None of the big three – Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft – had dedicated booths at Tokyo Game Show this year. Thus it came as a huge surprise when people discovered Sony’s new virtual reality headset PlayStation VR 2 made both its first public appearance and its first time to be publicly demoed at TGS 2022.
That happened at Capcom’s booth with a playable demo of the PSVR 2 version of Resident Evil Village. I had the fantastic opportunity to play the PSVR 2 RE Village demo twice to get a better feel and impressions of Sony PlayStation’s next big hardware release.
Gearing Up In PSVR 2
Following a short instruction briefing, I was guided to my demo station. The first thing was putting on the PSVR2 headset itself. In that regard, it’s very similar to the original PSVR in which you pull back the extendable back of the headband and get your head in so that the front visor is resting on the front top of your noggin.
There is a knob at the very back of the headband to tighten the fit to firmly secure the headset. The front can slide a little forward or backward to get it close enough to your face. Lastly, there is the lens adjustment dial (or IPD dial) on the front of the headset to adjust the two lenses to the correct distance between your eyes. As for audio, I donned Sony PlayStation’s official Pulse 3D PS5 headset.
Next was equipping myself with the PSVR 2’s new Sense controllers – one for each hand. To make the process easier, my demo attendant activated See-Through View, which uses the headsets cameras to display the outside world to me. The cameras aren’t for high-res photography or video use and so the feed displayed to me had static and artifacting.
It made it look like I was seeing the world through Predator or robot vision, but it was enough for me to see my surroundings, and get my hands through the wrist strap and properly hold a Sense controller in each of my hands.
The last step before starting my demo was to configure the PSVR 2’s eye tracking. The calibration tutorial was simple enough: I simply had to follow a moving circle target with my eyes as it went up, down, left, and right. Once with the target against a black background and again with a white background.
Afterwards, a diagram displayed with two circles that did indeed move to certain directions depending on where my eyes were looking. My peepers were now being accurately tracked, and I was PSVR 2 ready!
Being In Resident Evil Village In VR
The demo started where I found myself in Ethan Winters’ shoes on the path leading to Castle Dimitrescu. Using the left Sense controller’s analog stick, I walked towards the castle, while taking in my virtual surroundings. I was outside on a cloudy, brisk winter day. Snow blanketed the scenery and the massive building before me. This eerie ambiance was the perfect setup for the horrific events that would unfold in a short while.
As I got closer to the entrance, I found myself moving my head upward and around to look at the castle in front of me. It felt monstrous having it smack dab right there in front of my eyes. In order to enter the castle, I stretched my arms outward to open the large front doors and proceeded inside.
Inside I found a handgun laying on a credenza that I could add to my inventory. I reached my arm out and grabbed it, by gripping the Sense controller, which pressed the grip button (R1). I began exploring the dimly lit hallways of the castle, looking for anywhere I could go.
The added immersion of virtual reality instilled a greater sense of eeriness in me. Furthermore, I appreciated the attention to detail in the castle’s aged interior and how much was able to be rendered by the PS5 for PSVR 2.
All of a sudden I heard buzzing and then something small flying in front of me. I even think I felt my headset rumble, its haptic feedback kicking in a little. My eyes focused to discover they were some kind-of flies. Yikes! More and more were appearing! I swerved my head around to see the bugs swarming around me.
As I turned to a central atrium, I saw the flies mold together and the three Dimitrescu daughters came into view. Talk about an entrance.
They were here to take me to their mother, and grabbed me by the legs and dragged me through the castle at breakneck speed. My head literally felt that as the haptics in the PSVR 2 kicked into full-gear, vibrating my head with vigor as I was flown through hallways and doors.
At last, the blurred scenes stopped, and I found myself steps away from the famous Lady Dimitrescu. If you thought she was a giantess before, you really feel her great height and presence in VR. That fact became more and more apparent as she walked towards me.
My head needed to tilt way up to match her striking gaze. Holy crap. It’s hard to avert your eyes from her, in all her glory there before you.
After some talking, Lady Dimitrescu had her daughters restrain me by piercing hooks through my hands so that I could hang from the ceiling. As I hung, it was a weird disconnect looking down to see my virtual feet hanging above the ground, while in reality, my feet were firmly planted on the ground.
Once Lady D and her girls exited the room, it was time to make my escape. My hands gradually pulled out and free from the ceiling hooks in a bloody sequence not for the faintest hearted. I burst through the door and shortly after a run-in with my first enemy: a groaning zombie resting in place. Here we go – a taste of combat!
There were two weapons at my disposal: the knife I came with and that pistol I grabbed earlier. Since the zombie had not noticed me yet, there was no better time than to try the knife. I reached for it, sheathed on my left arm. I threw it by pulling my arm back, swinging forward, while also loosening my grasp to let go of the grip button. It plopped near him. Oh, yeah, you have to aim it.
The sound of the knife landing was enough to alert the zombie to my presence. I tried throwing another knife, but that didn’t take him down. I inflicted more damage on him by slicing and stabbing with the knife, doing the gestures as you would in real life. With all the ruckus, more enemies started showing up.
