Meta Quest 2 Headset May Be the Best Way to Experience VR – Consumer Reports
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Now 2 years old, the Quest 2 finally has a library of immersive games, plus the decidedly meh Meta Horizon Worlds
The Meta Quest 2 virtual reality headset has been available for more than two years, but now it seems to be gaining some real momentum.
In recent months, the Quest 2, which retails for around $350, has been promoted heavily in a high-profile interview between Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Joe Rogan, featured in seemingly endless TV and social media ads, and even recommended as a holiday gift by legendary television host Oprah Winfrey.
I’m not sure that it gets any more mainstream than being named one of Oprah’s favorite things.
It was all of this newfound attention that convinced me to retrieve my own Quest 2, which I had buried in my home office’s closet shortly after buying it in 2020.
It was neat enough, I thought at the time, but after playing the popular VR game Half-Life Alyx, I didn’t feel the need to keep Quest 2 plugged in and ready to go like I do like my other gaming devices, including the PlayStation 5, Switch, and Steam Deck.
There was also the small matter of the metaverse that I wanted to look into, after reading a handful of articles about Meta’s Horizon Worlds VR environment in publications like the New York Times and Kotaku.
As someone who spent an inordinate amount of time playing World of Warcraft back in the day, I feel like I’m predisposed to be a fan of the kind of living, breathing virtual worlds promised by Horizon Worlds. So I wanted to check that out, too.
But first, here’s more about the headset itself.
I bought the Quest 2 at launch for two reasons. One, to play Half-Life Alyx, a first-person shooter that had come out a few months before, and two, just to keep up with the latest VR developments.
My collection of headsets also includes the Oculus Rift, which I bought in 2016 when it was commercially released. (It had been around as a beta of sorts for a few years by then.) I generally found it to be a hassle.
The Rift had several sensors you had to place on your desk, which then plugged into your PC, and there was a long USB cable going to the headset, which you also had to connect to your PC. I always felt anxious using the thing, like I was going to trip over a wire or crash into my monitor. Consequently, I only used it now and then.
The Quest 2, on the other hand, is a stand-alone headset that’s completely wireless. The anxiety I had using earlier VR headsets is largely gone. Once the unit is charged (via a USB-C cable), you merely put it on your head, grab the two controllers, and off you go. If you wear glasses like me, you may want to put on contacts if at all possible; otherwise, you may find the headset sorta smooshing into them.
It should be noted that being completely wireless isn’t unique to the Quest 2. Sony’s upcoming PlayStation VR 2, due for release next year, will bring wireless VR to its PS5 game console, enabling consumers to play VR versions of popular PlayStation games like Horizon Zero Dawn and No Man’s Sky. There are also rumors that Apple will release a VR/AR headset of its own next year, though the company hasn’t confirmed this.
To me, the Quest 2 fits comfortably and doesn’t feel too heavy. The controllers are shaped to all but melt into your hands while you’re using them. And the image quality is sharp and clear and free of the weird “screen door effect” you’d find with earlier headsets, where you’d see a somewhat blotchy image, like you were looking through a mesh screen.
The games and other content don’t quite approach PS5 levels of graphical fidelity, but that’s not what I’d expect on a battery-powered, wireless device like the Quest 2.
That’s not to say they’re not fun, however.
Consumer Reports is a nonprofit member organization; we buy everything we rate. See CR’s test results on budget gaming laptops, gaming monitors, and gaming chairs.
When I first got the Quest 2 in late 2020, the software lineup was a little thin. In fact, Half-Life Alyx, one of the main reasons I bought the device in the first place, isn’t even available on the Meta app store; you have to sideload it from the Steam app store.
But two years later, the library seems much improved, with several games, including Resident Evil 4, Little Cities, Beat Saber, and Unplugged stealing more than a few of my hours over the past several weeks.
Resident Evil 4 first came out in 2005 for the Nintendo GameCube and is one of my favorite games ever. It’s an action/adventure game where you shoot zombies alongside a laughably campy story that basically makes no sense, but that’s fine. The game has since been re-released for just about every gaming platform imaginable (it’s even being remade from the ground up for release next year on the PS5), but the Quest version is among the best yet. It’s one thing to fight back against a zombie horde playing on your TV, but an altogether more kinetic experience when it feels like they’re surrounding you and not merely the character you’re controlling.
