Racing is perfect for virtual reality. It literally puts you in the driving seat, bringing your racing fantasies to life.
With the launch of PlayStation VR in 2016, Sony made its first foray into the VR market, allowing racing game fans to experience VR on PS4 for the first time. Despite its niche appeal, it sold over five million units, making it a roaring success by VR market standards. Unfortunately, the PS4 clearly wasn't powerful enough to handle racing games, compromising the experience.
Six years later, PlayStation VR2 is finally here, promising a generational leap in fidelity and immersion over the original. Horizon Call of the Mountain is touted as the PSVR 2's flagship launch title - but one that only lasts a few hours. Gran Turismo 7 is the true showstopper.
The complete package
When Sony announced PSVR 2, Gran Turismo 7 was at the top of our wishlist for games we wanted to play in VR. Thankfully, Polyphony has delivered as GT7 is playable in PSVR 2 at launch.
This isn't the first time the series has been playable in VR. On the original PSVR, Gran Turismo Sport’s VR support was limited to time trials and races against one car on track in a separate VR Tour mode. It felt like a fancy tech demo rather than a fully-fledged game.
By contrast, GT7 is the complete package on PSVR 2.
Except for split-screen races, GT7 is fully playable in VR. That means you can experience every car, circuit and race event in PSVR 2. VR races now support grids of up to 14 cars and you can even race with human opponents online in Sport Mode. All this makes GT7 the most feature-packed PSVR 2 game you can play at launch.
Best of all, there’s no upgrade charge. If you already own GT7, the PSVR 2 update is free to download as part of the recent 1.29 patch.
Racing games are a great showcase of new hardware and the same is true with GT7 on PSVR2. Unlike GT Sport, GT7 visuals aren't noticeably downgraded in VR, despite running at a higher frame rate than the standard game at 120fps.
This is likely due to PSVR 2’s clever foveated rendering, which reduces the resolution of screen areas in your peripheral vision to save processing power.
While PSVR 2 renders the image in 4K resolution with 2,000 x 2040 pixels per eye, don’t expect the image quality to be as crystal clear as a 4K television viewed from a distance. Even at this resolution, pixelation and blurring are unavoidable when the screen is inches from your eyeballs.
Despite this, PSVR 2's OLED display still produces stunning images, with deep blacks and rich colours that pop thanks to the HDR.
Finding the sweet spot is fiddlier than the original PSVR, so it’s worth taking the time to adjust the lens distance and headset position to get the clearest image. Lowering the image brightness also helps reduce the screen door effect, which makes the image look grainy.
GT7’s PSVR 2 update introduces a new VR Showroom mode allowing you to place your car in a chosen location such as outside the GT Café, a lavish showroom or a garage with pit crews wandering around.
From here, you can then explore the meticulously detailed interiors or use the analogue sticks to walk around the exterior and face buttons to change the camera height and angle.
The sense of scale is staggeringly realistic – you really believe you’re sitting inside or standing next to your dream car.
Viewing cars up close in VR reveals hidden details you may have missed on a flat screen, from the tread information on the tyres to headlight lenses and stitches on leather seats. Just be careful not to step outside your play area boundary as the car turns into a crude, immersion-breaking wireframe model.
While you can walk around the exterior, it’s a shame you can’t lift the bonnet to examine the engine or open doors and boots like in Forzavista. Sadly, you also can’t start or rev the engine– all you can do is switch the headlights and indicators on and off.
VR Showroom could expand in future updates. For now, though, the level of interaction is disappointingly limited. Even so, it’s easy to spend hours admiring the lovingly crafted car models and sitting inside the interiors.
A driving fan’s dream come true
Out on the track, GT7 in VR is a driving fan’s dream come true. PSVR 2 transports you into the cockpit of your favourite cars with a heightened feeling of speed and intensity. Space between cars, braking distances and corner apexes are easier to judge in VR, helping improve your lap times.
Looking at your mirrors to monitor the position of your competitors and block them from overtaking feels incredibly intuitive. It makes a strong case for allowing VR in competitive esports racing.
GT7 also takes advantage of the PSVR 2’s haptic feedback. If you hit a wall or opponent, the headset vibrates to simulate the impact. It’s a subtle but immersive effect.
