changer with not only what could be considered the most advanced hardware that VR has to offer, but also at a price that beats the competition.
However, PlayStation will need to support PSVR2 with flagship titles that can’t be experienced anywhere else if the company is to stay competitive in the VR space. If history has proven anything, it is that Sony has not always supported its hardware, such as the PlayStation Vita. The Vita was ahead of the handheld curve and had lots of potential to take over the market, but ultimately was held back by bizarre business decisions.
So, there could be a genuine fear on if PSVR2 is a sustainable option to invest in, but players should not be afraid to jump into the virtual unknown with what could be considered the truest generational leap in gaming, assuming Sony stands by the PSVR2 with exclusive titles and continuous support.
PSVR2 vs Valve Index
The Valve Index was the cutting-edge VR headset on the market by Valve, the company that recently innovated the handheld market with the consumer-friendly Steam Deck, but with Sony continuing to invest in VR, the PSVR2 may now be considered the best version of virtual reality that money can buy.
The PSVR2 requires a PS5, has a $550 price point, and launched February 22, 2023. The Valve Index requires a PC with hardware that supports it, has a price point of $999, and launched June 18, 2019.
Virtual reality was still in its infancy when headsets like the PSVR1 and Oculus Quest released, and the Valve Index was a window into what the technology was capable of. But now, with the PSVR2, it might just be the best time for newcomers to enter the world of virtual reality gaming.
Despite both the Index and the PSVR2 requiring specific hardware, the PSVR2 has a much simpler setup process that only requires the user to plug in the headset via a USB-C to the PS5, making it more accessible for a general audience.
Regarding specific specs of the devices, the PSVR2 has an OLED screen for deeper blacks and contrast, adaptive triggers/vibration, eye tracking, foveated rendering, and a screen resolution of 2000×2040 compared to the lower 1440×1600 resolution on the Index. However, the Index excels over PSVR2 with its slightly larger field of view at 130 degrees, opposed to the PSVR2 110-degree FOV, as well as a higher refresh rate of 144hz compared to the 120hz on PSVR2, which is problematic in its current state on PSVR2 assuming the 120hz uses reprojection to achieve.
Reprojection: Ghost in the Machine
Reprojection was supposed to be a solution presented by Sony, but its currently an issue for the PSVR2 headsets depending on if developers utilize this rendering technology during the creation process of their games. It is meant as a development method that boosts the refresh rate of games from 60hz to 120hz without having to sacrifice the games performance in other areas of development. Not only does a higher refresh rate make gaming look and play better, but specifically in VR, a higher refresh rate is also tied to less motion sickness for players that may be prone to it.
The problem with reprojection is in how Sony has implemented the feature to be used by developers, which has created blurriness and ghosting that can break the immersion, ironically causing nausea in some cases. Unfortunately, this issue is present in some of the biggest games on PSVR2, such as Horizon: Call of the Mountain, Gran Turismo 7, Hubris, Resident Evil Village, and is even supposed to be present in the upcoming Resident Evil 4 Remake.
Currently, the best-case scenario for PSVR2 games is that the refresh rate is native without the use of reprojection, although this is more difficult to achieve with a higher refresh rate, but some games, such as Red Matter 2, are using the fact that the game does not use reprojection as a marketing strategy given the current state of the feature.
However, it is reported that players could see a solution via a software update by Sony at some point, which would supposedly fix the problem for the games affected by it.
The Bottom Line
Despite some flaws, as well as the FOV and refresh rate being slightly superior in the Index, ultimately with the PSVR2 being half the price and taking big steps in technology that pushes VR forward, such as higher screen resolution, eye tracking, foveated rendering, haptic feedback in the headset, and adaptive triggers, it may be more appealing to a wider audience, especially those that already owns a PS5.
Even though the Index utilizes a larger library of games available in the SteamOS, compared to the smaller library available for PSVR2, the PlayStation headset just recently released, so the possibilities of what PSVR2 is capable of is more exciting, and it is understandable that there would be a few kinks to work out.
However, the anxiety for players lies in if Sony will be invested to support the headset by not only fixing the reprojection issues, but also by making the headset as big as it can be. Assuming the company will stand by PSVR2 for the long run, there are many exhilarating games already on the PSVR2 to be excited about, and more that are releasing in the near future, so this might be convincing enough for players to invest in PSVR2, especially with rumors of a PS5 Pro on the way that could enhance the experience.
What Does PSVR2 Offer That the Competition Doesn’t?
PSVR2 games like Horizon: Call of the Mountain, Resident Evil Village, Gran Turismo 7, Moss 2, Red Matter 2, Hubris, Garden of the Sea, Pavlov, and Synapse, as well as upcoming PSVR2 games like Resident Evil 4 Remake, Firewall: Ultra, Low-Fi, Behemoth, Madison, and Phasmophobia, are sure to be exciting and unique experiences exclusively on PSVR2. The elephant in the room, though, is that many of these games can still be played on other platforms, despite them being a better experience on PSVR2, and some games being remastered versions of previous VR games.
Sony currently has two first-party titles on PSVR2; Horizon: Call of the Mountain, and Gran Turismo 7.
Indie developers have been picking up the slack for what may have been considered a soft launch for the headset. The roadmap for PSVR2 is also somewhat unclear, as far as first-party AAA PlayStation titles are concerned, but there is speculation that the Microsoft deal may have made Sony keep its cards close to its chest.
It could be argued that the PSVR2 may have more exciting games just after 5 months compared to the Index, but even considering this, as well as the Valve headset expensive price tag, the Index does have a major advantage over the PSVR2 in one specific area of its gaming library that could make up for this, at least to those that can dish out the extra cost.
Half-Life: Alyx was not only considered a major step forward for VR but is also a continuation of the mega-popular sci-fi franchise that had remained dormant for over a decade, built from the ground-up by Valve specifically for VR. Alyx received overwhelmingly positive reception with 10 out of 10 scores across the board. It is a flagship title that is sure to stand the test of time, revealing an experience that highlights the best of what virtual reality has to offer.
There was hope in the build-up to PSVR2, specifically in the year 2022, that Half-Life: Alyx would be announced for the headset, but even after 5 months since its release, the needle has not moved in this regard. It may be safe to say at this point that Alyx is an exclusive title for PC, which PSVR2 is not compatible with.
So far, Sony has some truly excellent titles for the headset, but even so, the PSVR2 does not have its own version of Half-Life: Alyx. It wouldn’t need to be a sci-fi first-person shooter from a dormant PlayStation IP, per say, like what Alyx was, but PlayStation certainly has a few of these hidden away in the closet, such as the Resistance and Killzone franchises, assuming the potential development team is given the AAA budget needed to build its game from the ground up for PSVR2.
The Future is Virtual
VR gaming is the equivalent of watching a movie in a theater without distractions. There is nothing else but the player and the game, with higher levels of immersion that dissolve the boundary between the player and the space in which they are playing in.
Video games were already an interactive experience that bridged the gap between playing and watching, but thanks to VR, that experience has evolved to one that encourages players to simulate having to shoot a weapon with their arms, reloading their weapon using their hands, further mechanics that involve the ability to shine a flashlight at an enemy player to physically blind them through the VR headset, unless that player closes their eyes at the right moment, which the headset will detect, and physically interacting with the environment in gaming mechanics, such as platforming like rock climbing, as well as having to physically pick up weapons, health, resources off the ground and table tops, etc.
The PSVR2 is an exciting step forward in VR, and one that has the potential to dominate the market, assuming Sony supports it like it does the PS5, and Valve doesn’t come out with its next iteration of the Valve Index. Even so, competition is encouraged, as it will only further progress the hardware and software of VR.