The Oculus Rift isn’t a new product, it’s been out for almost a couple of months now, bringing commercial VR to the masses. For some, it might be considered old news given that summer is quickly approaching – with E3 also less than a month away at this point, potentially showcasing more VR headsets. Well, I just received the Oculus Rift to transport me into this budding new consumer segment, one that’ll no doubt see significant traction as we continue to see more focus from developers, manufacturers, and yes, consumers who are hungry for new experiences.
To clarify a bit, I’ve only had the Oculus Rift for about a week at this point, which gave me more than enough time to come up with some initial impressions about the system. The setup process, in fact, was pretty simple and straightforward, requiring me to just connect the components and run the installation software. Speaking of components, the Oculus Rift is actually a system comprised out of 4 main components consisting of the headset, XBOX One gamepad, LED sensor, and a diminutive remote.
Speaking of the headset, it sports a clean finish that’s pretty comfortable to wear for the most part, since the straps around it can be adjusted for a better fit. On top of that, I do like the fact that it features integrated headphones that offer some degree of articulation – as opposed to using a separate pair of headphones. I will say, however, that the cutout around the nose area causes ambient light to seep in, which has a slight distracting quality. Furthermore, there’s some glare when you look at the 1080 x 1200 OLED display lenses on the Rift, but it’s only prominent whenever predominantly dark scenes are contrasting against bright visuals.
Most games and experiences are done in a seated position, but there are a few that deliver an even more immersive experience when standing up. I’m actually impressed by the tracking and spatial recognition of the Oculus Rift, seeing that it’s able to minutely differentiate varying movements – like leaning forward/backwards. Some of the demos are pretty astounding, especially when you get that feeling that you’re actually part of the experience. Games like EVE: Valkyrie and Elite Dangerous are great examples of that, as well as the Unreal Engine’s Showdown demo.
All the movements are tracked precisely, delivering that immersive experience that’s necessary for a great virtual reality experience. The large majority of titles, games, and demos I’ve checked out thus far have been largely engaging, but there are a few that caused me to feel a little bit nauseous after 20 minutes of gameplay. While the graphical visuals are undeniably incredible with the space shooter game in EVE: Valkyrie, the moving motion of the spacecraft in conjunction with moving my head to look around, plays some tricks on my eyes after a while – causing me to feel a bit dizzy, eventually nauseous.
I suppose that’s going to be the biggest obstacle to overcome with virtual reality, just because I know that my body is technically sitting on a chair – playing the game in my office, as opposed to actually being in a spacecraft in outer space. For other games that aren’t as action-intensive, such as Hitman, the VR experience is easier on the mind because the view of the game is static most of the time. Prior to using the Rift, my VR experience largely came from using the Samsung Gear VR. There are similarities in what they can do, but the Rift definitely offers a more compelling experience due to how it can recognize movement on a 3-axis level.
The toughest thing about the Oculus Rift thus far, is the wait that’s needed to download and install the games. Some titles can easily eclipse the 10GB mark, which doesn’t factor in the other potential updates you might need to download and install afterwards – so you’ll want to make sure you have a lot of free space on your hard drive.
One look at the Oculus Rift’s price will scare most non-casual gamers. At $600 for the system, it’s clearly an involved investment that will probably prevent impulse buys – more so if you don’t have a rig that meets its specifications, so that’s even more money out of your pocket. Still, that’s the price you’re going to have to pay for being an early adopter, but I have to admit that it’s sparked this urge inside of me that wasn’t all much there using the Gear VR.