No Man’s Sky has come a long way since it originally released in the summer on 2016. Update after update, sweeping new feature after feature, and new platform after new platform, Hello Games has forged a path across their procedurally generated galaxy of a sky. For their latest trick, they’ve brought it to PlayStation VR 2 – a straightforward task on the surface level, but that provides its own peculiar challenges.
No Man’s Sky is a game whose absolute vision of pure sci-fi exploration remains as alluring as it did upon its original reveal, with a seemingly infinite galaxy of star systems and worlds to visit, planets to land on, things to scan and shoot, aliens to trade with, and with an overarching story to unravel. It’s also a game that, after so many updates since I last played in 2017, is a little bit intimidating. It probably wasn’t the best idea to try and load up my original save – it took me far too long to realise that I was basically back to zero with some changes made in the past six years making my previous multi-tool unlocks obsolete – and certainly not a good idea to do so in tandem with playing the game in virtual reality for the first time with new controls and interfaces to learn.
It wasn’t until I begrudgingly gave in and started a brand new save that I got the rundown of the game’s workings in VR, systems new and old. Those initial moments drop you on a planet that’s trying to kill you, sending you on a mission to save your own life from the harsh elements, before finding and repairing your first space craft are as engaging as they are potentially bewildering to a new player. Scanning the environment, harvesting raw elements, crafting things and installing upgrades form the fundamentals of this game, opening up as you blast off into outer space and start to visit more planets, space stations, and star systems while pulling on certain narrative threads.
Playing in VR really brings this game’s sci-fi vision into a new perspective. There’s something special about trudging across barren planets, harvesting materials, dropping countless new species into your personal database of discoveries, and that first time you can hop into your fixed up space craft and shoot straight up through the atmosphere will stay with you.
The VR controls generally work very well. You use the Sense controller’s analogue sticks for smooth locomotion, you have quick menus and inventory that you call up from your left wrist, and you can grab the laser and enter scanning modes by grabbing them from over your shoulder. Every interaction to talk or pick something up is done with a simple reach out, grab and pull towards you. As you piece together the way in which the game itself works, the VR controls come together fluidly around them.
I do wish there was also support for the analogue sticks while flying, though. Controlling the throttle and flight stick are done by grabbing and moving or tilting your hands, which seems great, but leads to some especially woolly relative movements. Dogfighting isn’t so bad since you can just hold X to auto-target any other ships you’re in combat with, but I know I’d much rather fly with the greater precision of an analogue stick.
Where this PSVR 2 update really falls down is with the visual fidelity. Hello Games touts higher quality textures, terrain tessellation, increased planetary details and draw distances when loading the scenery, and these do seem to be in effect – for a game like this, pop-in will always be a factor as worlds are loaded in while moving and flying around. However, it feels to me like Hello Games struck the wrong balance here as it’s lacking in terms of resolution and clarity when compared to other VR games.
This is something that’s basically impossible to illustrate in still images, with the PSVR 2 HDMI output rendering in good quality, and to compare when PSVR HDMI output is locked to 720p. NMS looks rather respectable in screenshots that disguise the effect when viewed through a headset. Still… here’s a gallery.
One of the key ways that PSVR 2 allows for improved performance and visuals is with foveated rendering, to render at a higher resolution wherever you’re looking, but it needs to be implemented within the game engine. Hello Games has now added AMD’s FSR 2.0 upscaling tech on PS5, but where the game on TV screen looks marvellous, it’s fuzzy, aliased, blurry on PSVR 2.
It’s a real shame, because this one area has an almost outsized impact on how it feels to play the game. Yes, you can lose yourself in the galactic exploration and the tasks put before you, but every time I loaded it up, hopped in after playing another VR title, or switched between TV and VR play, I was first driven to distraction by the resolution. If you can see past that factor, then No Man’s Sky comes highly recommended to experience in PSVR 2, but we hope Hello Games will continue to tweak and improve it. I look forward to revisiting the game after further updates.
What I find quite annoying about this game is that there doesn’t seem to be an option to pause. Together with the need to take frequent short breaks with PSVR, this is highly annoying, I died repeatedly because of it.
They may have updated the game a lot over the years, but it can’t really be there’s no pause, right?
Yeah i don’t get that either, it was the same for PSVR1, no pause and everything keeps going even even in photo mode. However, your ship, most buildings and caves (or literally just dig a hole somewhere) are all safe places to rest AFK. Also, the more hazard protection you install in your suit the less you’ll have to worry about it.
Because I haven’t played this for over 5 years I’ve decided to start from scratch whenever I get round to playing it. That might be a while as I’m really enjoying GT7 in VR.