I must confess. The first thought I had upon opening the Meta Quest 2 box was, “uh… is this it?”. A; because this headset weighs bugger all compared to every VR competitor I own. And B; because it’s such a straightforward proposition. Head-set, charge-er, hand-thingies. Go do VR, now.
I’m accustomed to the Valve Index, HTC Vive and PSVR experience. The full broadway song and dance that will, more often than not, talk me out of doing any VR at all. It’s a hoedown of external cameras, stands, cables, break-out boxes and a thick umbilical cord snaking to an expensive console or PC.
Then, I remind myself. The Meta Quest 2 has none of that crap. The Meta Quest 2 needs none of that crap.
Meta Quest 2 Review
The simplicity here is impressive, but it causes the disbeliever to rise up in me. “Gimmickry for the normie mainstream crowd,” he snorts. “Banishing all those important bits of hardware will come at a cost very soon. The piper is always paid, and the tax will be taken from visual performance and/or user experience.”
Furthermore, as I scoop up the equally lightweight and sensibly designed hand controllers, it’s hard to see them as anything but good–but-not-great peripherals. I know I’ll soon be missing my fandangle, ten-finger-tracking Valve Index Controllers – the ones I sold a kidney to own. Word on the street is, they don’t natively/easily work well with the Meta (and no current solution is a cable-free one).
Mind you, it’s not like I’m being asked to use PS3-era Move controller tech to control things, which is the PlayStation VR way of doing things. So I guess it’s all about perspective. The Quest 2’s hand game is a decent middle-ground.
FITTING AND COMFORT
As you’d expect from all the photos of it, the 503 grams of the Meta Quest 2 is almost all in the front. It takes a minute or so to figure out how to counter-balance that weight perfectly to a new user’s melon, using an overhead velcro strap and two pull-able adjusters nestled on the back of your head.
Fitting this thing is something of an art form. Only a small comfort window exists between “tight enough to support the headset so it won’t slide down my nose” and “oppressively tight, I may have a headache later”. I can see why Meta’s trying to upsell a ($190 AUD) “Elite Strap” that counterweights the headset better with an additional rear-mounted battery.
I found said sweet spot in time. Then, had reasonably comfy sessions with no incidental discomfort after or during long sessions. In this case, that means the 4-hour max stints that the standard battery allows in wireless mode.
FIRING IT UP
In order to get cracking, you’ll need to jump through some pretty annoying hoops. In my case, I had to download a dedicated Oculus app on my phone, sign into my (barely used) Facebook account, and then convert my old Oculus account (the previous name of this product) to a Meta account.
Incidentally, this gifts me something called a Meta Horizon account. That required another sign-up/profile name selection. Then, a crapload of “no thanks” opt-outs to Meta’s fairly insistent attempts to have me join its “social”-verse. Those are cool things if you want to connect with and/or impress people. I just… don’t.
Next pain in the butt: setting up the Wi-Fi and trying to enter my 36-character, deliberately gibberish Wi-Fi password. This required taking the headset off a bunch, reading a bit of a text file, putting the headset back on, entering text, rinse, and repeat. Not ideal.
When I enter “The Matrix” for real, however, it’s hard to be grumpy with noticeably higher per-eye resolution than my Valve Index. My VR brain expects 1440×1600 per eye @144 Hz; the Quest 2 delivers 1,832 x 1,920 per eye @ 120 Hz. However, it has to be said that this gain in sharpness is tempered by a loss in real estate. The Index rocks a field-of-view of 120 degrees versus the Quest 2’s FOV is roughly 90 degrees. It’s in the lower end, alongside the PlayStation VR’s 96 degrees.
In a more practical description, it felt like wearing a snorkel mask in the first 30 minutes or so. However, my brain simply adapted and largely forgot about it. VR newbies with no frame for comparison won’t notice it much at all.