This calls for more firepower. Where was my pistol? Ah, right, it’s holstered on my right side. I positioned my hand to my thigh and squeezed the controller, pressing the R1 grip button. With the gun in hand, all I had to do was point and shoot by pressing the R2 trigger.
A peculiar and funny phenomenon occurred where my gun would randomly drop from my hand because I forgot to grip the Sense controller hard enough to be pressing the R1 grip button. I was so used to being able to hold controllers loosely any way I wanted.
It reminded me of how astronauts who have recently returned to space will let go of things in their hands. Instead of having the things float like in space, they’ll fall down thanks to gravity.
Shooting was a blast, but I was out of bullets in my firearm. Unlike in most non-VR games, reloading was not done with a single button press. Here it was more like real life, as in it took multiple steps. First, I had to hit the circle button (if I was left-hand wielding, it’d be the triangle button) to eject the magazine.
Next, I had to reach with my other hand towards my thigh on the side opposite of my wielding hand, clench my hand to hit the grip button so I was holding a new magazine, and then bring it to the bottom of the pistol to load it in.
Whew. Wait, why wasn’t my gun shooting? There was one last step: cocking the gun. With my non-wielding hand I clenched to press the grip button while positioned on the top of the pistol, then pulled back on the slide. Gun successfully cocked. Back to blasting!
After defeating several enemies, my demo time ended.
Further PSVR 2 Impressions And Thoughts
In a nutshell, PSVR2 is a huge improvement over the original PSVR. The technology in both the PSVR2 headset and the two Sense controllers is leaps and bounds ahead of the previous setup of the PSVR 1 headset, PS Move wand controllers, and Move camera.
Tracking of the PSVR 2 and Sense controllers feels more accurate and responsive. One major reason has to be the PSVR 2 headset’s four cameras handling tracking of itself and the Sense controllers. PSVR 1 only had the single Move camera positioned in front of you, which would sometimes lose sight of the Move wand controllers if you were facing away from it.
With the multiple cameras on the PSVR 2 headset, I imagine it has better positional awareness, accuracy, and depth perception. Additionally, this makes the connection setup easier as the only cable that needs to be connected to the PS5 to use the PSVR 2 headset is a single USB-C cable.
The PSVR 2 Sense controllers feel nicely ergonomic and light to hold. They are compact with an orb shape having much smaller physical profiles compared to the PSVR1 Move wands that stick out of your hands with the glowing ball atop. In addition to better tracking, the Sense controllers have more inputs, including analog joysticks which were missing from the previous Wand controllers.
My only real complaint with the Sense controllers is that I wish the left controller’s triangle, square, cross and circle buttons were bigger and located more outward where my thumbs’ natural resting positions are. There were several times when I’d unintentionally hit the PS-shaped home button or the Options button, pausing the game.
I reckon over time I’d get used to the face buttons, but it would be nicer if they were easier to find from the get-go.
Like the PS5’s DualSense controller, the Sense controllers have adaptive triggers to add varying amounts of trigger tension and haptic feedback to make every rumble and vibration detailed and defined.
As I mentioned earlier, the PSVR headset itself has similar haptics, too. These features are a welcome addition and made my experience more immersive. I felt them when firing my gun, including the kickback and triggers. My head felt the rumbles and bumps when I was dragged around the castle by my feet.
The increased visual fidelity is the most apparent improvement over the original PSVR. With HDR OLED screens in front of the lenses, the colors looked great with the deep blacks and warm colors standing out while I was inside RE Village’s castle. More of my peripheral was filled out too with PSVR 2’s increased field of view – 110 degrees versus the predecessor’s 100 degrees.
The higher resolution and eye-tracking (which allows prioritizing graphics rendering of what you’re focused on) produces a much sharper image than the first PSVR. However, there were still some spots that looked blurry to me or had the kind of shimmering you see in graphics with aliasing (“jaggies”). Perhaps even higher resolution and pixel density is needed for future iterations.
Finally, there’s the topic of motion sickness. Back at E3 2016, I did get a little motion sickness during my hands-on demo of Resident Evil 7. I did not experience any real motion sickness at any point during RE Village in PSVR 2. I assume it is largely in part due to some of the above technical upgrades in responsiveness and accuracy.
The only real motion perception-related issue was finding myself occasionally swaying forward or backward when my in-game self was moving, but I never lost my balance enough to get anywhere close to falling.
The Final Word
I left Tokyo Game Show impressed with PlayStation VR2 and Resident Evil Village’s port on the platform. I didn’t have the immense “wow” factor of when I first tried the original PlayStation VR or first time using VR (which was one of the older Oculus Rift headsets). However, I had a more enjoyable and fun experience with PSVR 2.
PlayStation VR 2 will launch in early 2023, while Resident Evil Village VR currently has no release date or window.
A big thank you to the Capcom Tokyo Game Show 2022 booth attendants who took great photos while I played!