The PlayStation VR2 is out! You can actually buy one! In fact, given the increasing supply of PlayStation 5 consoles available, you might even be able to get one of those so you can actually use it too! Yes, we live in a glorious new era, one where it’s possible to purchase expensive consumer electronics if that’s what you’d like to do. Enjoy the future, folks, because the future of virtual reality has become a reality.
That said…do you want a PSVR2? Well, the initial review of the hardware we posted might suggest you would, but it’s hard to really say until you’ve seen some of the games. Frankly, there’s a lot to play on your new headset (just check out Sony’s official page if you don’t believe me). While we can’t cover them all here, let me introduce you to a few of the best and brightest available in the PSVR2’s launch lineup to give you an idea about what you’ll be playing with your new VR headset.
Let’s start by talking about the robotic elephant in the room. Horizon: Call of the Mountain is the PSVR2’s killer app, the piece de resistance, the creme de la creme, the…other fancy-sounding French terms. In other words, this is the must-play game for the headset, and it’s also potentially the pack-in game you’ll receive with your device if you go for the more expensive bundle. Sony wants you to like this one. Did you like Horizon: Forbidden West? Then you’ll probably like this too!
Call of the Mountain follows Ryas, a former member of the Shadow Carja who seeks redemption from his time as a bad guy and hopes to achieve it by clambering around on cliffs and shooting at robots with his bow. As with most VR2 games, we’ll control Ryas from a first-person perspective using the Sense controllers as hands. There’s plenty of little gimmicks to mess with, such as opening barrels by grabbing the lids and throwing them aside or eating by picking up food and dragging it to your “mouth,” but let’s talk a little about the core gameplay.
As Ryas is a mountaineer, the vast majority of your time will be spent climbing around, which amounts to reaching around with the Senses, grabbing ledges with the triggers, pulling yourself around and so on. It’s surprisingly intuitive and even a little tiring after a while. Combined with the VR2’s immersive graphics this is a lot more enjoyable than it might initially sound and it’s a great introduction to the Sense controllers as well.
There’s also combat; Ryas carries a bow that you can equip via the traditional VR method of reaching behind your back to grab it. Archery amounts to holding up your bow with one Sense and drawing an arrow with the other, then releasing to fire. One surprise was just how confident Call of the Mountain is in its combat; this is an actual video game rather than just the tech demo one might expect from a VR title, so you’ll have to combine archery with dodging and moving about to avoid some vicious enemy attacks. Add in a couple twists like craftable elemental arrows in the Horizon tradition and you’ve got an engrossing combat experience.
All told, Horizon: Call of the Mountain handily fulfills its role as the VR2’s headliner. Other games might do aspects of the VR experience slightly better or worse, but few tie the whole concept together quite as well as this one. If you’re only going to play one game out of the VR2’s library, it should probably be Call of the Mountain.
First-person rhythm games are a long-running VR tradition so it’s natural that the PSVR2 might launch with a couple. The first we’ll check out is Ragnarock, which has the player control a Viking on a longship going on a mystical journey into the realm of Asgard. You’ll need to encourage your rowers by hammering out some beats on a virtual drum set with your mighty Sense controllers. This is definitely one of those games where you should probably be thankful that you can’t see yourself flailing around like a doofus – see also: Call of the Mountain having you claw at thin air while climbing.
We’ve got a variety of mostly Viking-themed metal tracks here and you’re going to play along with them Guitar Hero-style by whacking your drums. You’ve got a little more freedom thanks to the controls than something like Guitar Hero, though, and precision means a tiny bit more when you actually have to aim for the drums. One middling complaint is the fact that the virtual drum setup might be a little bit of a pain to use while sitting, so Ragnarock may be a better choice for a standing game, but there’s plenty of options to finagle with to make things work. Aside from that, the music’s fantastic and the note charts are both enjoyable and accurate enough to actually get into the experience. If you want a rhythm experience that’s a little less complex than something like Pistol Whip, which we’ll talk about momentarily, Ragnarock is a solid choice.