Let’s get the biggest plus out of the way early: Meta has been quite mercenary in its attempts to secure platform-exclusive titles and VR developer acquisitions. Really, really good ones. Hell, the reason I sought to do a review of this headset was that I got sick of waiting to see what the “only on Meta” Resident Evil 4 port was like.
In terms of showcasing what’s possible, my wait was worth it. Resi 4 VR is a perfect example of how this medium has the power to make average things better. I’m certainly not suggesting Capcom’s “best in series” entry is a mediocre game — it’s just that I’ve S-ranked this action/horror hybrid six ways from Sunday. Basically to the point where it’s lost its ability to excite or challenge me.
Imagine my delight, then, when that early boss fight with a Chainsaw Ganado had me physically sweating — hell, I even felt a genuine terror chill. The former came from the “there-ness” of needing to run and gun through a village, physically reloading and cocking firearms with dwindling ammo supplies. And the latter sensation? Well, that will happen in the split second between luring a chainsaw exponent into spitting range, lifting your shotgun, squeezing the trigger and…. realizing you forgot to rack it. Cue: gory death where your head gets pruned right off.
Gaming on a Meta Quest 2 is full of these wonderful moments, where the line between what is and what isn’t, dissipates for a moment. I have a long list of the best VR games that achieve this best, and I (wirelessly) tested a whole bunch of my go-to VR experiences in the impressively well-stocked Meta Store. Everything — in terms of visuals, framerate and control accuracy passed with flying colours.
With metronomic surety, I mowed through technicolour mob hangouts in Pistol Whip. Similar (but less violent) synesthetic fun was tapped in Tetris Effect and Beat Saber. I’m happy to say that the Quest 2 produced no sweat-fog issues on its lenses during vigorous “upward” scrambles in The Climb 2, or when boxing ears in Creed: Rise to Glory.
It’s also worth mentioning that the tinkerers will be happy with how easy it is to sideload, or just get into the innards, of their Quest 2 via third-party software and a developer mode. If something isn’t officially supported, there’s a fair chance someone clever is working their way around the problem.
UNEXPECTED PROS AND CONS
As a dyed-in-the-wool gamer, I’m pretty surprised to admit the following. After constantly being tethered to a PC or PlayStation in my gaming room, it’s a pleasure to be able to just… VR in bed. I spent an inordinate amount of time just lounging with the Quest 2, simply watching 360-degree YouTube videos or films “projected onto” a big virtual theatre.
Hell, I even made the mistake of plonking my wife into a 360-degree Rome vidblog – a dream destination for her. It was an experience that almost moved her to tears. The bad news: I’m now on the hook to actually fly us there someday. Smart move, dingus. On the topic of thetherment, I still found myself pretty annoyed that a cable was required to create functionality between the Quest 2 and my Steam library that overfloweth with VR titles. Moreso when the bespoke cable for the Quest 2 sets one back an additional 130 dollarydoos. It’s such a shame.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t warn those of you who think they can game Meta’s storage system. I know what you’re thinking: “I’ll buy the cheapest 64GB version and then just constantly download, and delete what I need, so it won’t be an issue.” The onion in your ointment is that Quest 2 takes ages to install things once downloaded. For example, an 8.5GB Resi 4 download package took 40 minutes to install once it hit my local storage.
Spring for the large capacity headset, or be constantly waiting to play.
Be all those peccadilloes as they may, the Meta Quest 2 is a brilliant proposition for the price of admission. It’s certainly not the pinnacle of VR — the deep-pocketed can spend way more and get a better reality holiday in terms of visuals and input peripherals. Hell, Meta also has the Meta Quest Pro out now as well, a big brother I’m yet to get heads on with, plus Sony’s imminent PlayStation VR 2 is about to shake up the landscape as well.
For now, though, the Meta Quest 2 is still an incredibly solid VR offering. Buy it for its extreme ease of use, fiercely competitive exclusives and lovely wireless portability.
A Meta Quest 2 headset was provided for this review.
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