PlayStation VR2 and Gran Turismo 7 review: Hitting the track in virtual reality

Damien O'Carroll
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Here's something I never thought I'd write: the absurd joy of blasting past a Subaru Impreza WRX on the modern F1 layout of the Nurburgring like it is standing still in a Toyota Alphard Executive Lounge tuned to produce 419kW is hard to match.

The fact that I took the time to glance over my shoulder as I went past the embarrassed WRX at close to 300km/h and glimpsed the dual captain's chairs in the middle of the luxury people mover - resplendent in their white leather with satin chrome and wood trim - only increased the absurdity of the situation. And my grin.

Of course, taking time to admire the luxurious second row seating in your large people mover while doing (by now) more than 300km/h isn't the wisest course of action and the wild vibrating and blurred vision I experienced next was testament to that, as I totally missed the next corner and ploughed across the gravel trap.

Still, not a worry; the frankly ridiculous amount of power the seriously boosted V6 in the Alphard packed meant the brief off was only a minor hold up in what was an utterly dominant victory.

And the fact that it was all in a video game also mean there was no damage either...

But it wasn't just a video game; it was easily one of the most realistic experiences I have ever had in a video game. Which is why the sight of those luxurious white leather-clad armchairs distracted me so much - the level of detail in them is quite spectacular, with everything down to the grain in the wood trim on the doors being crisp and beautifully rendered.

And the fact that I could actually physically turn around and look at them in a video game was down to the fact that Sony had loaned us the new PlayStation VR2 virtual reality headset so we could try out Gran Turismo 7 on the PS5.

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PlayStation VR has been around for a while now, with the first one appearing in 2016 for the PS4. I eagerly jumped into VR on the PlayStation as I already and had the full racing set-up: a 55-inch screen, race seat and a Logitech G29 steering wheel with pedals and a manual gear shifter. VR took it from great fun to mind-blowing, with the level of immersion being something I had never truly experienced before. Even with the processing power available from the PS4 being far below what we expect today.

Sony's PSVR2 takes that up several notches, being exclusively for the new PS5 console so as to leverage its impressive processing power for an even more immersive experience.

It boasts several clever new tricks, such as haptic feedback in the actual headset and new controllers (that are far, far superior to the original's silly little light wand thingies),but the biggest new trick is eye tracking, that actually tracks where you are looking in the headset.

While different games will implement this technology differently (Horizon: Call of the Mountain uses it for menu selections, for example), Gran Turismo 7 uses it to squeeze everything it can out of the PS5's graphical processing power by cleverly only rendering the area you are looking at in full resolution.

Foveated rendering, as it is called, means that areas outside of your direct focal point are rendered at a dramatically lower resolution, closer to 240p than 4K. You certainly don't notice it in action, even though screen shots show that anything that is just in your peripheral vision gets extremely chunky and low-res. It is truly impressive and utterly unnoticeable in operation.

Of course, this frees up processing space to bump graphical fidelity up massively over Gran Turismo Sport in the original PSVR.

While this is extremely evident in the actual races, the most impressive visuals come in your garage, where you can crawl over every inch of your favourite cars - inside and out - drinking in all the lovingly-rendered details. The staggering realism comes to the fore here, except when you get a bit too close and you clip through the car into the bare wireframe inside bits under those lovingly rendered surfaces...

As good as it is, the PSVR2 isn't exactly an essential purchase for the casual gamer, costing more than an actual PS5 and only having a relatively small range of titles available as of yet. But if you are a dedicated racer, particularly with a full racing seat/steering wheel set up already taking up more space than is sensible, then it becomes a much more compelling option.

Even if it is just to admire the rear seats in your luxury people mover...


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