Here’s the other first-person rhythm game we checked out from the launch lineup – this one’s been ported from the original PSVR. Pistol Whip asks a little more of the player than Ragnarock, to say the least, and this can be both a good and a bad thing. It’s a combination rail shooter, FPS and rhythm game; you’ll automatically race down a track as enemies show up and blast away in your direction. You need to coordinate dodging their bullets by physically moving out of their way with firing back and slipping past oncoming obstacles, with extra credit offered for doing all this to the beat.
This is a lot to manage all at once, particularly if you’re new to VR. It makes for a highly rewarding game once you’ve got the hang of it though, and the wide array of stages, weapons and perks available to spice up the gameplay means you aren’t going to run out of content any time soon. One point we’ll come back to is that the Sense controllers are fantastic for gunplay, proving both accurate and weighty enough to feel good in the hand, and Pistol Whip makes for a great demonstration of the possibilities this can offer. Stick with Pistol Whip even if it seems overwhelming at first and you’re bound to have a great time.
One point I made when talking about Call of the Mountain is that many VR2 games feel confident. They’re absolutely dead set on the idea that they’re “real” video games regardless of platform, and that might be due to the evolution of VR over the years since the original PSVR’s release. The Light Brigade is one of the stronger examples of this concept in the VR2’s launch lineup, offering an unforgiving roguelike shooter experience that expects a lot of the player from step one.
There’s a fair amount of quirks involved in The Light Brigade such that we can’t necessarily cover them all in a rollup article like this, but the bread and butter of the experience is WWII-era gunplay. Your weapons are heavy, clunky and remarkably satisfying to use, from your initial rifle to later weapons like the submachine gun, and there’s a minimal amount of assistance offered to the player. You’ll have to aim and fire with both hands much of the game and keeping your weapon up involves physically holding down the Sense’s buttons at all times, which can be a little bit of a pain over the course of a long session, but it makes gunplay feel all the more rewarding when you get accustomed to the system and start taking out baddies. Likewise, reloading involves reaching down to your waist to grab a new magazine, which is enjoyable but can get you killed in the heat of battle.
You absolutely will be killed by the way. The Light Brigade is no joke and takes its status as a roguelite very seriously. Your character can’t take many hits at all, so it’s of the utmost importance that you use cover and prioritize your targets to survive. You can unlock new classes, weapons and upgrades as you progress, so if you’re able to get past its punishing nature, The Light Brigade is one of the more rich experiences on the platform.
While the PSVR2 is naturally inclined toward first-person shooters, there’s the odd game here and there that does something a little different with the device. Case in point: Moss and its sequel, which goes in a different direction entirely by offering a third-person platforming experience. Mouse heroine Quill will clamber around little diorama-sized platforming levels while you watch from on high, controlling her via the Sense controllers’ buttons and sticks. When she needs a little help, you can interact with certain parts of the environment more directly via traditional VR pointing, pulling and grabbing.
This makes for an interesting hybrid take on traditional and VR games that shows how the headset can add a little extra spice to classic gameplay. The ability to physically move around and examine the areas that Quill is exploring lends a sense of realism to the proceedings that other platformers just don’t have. Combine this with Moss’ overflowing charm, particularly thanks to our adorable mouse heroine, and you’ve got a winner. The Moss games are engrossing experiences that demonstrate the myriad possibilities available in VR.
Conclusion: Something Old, Something New
In the interests of not overloading this article, we’ll wrap things up here. What can we say about the initial spread of games for the PlayStation VR2? Well…there’s not really a loser in the bunch based on our initial experience with the device. It seems to be a far better curated experience than the launch of the original PSVR, and there’s something to be said for a heavy-hitting launch title like Horizon: Call of the Mountain to really drive home the magic of VR.
The question then becomes whether or not Sony will be able to keep up the pace. The PSVR2 is definitely one of the best price-to-performance VR experiences out there at the moment, especially if you’ve already got a PlayStation 5 console, but the launch library is relatively limited compared to the endless array of games available on the PC and even the original PSVR. So long as the platform doesn’t fall by the wayside, the initial layout of games available suggests that Sony’s second-generation VR headset has a bright future ahead of it.