By Steffan PowellGaming reporter
1 hour ago
Is virtual reality the future of gaming?
It’s a question the industry has been squabbling over for some time, with passionate views on both sides.
And there’s nothing like a shiny new piece of gear to reignite the debate.
With the release of PlayStation VR2, one of gaming’s biggest players says virtual reality will play a significant role in the industry for years to come.
Some thought Sony might ditch its virtual reality experiment after failing to invest in many blockbuster VR games, indicating a lack of faith in their initial foray into the space.
I found the original PlayStation VR uncomfortable, clunky, and a cable tidy’s worst nightmare.
Released in 2016, it gave players some real moments of joy and smiles when playing Tetris Effect for the first time. Resident Evil 7 experienced through the headset is hands down the scariest and most traumatic gaming experience of my life.
But those memorable moments were few and far between. A lack of “must-play” games, particularly those that are device-only, was an issue that was never resolved. Despite this, 5 million units were sold worldwide.
Jordan Middler says Horizon: Call of the Mountain is a “beautiful” virtual reality experience but argues there needs to be more of it on the platform
The PS VR2 is undoubtedly a smoother, lighter and more comfortable experience than its predecessor. It tries to embed itself in the midst of an increasingly crowded VR marketplace.
You already need a PlayStation 5 to use it. If you own one, then it’s a virtual reality gaming option that isn’t as expensive as the high-end Valve Index (which requires a top-of-the-line PC to operate). Still, it offers a more impressive spec than cheaper options like the Meta Quest 2 (which costs around £400).
So does its release help answer the question that has dogged gaming since Nintendo’s Virtual Boy came out in 1995? Will all gaming look like in the future?
Games journalist Jordan Middler 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 had before.
“It’s amazing from a hardware perspective, a really impressive headset,” he begins.
“The price (£529) might put some people off as it’s actually more than the PS5 console itself, but for the graphics performance you get in this headset it’s more affordable than its PC equivalents.”
Impressed as he is with the headset, Middler worries that the same complaint that has plagued VR gaming from the start still applies – what will people be playing? There’s a lack of unique experiences for the device, he says.
“You really only get Horizon: Call of the Mountain as a true PS VR2 exclusive.
“Where are all the other big Sony titles that make the PlayStation itself so popular? Where’s the Spiderman VR game or a Last of Us VR experience?”
A lack of so-called “system vendors,” meaning titles that are so good they incentivize people to buy new hardware just to play a particular game, is a criticism often leveled at many virtual reality devices directs.
The majority of the games available on the PS VR2, such as Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge, are also available on other VR headsets
If most of the titles currently playable on the PS VR2 are also available on other headsets, why should gamers choose it over the others?
“There isn’t much on the track either,” says Middler.
For now, Sony is relying on the Horizon series’ VR connection to do a lot of the heavy lifting.
Horizon: Call of the Mountain may be the only significant exclusive at launch, but Middler says he’s very impressed with the game, describing it as “absolutely beautiful.”
In the release, you climb mountains and hunt with bows and arrows in a post-apocalyptic world made famous by the character Aloy in 2017.
“I was shocked and a little embarrassed at how quickly the game made me strain my arms and start hurting when climbing 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 where you walk under a Tall Neck, a giant sort of mechanical giraffe, and the game really tricks your brain into making you think you’re in this world.
“The gameplay speaks volumes too – this isn’t just a theme park experience.”
Horizon: Call of the Mountain is a spin-off of the Horizon series in which the player becomes a disgraced ex-soldier
Games for the original PlayStation VR are not currently compatible with its new brother. That means gamers who have built a games library for this device will have to start over if they choose to upgrade to PS VR2, or wait to see if a fix is offered.
It’s one of the reasons Middler believes this is a headset that will attract “the toughest of hardcore gamers” who genuinely believe virtual reality gaming is the future.
He argues that players need to have “a lot of faith in PlayStation” to invest time and money into developing more games since the previous iteration was “abandoned” near the end of its time.
The PS VR2 has many positive aspects but also raises many questions – it is a microcosm of the virtual reality gaming experience to date.
This device doesn’t provide definitive answers, so the role of VR in the future of gaming will likely be a topic of conversation in the industry for some time to come.