Little Cities isn’t quite as hair-raising as Resident Evil, but it’s still among my favorites on the platform. Imagine the old game SimCity, where you build a city from scratch, including laying out the roads and deciding what buildings go where, but in cheery virtual reality. It’s very relaxing, and it adds a level of immersion that you just don’t get on a PC.
There are two fun music rhythm games on the Quest 2 that are also worth checking out. One, called Beat Saber, is a few years old but now comes included free with the Quest 2, which wasn’t the case two years ago.
Imagine a cross between Guitar Hero or Rock Band and the popular mobile game Fruit Ninja and you have an idea of what’s going on here. Using the controller, you basically slice, as if you were using a sword, incoming icons representing musical notes to the beat of the song. That may sound odd but Super Mario being described as “an Italian plumber from Brooklyn jumping on top of small turtles” would sound a little weird on the surface, too.
Unplugged is a similar music rhythm game, except you’re playing air guitar, with the headset keeping track of your hand as it moves up and down the fret board. I feel like you couldn’t go to a tech event or a house party from 2007 to 2010 without running into Guitar Hero or Rock Band, so this brings back some fun memories.
What I was less impressed with was Horizon Worlds, Meta’s current spin on the metaverse. The term “metaverse,” coined back in 1992, basically refers to a persistent virtual world where you and your friends can hang out. Zuck went to great lengths during the recent interview with Rogan to explain why the metaverse will be a key part of how people interact with each other, but I just have a hard time seeing that.
I spent several days checking out Horizon Worlds, popping in at different times to get a feel for the player population: mornings before starting work, around lunchtime, and then again in the evening during what in other online games is usually prime time. No matter the time of day, the game was quite empty, with just a handful of people gathered in the same place at any one time.
I tried a bunch of activities during my time in the metaverse, including performing at a virtual comedy club called the Soapstone, playing a bunch of arcade-style games like first-person shooters and laser tag, and even watching a prerecorded MMA fight in a virtual arena where you could view the action from different angles. As a longtime combat sports fan, I actually thought that was a fun idea, but it’s probably something I only have to do once.
I’m reluctant to criticize the game too much because I’m fairly certain Meta will continue to build it out and improve the experience, but it’s just not super-compelling right now. Why play virtual Skee-Ball with your friends when you can do that in real life?
I paid $299 for the Quest 2 when it came out in October 2020, but if you want to buy one today it’ll cost you, at time of writing, $350. That’s right: The price has gone up in the two years since its release. (Technically, it’s $399, but there’s a Quest 2 holiday sale going on right now that gives you a discount, with Resident Evil 4 thrown in. That’s a good deal, so if you’re on the fence, you might want to get yours this holiday season.)
But that raises another point: If you’re not a big gamer like I am, does the Quest 2 make any sense? Heck, even if you are a big gamer, does it make sense?
If you had asked me two years ago, I’d have said, “Nah, you can pass.” It was a neat device, sure, but with a limited library, it didn’t feel like a compelling purchase. Now that there’s at least a handful of games worth playing, the Quest 2 feels like a solid secondary purchase. Will you have it fully charged and ready to go at all times? I certainly don’t, but I no longer have it buried at the bottom of the closet collecting dust.
I still have a hard time believing a nongamer will get much use out of the Quest 2, especially given how undercooked Horizon Worlds feels right now, since that game is supposed to be one of the big draws here. If the price were closer to, oh, $150, then maybe: I can see games like Beat Saber and Unplugged in particular being fun in a party-type setting even among nongamers. But beyond that? I can probably think of better, more inclusive ways to spend $400 on myself, or for my family and friends.
Nicholas De Leon
I’ve been covering consumer electronics for more than 10 years for publications like TechCrunch, The Daily (R.I.P.), and Motherboard. When I’m not researching or writing about laptops or headphones I can likely be found obsessively consuming news about FC Barcelona, replaying old Super Nintendo games for the hundredth time, or chasing my pet corgi Winston to put his harness on so we can go for a walk. Follow me on Twitter (@nicholasadeleon).
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