One of the worst experiences I ever had in virtual reality was rolling credits on Half-Life: Alyx. Not playing the game – mind you – that was fantastic. No, I hated rolling credits on the game because I knew this phenomenal AAA VR experience was over, and I didn’t know when I would ever have another VR adventure of that caliber again.
Anyone who has ever put on a VR headset can tell you that the technology is promising. Anyone who owns a VR headset can tell you how slow the industry has been to fulfill that promise. I love creative offerings like Beat Saber, Superhot VR, and Pistol Whip. Those entertaining diversions make me happy to have a headset, but they only provide one type of experience. I still crave meatier, story-based VR adventures. Stuff like Half-Life: Alyx and … and … and well there aren’t a lot of other examples.
Some of my favorite games from last year were Deathloop, Metroid Dread, and Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart. Sadly, there aren’t a lot of games like those in VR. But there should be! Thankfully, Sony’s recent PlayStation VR2 announcements have reinvigorated my hope that we may soon get more big-budget VR titles.
During its CES 2022 conference, PlayStation President Jim Ryan offered details on PlayStation VR2. Its specs are solid. The PSVR2 will feature OLED screens with a resolution of 2000×2040 per eye and run at 90hz or 120hz, which is a higher degree of fidelity than either the Quest 2 or Valve’s Index. Sony’s new system also makes use of foveated rendering, which means that it uses eye-tracking to deliver the greatest graphical details to your direct field of view. After all, anything in your periphery doesn’t need to be crystal clear. Theoretically, this should provide greater visual fidelity without sacrificing performance. What’s more, Sony says its set will use high dynamic range technology, which should make games look even better and brighter.
If that wasn’t enough, Sony’s set also includes on-board haptic feedback, so your headset can shake in response to every virtual explosion or sword swipe to the head. I’m a little skeptical of this tech. In theory, it could immerse players even more in their virtual worlds. But, I have trouble imagining that these vibrations won’t aggravate some player’s motion sickness. Still, Sony probably wouldn’t spend money manufacturing tech if it didn’t think it worked on some level.
I could complain that the system still needs to be plugged into your PS5 via a cable (don’t trip on it) or that the field-of-view could still be wider (even if 110 degrees is more significant than most commercial sets), but I’m not going to complain. Not yet. I want to be positive because Sony is putting some serious money into virtual reality, and that’s something I’d like to see from more developers. In addition to all this hardware, Sony announced that it’s working on a few big-budget games using some of Sony’s big brands, such as a new Horizon game from Guerrilla Games and Firesprite. That’s the only announced PSVR2 project so far, but I’m hopeful we’ll see more big announcements in the months to come.
After all, many of Sony’s properties are ripe for VR implementation. I’d love to play a new Uncharted game where you feel like you’re hanging by your fingernails from a cliffside. Or imaging playing a God of War game and physically throwing Kratos’ ax and then watching it return to your hands. Or what if you could swing through a concrete jungle as Insomniac’s version of Spider-Man. Finally, imagine laying down some fat beats in a new PaRappa the Rapper VR experience. Okay, that last one might not be a perfect fit, but I’ll take a new PaRappa however I can get it.
We still don’t have a price, or a release date, for the PlayStation VR2, but the technology sounds promising, which should allow more developers to make fantastic VR experiences, which is all I want. Maybe by this time next year, I’ll have a few more big-budget VR experiences to sink my teeth into. Until then, I guess I’ll go back and replay Half-Life: Alyx.
P.S. Hey Sony, Half-Life: Alyx would make a great killer app for this new headset of yours!