The PSVR2 could be the harbinger of an exciting new future for console gaming
Out of the entire SupNerd crew, I’m the one with the least experience in VR gaming. I’d always felt that the technology needed to take another step for me to take a serious interest, especially with the disaster that’s been going on in the last couple of years regarding Facebook / Meta and their push toward their unimpressive metaverse.
However, after hearing what the rest of the SupNerd crew had to say in their first impressions video, I felt compelled to take the plunge and give the world of VR gaming a go.
Man, am I glad I did.
A brave new world
It’s always fun to try something new, and as a lifelong gamer, nothing was more alien to me than trying out a piece of tech like the PSVR2. When I think of console gaming, I’ve always associated it with a single controller. I’d been a bit put off in the past, for example, by the PSVR1 needing an additional camera to track your movements. Now, with the PSVR2 only needing the headset, a pair of controllers and a PS5, it felt far more simple and accessible.
I’ve got to say, though, that I was pretty impressed by how easy it was to set up. Everything from having to put the headset on, calibrate a play space, and adjust for comfort was shockingly easy. The headset itself feels comfortable to put on, it’s easy to tighten and move around, and the built-in earphones provide good spatial sound.
When it comes to trying out new things, it’s always the little details that tend to stick with me. With the PSVR2, the first thing that comes to mind is how the device tracks your eye movement when playing around with in-game menus. There’s a certain wow factor when you realize what’s happening for the first time, and it took me a while to get used to the functionality. Once I did, though, I definitely started preferring eye tracking compared to the traditional menu navigation method of using controllers.
I tested out two games during the time I had to play with the PSVR2. Here are my thoughts on both of them.
Horizon Call of the Mountain
Horizon Call of the Mountain was an eye-opener for this VR newbie. I felt immersed from the get-go because they took great care in ensuring that players would explore the possibilities of the PSVR2’s control schemes in-game.
Getting that feeling of resistance from the haptics after putting my hand in the river during the introduction had me interested right away. After that, getting used to mechanics like climbing, having to look left and right to find additional ledges to grab onto, and then learning how to use the bow in a fight had me feeling like a little kid learning how to play games all over again.
There was a certain sense of added wonder since Horizon Call of the Mountain was my first game on the PSVR2, and it certainly added an extra sense of excitement to see Aloy on screen as an NPC for the first time. It was kind of funny to realize how short she was compared to other characters, something that I didn’t really notice as much in the other Horizon titles on PS4 and PS5. It’s hard to explain to people who aren’t familiar with VR, like me, but being thrown into a fully 3D, 360 degree environment within a game adds a sense of depth and scale that can’t be matched by ‘regular’ games. It’s one thing to look at a game on a big screen TV, it’s entirely something else to feel like you’re inside the world.
When it came to combat, fighting robot dinosaurs gave me a sense of dread that can’t be matched by a more traditional console experience. Seeing enemies rush at you and barely dodging them in front of your eyes, while also trying to frantically aim my bow and shoot at vulnerable zones isn’t something that you could ever experience in the other Horizon games. Hell, even an encounter with a watcher was terrifying, even though I remembered them as being a trivial fight in the other games.
Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge
Out of the two games I tried, I think I had more fun with Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge. Part of it likely stems from me being a bit of a Star Wars nerd, but I felt that I enjoyed the experience more because of how the controls felt.
There’s a stark contrast between Horizon Call of the Mountain and the movement controls for Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge. While you had to move your arms up and down to move forward in the former, you’re given two different options in the latter.
Players can either use the controller thumbstick to move around, or teleport between locations instantly using an on-screen cursor. While the game explicitly recommends teleporting for those who may find movement jarring, I actually felt that the option to teleport was what caused me a bit of discomfort.
As a new user, movement is one of the few things that felt a little strange. In both games, you’re playing in a world where you can see everything around you when you turn your body and head, but you’re still limited to using controllers for movement instead of using the physical space around you. I understand that it currently isn’t feasible to expect everyone to have a massive amount of space to move around in their homes, but the reliance on controllers for movement is still a noticeable gap in a true immersive experience.
Getting to play around with the interface felt good in Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge. From grabbing items off a bar top, to using a Pip-Boy-like device on your left arm to scan items or point yourself toward a quest target, it really felt like I was using futuristic in-game tech in a meaningful way. Not having to fiddle through as many pause screen menus, even though some are still necessary, makes the gameplay experience more enjoyable. Another good mechanic that I can remember is having to look down and put your weapon or tool on your belt before grabbing something else to use. That’s just fun to do – except when you panic in a fight and throw away your gun by accident instead of putting it on your belt.
I especially enjoyed the gunplay, which required you to manually aim and release a heat valve for weapons that have overheated. I felt like a badass holding two guns akimbo-style, even if it was admittedly not the most effective way to fight. Let’s just say I can now kind of understand why Stormtroopers missed all the time in the movies… and I’m not ashamed of it.
Plenty of potential
I only had a couple of hours to play around with PSVR2, but I can honestly say that I was impressed with what I saw, especially considering that titles made specifically for the platform will only get better as developers get more experienced.
I’ve never been much of a VR proponent, but once I’ve gone back to having a living room big enough to create a proper area, I’ll be picking one up. The potential is there for the technology to allow for unique gaming experiences, ones that transcend the traditional controls that the majority of us gamers have been used to since consoles first came out.
If there was a drawback, I’d say it’s the need for proper space. Even though you can play some games in a seated position, you really need to have a proper play area to fully enjoy the PSVR2 experience.
As someone who is admittedly resistant to change, I’m surprised that I enjoyed my experience with the PSVR2 as much as I did. I look forward to spending more time checking out other games in the future. I’m especially curious to see what No Man’s Sky will feel like on the platform.
Want to learn more about the PSVR2? Check out the recent deep-dive that the SupNerd crew did.