- Written by Stephen Powell
- Gaming reporter
Is virtual reality the future of gaming?
It’s a question that people in the industry have been arguing about for some time, with passionate views on both sides.
And there’s nothing like a shiny new kit piece to liven up the debate.
With the release of PlayStation VR2, one of gaming’s biggest players says virtual reality will have an important role in the industry for years to come.
Some thought Sony might abandon its VR experiment after failing to invest in several blockbuster VR games, indicating a lack of confidence in its first foray into the field.
I found the original PlayStation VR to be noisy, high in motion, and the worst nightmare associated with arranging cables.
It was released in 2016, and it gave gamers some real moments of joy, creating wide smiles when playing Tetris Effect for the first time. Tested via a headset, Resident Evil 7 is the most terrifying and shocking gaming experience of my life.
But those memorable moments were few and far between. The lack of games to really play, especially those exclusive to the device, was an issue that was never resolved. Despite this, five million units were sold worldwide.
PS VR2 is without a doubt a slimmer, lighter and more comfortable experience than its predecessor. It’s looking to sandwich itself in the middle of an increasingly crowded VR market.
You’ll need a PlayStation 5 already to use it. If you own one, it’s a not-so-expensive VR gaming option like Valve’s hyper-index (which requires a top-drawer PC to run). However, it still offers more impressive technical performance than cheaper options like the Meta Quest 2 (which costs around £400).
So does its release help answer the question that has followed games since the Nintendo Virtual Boy came out in 1995? Is this what all games will look like in the future?
Games journalist Jordan Midler of Videogames Chronicle (VGC) spent time with the device prior to its release.
He says he’s always wanted a better VR experience than he’s ever been able to provide.
“From a hardware perspective, it’s incredible, a really great headset,” he begins.
“The price (£529) might turn some people off because it’s actually more than the PS5 controller itself, but for the graphical power you get in this headset, it’s more affordable than its PC counterparts.”
Impressed with the headset, Middler worries that the same complaint that has held back VR gaming from the beginning still applies now — what will people play? He says there is a lack of unique experiences available for the device.
“You really get Horizon: Call of the Mountain as a true PS VR2 exclusive.
“Where are all the other big Sony titles that make PlayStation itself so popular? Where’s the Spiderman VR game or the Last of Us VR experience?”
The lack of so-called “system vendors,” titles that are so good they encourage people to buy new hardware just to play a certain game, is a criticism often aimed at many VR hardware.
If the majority of titles that can be played on PS VR2 at the moment are also available on other headsets, why would gamers choose them over the rest?
“There’s not a whole lot that goes down on the track either,” Midler says.
For now, Sony is banking on the Horizon Series VR to do much of the heavy lifting.
Horizon: Call of the Mountain may be the only significant exclusive title at launch, but Middler says he’s very impressed with the game, calling it “absolutely beautiful.”
The release sees you climb mountains and hunt with a bow and arrow in the post-apocalyptic world made famous by the character Aloy in 2017.
“I was shocked and a little embarrassed at how quickly the game had me flexing my arm and starting to ache about going up a virtual mountain!” He laughs.
It captures the scale of the machines that call this place home in a way that’s comparable to scenes in Jurassic Park. There are moments when you go under a long-necked, hulking kind of mechanical giraffe, and the game really tricks your brain into making you think you’re in this world.
“The gameplay supports it too – this isn’t just a theme park experience.”
The original PlayStation VR games are not compatible with their new sibling at this time. This means players who have built up a game library for this console will need to start over if they choose to upgrade to PS VR2, or wait to see if a solution is offered.
It’s part of the reason Middler thinks this is a headset that will appeal to the “hardest of hardcore gamers” who truly believe that VR gaming is the future.
He argues that gamers should have “great faith in PlayStation” to invest time and money into making more games, due to the way the previous iteration was “abandoned” at the end of its time.
PS VR2 has a lot of positives but it also raises a lot of questions – it’s a microcosm of the VR gaming experience to date.
This hardware doesn’t provide any definitive answers, so the role of virtual reality in the future of gaming will likely be a topic of conversation for those in the industry for some time to come.
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