It’s worth noting that GT7 doesn’t support the VR2 Sense controllers bundled with the PSVR 2. This makes sense as you aren't supposed to play GT7 standing up. You can still use a standard DualSense controller, but pairing PSVR 2 with a racing wheel and pedals provides the best experience.
When playing GT7 in VR, your track position and lap time are displayed in a floating HUD by default. This can be switched off, but you can rely on your car's working speedometer thanks to the excellent image clarity.
While the cars and interiors look incredible, some environments don’t stand up to scrutiny as the low-resolution textures clearly weren’t designed to be seen up close. That said, tackling familiar circuits feels like a new experience, with VR giving a more visceral sense of elevation changes.
Outside of races, GT7's menus are displayed in PSVR 2’s cinematic mode on a flat screen in front of you. Switching from a rolling start or a pit stop in 2D to VR with no warning feels jarring at first.
After races, a new VR replay mode lets you watch the action from a spectator’s perspective on the trackside. Watching cars zoom past inches away from you is exhilarating, especially with 3D audio headphones. Strangely, you can’t sit inside the cockpit during replays, which seems like an oversight.
PSVR 2 highlights the need for more cockpit views and camera customisation in GT7. You can only play GT7 in VR with the default cockpit camera. There are no options to remove the steering wheel, move the camera closer to the dashboard or adjust the seat position.
This lack of comfort options to reduce motion sickness isn’t ideal. If this is your first time playing a racing game in VR, we recommend playing in short bursts initially.
Don’t jump into a Bugatti Chiron in your first play session and go full throttle for the entire race. Starting with slower cars will help you adapt to VR and build up a tolerance to motion sickness. If you start feeling queasy and sweaty, don't try and ride it out - stop playing, remove the headset and take a break.
Should you buy PSVR 2?
As for the hardware, PSVR 2 is a phenomenal piece of kit that makes the original feel like a Fisher-Price toy. Thanks to its higher resolution, wider field of view, and OLED screen, the visual quality is a massive step up from the original headset’s blurry display.
The headset is lighter than the original, making it more comfortable to wear during long sessions. Equally comfortable are the sleek VR2 Sense controllers, which are much more responsive than the PSVR's outdated Move controllers originally designed for PlayStation 3. The difference in tracking accuracy is night and day.
It’s simple to set up too, requiring a single USB-C connection to the PS5 compared to the original’s convoluted setup that needed a separate processor box connected to the PS4 with copious amounts of wires cluttering your floor.
My original PSVR headset gathered dust over time as it became too much hassle to set up, but PSVR 2's simple plug-in-and-play setup instantly makes it more accessible.
Some may bemoan the fact that PSVR 2 isn’t wireless like the Meta Quest 2, tethering you to the console. But the upshot is this means PSVR 2 can harness the power of PS5. Put simply, GT7’s gorgeous graphics wouldn’t be possible if PSVR 2 was wireless. The minor inconvenience of having the headset wired to the PS5 is worth it for the boost in fidelity.
For racing fans, GT7 is undoubtedly a PSVR 2 system seller – if you can afford it. At £529.99, PSVR 2 is eye-wateringly expensive. Factor in the PS5 console required to play it, and the cost increases to over £1,000 - and that's before you've bought any games. That makes it far less obtainable to casual players than the original PSVR, restricting its appeal to hardcore VR enthusiasts.
It doesn’t help that the VR headset market has changed drastically since the original PSVR was launched six years ago. Since then, the Meta Quest has lowered the barrier of entry for VR, being a standalone headset that doesn’t require an expensive PC or console to run. If you’ve yet to dip your toe into VR, Meta Quest is the cheapest entry point.
If you’re already an avid VR fan, PSVR 2 is easy to recommend. Its technology is cutting edge, yet it’s cheaper than equivalent high-end PC VR headsets like the Valve Index.
Ultimately, PSVR 2’s success will depend on software support. There are plenty of racing games we want to play PSVR 2. But right now, its game release roadmap is unclear.
Aside from GT7 and Horizon, there aren’t enough essential first-party exclusives to justify the steep cost yet, with most launch games already available on Meta Quest 2.
Once you've played GT7 in VR, you'll never want to go back to a flat screen again. It sets a new benchmark for virtual reality racing. With GT7, Polyphony proves that VR can revolutionise racing games - it’s now up to third-party developers to follow its lead.
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