The PlayStation VR2 delivers one of the best virtual reality experiences you can find—if you can stomach the $599 cost (on top of an already expensive console). That was the crux of our review a few weeks ago. But our impressions of the headset were also limited by the games we were able to preview. Since then, Sony has officially launched PS VR2 support for Gran Turismo 7, and Capcom has done the same for Resident Evil Village. Both are exclusive showpieces for the PlayStation VR2 (RE Village also has an unofficial PC VR mod), and exemplify everything Sony got right with this new hardware.
Now, I'm not much of a racing sim player, I'd much rather be zooming around Forza Horizon's open worlds, or revisiting the glory days of Ridge Racer Type 4 and Burnout Paradise. But with PS VR2 support, Gran Turismo 7 feels like a completely different game. In VR, you're right in the driver's seat — you can almost feel Polyphony Digital's obsessive attention to detail. The game also feels more exhilarating, as it delivers a far greater sense of speed (a consequence of having your entire field of vision consumed by the world of GT7).
I've always appreciated the Gran Turismo games from afar, but there was a stiffness to the actual racing experience that kept me away. GT7 doesn't fully fix that flaw, but it's less pronounced in virtual reality. The combination of the Dual Sense controller and the PS VR2's built-in haptics delivered a genuinely realistic driving experience, I could feel bumps in the road in my hands and occasional feedback from hitting walls or bumping into opponents. (I never said I was a great virtual driver.) I'm sure Gran Turismo obsessives would take away even more from the virtual reality experience, especially if they're using a decent steering wheel controller.
The more time I spent in GT7 VR, the more I appreciated the little details in the game, similar to my time with Flight Simulator VR. Instead of changing camera angles or hitting a button to scope out the competition, you simply look at your side and rear view mirrors. When you're changing gears, your in-game avatar correctly shifts between the steering wheel and shifter. I occasionally had to avert my eyes from the sun while rounding a corner, a testament to the bright 4K OLED display in the PSVR2.
At one point, I was blasting down a straightaway as the sun peeked through clouds behind me, its brightness perfectly reflected in my rear view mirrors. It cast realistic shadows throughout the world, and it was so bright I couldn't properly use that mirror – just like real life! While the game doesn't look perfect in VR — there are some noticeably low-res elements in some tracks, like guardrails, signage and audiences — it's good enough to make you feel like you're actually behind a turbo-charged monster.
There's no visible ray tracing while you're playing in virtual reality, but you still get an eye-full of that realistic lighting during replays, which are projected on the PS VR2's simulated 2D screen. You can also get an up-close look at the cars in your garage, which use ray tracing to deliver achingly perfect reflections and shadows. It's the closest you'll get without stepping into a luxury car dealer.
When it comes to Resident Evil Village, I expected Capcom to deliver a worthwhile VR experience after seeing what it did with RE7, one of the best titles on the original PS VR. Well, the company didn't disappoint. Thanks to the increased horsepower of the PlayStation 5, and the higher fidelity of the PS VR2, Resident Evil Village is transformed into a living nightmare in virtual reality. There should be a warning for people already skittish of survival horror games: Play at your own peril.
Just like with Gran Turismo 7, virtual reality lets you appreciate the work that went into Resident Evil Village in entirely new ways. Walking through the game's creepy Eastern European village is even more chilling when it fills your field of view. You can always look away from a 2D screen, in VR you're forced to confront the horrors in front of you. (Sometimes closing your eyes isn't enough, not when you can hear the werewolf-like creatures skittering around the cottage you're hiding in.)
Since it's a first-person game, Resident Evil Village acquits itself well to VR. Exploration is smooth and not nausea-inducing, thankfully. And fighting off the game's various baddies is all the more thrilling when you're realistically aiming guns and other weapons. And yes, Lady Dimitrescu, the tall vampire woman who launched a thousand memes on the internet, is indeed very tall and imposing in VR.
I didn't have time to play through all of Resident Evil Village in virtual reality, but my first few hours with the game left a striking impression. Perhaps the future of virtual reality depends more on games like this, which can be enjoyed both as traditional 2D titles and with immersive headsets. We looked to Half Life Alyx to prove flagship VR games were possible. But what if we just need to think about bringing VR into more flagship games?
The more time I spent with the PS VR2, the more frustrated I became with the state of the virtual reality industry. Everything I said in my review remains true: VR feels stagnant, and another expensive headset isn't going to fix that. Maybe it's okay if VR gaming never truly becomes mainstream, just like how not everyone plays racing games with steering wheels, or people can enjoy fighting games without expensive arcade sticks. Perhaps VR can just be another accessory — albeit one that takes a significant amount of development resources to support.
Gran Turismo 7 and Resident Evil Village both prove that the PlayStation VR2 is a gateway to truly immersive virtual reality gaming. But a part of me still dreams for PC compatibility. While it's understandable why Sony may want to lock down its hardware, it's sort of like forcing a lion to live in a small zoo. The PS VR2 can't truly roar until it taps into the wild world of PC VR, which offers more experimental games and far faster graphical hardware than the PS5. If Sony ever wants to return to its innovator roots, it needs to take more chances.