After months of development and waiting, and a bumpy pre-order schedule, the Oculus Rift has finally started arriving for a select few that pre-ordered the device, and inevitably the reviews begin to roll in. Each individual will inevitably have a different take on the device and opinion, so let’s take a look at the roundup of review from around the web.
Cool, but room for improvement
Richard Leadbetter of DigitalFoundry spoke about his disappointment with the original Oculus DK2 and felt that Oculus had a mountain to climb for the Oculus Rift to make it into a successful consumer device. He goes on to mention that now the consumer version of the Rift has been released and the final product now known, his expectations were met and that Oculus did step their game up to fix the issues experienced with the DK2.
Despite this, Leadbetter still had some reservations concerning the Rift and in particular how the $600 seemed unjustified given the build quality and finish of the material Oculus used in the headset. Specifically highlighting the finish, he mentions that the plain plastics and fabric finish aren’t quite up to scratch yet the weight of the device is certainly an enjoyable feature. He was also complimentary on the speakers that are bundled with the Rift to a point where he would happily use them above his own, lending justification that the $600 price tag extends beyond the quality of just the VR headset itself.
Leadbetter continued to state that the calibration and setup of the Rift was an easy and enjoyable experience through the setup wizard and this is quickly followed by short demo videos that showcase the virtual reality capabilities of the Rift. He was highly complimentary of these, stating that they looked really impressive and really helped showcase what the hardware can do to set expectations from the outset.
With the initial setup and hardware impressions covered, Leadbetter turned his focus to the software and in particular Oculus Home. He referred to this as a “really cool Steam-style client” and a number of free activities are available through Oculus Home, including the virtual cinema that allows user to import their own videos and watch them in an immersive virtual movie theatre.
As far as the games were concerned, Leadbetter’s apprehension about the Rift being able to handle games running at 90FPS were quickly squashed and bar a few issues said that the games on the Rift work capably, describing it as “console-like” and a simple “plug-and-play” experience. When playing The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, Leadbetter said that the first person VR experience was “everything you’ve ever dreamed of” and “simply immersive”, but did caveat this by mentioning he felt quickly nauseous and could only manage ten to fifteen minutes of intense games like Project CARS.
His review is concluded by saying that the quality of the headset – referring to the capability rather than the build – is up there with the best. He continued to say that virtual reality takes gaming to a new dimension and there is a lot of room for potential to come, but it is too early to say if the Rift is better than the HTC Vive.
Not ready for mainstream
The next review by the Wall Street Journal started with a lot of disappointment and frustration by the reviewer, Geoffrey Fowler, who encountered a glitch with the locational sensor of the Rift that left him below the virtual ground and unable to do much. Fowler quickly came to the conclusion that the Rift is not ready for a consumer launch and the mainstream market despite some really good points and could do with a few more generations to iron out the issues that he experienced during his review.
Fowler summarised his experience by stating that although the Rift was a worthwhile experience, there was little reason for anyone other than serious gamers to consider entering virtual reality using the Rift headset at this current time, describing the headset as a “product you hope your neighbor buys” and not one that everybody needs.
He continued to mention that he was excited about feeling the immersive nature of virtual reality but was left wanting more. The VR developers and titles available for the Rift didn’t quite have the convincing creative impact he was hoping, and summarised that this was perhaps down to the lacking hardware that left the Rift incapable of creating such an experience that he was expecting it to.
As far as the hardware was concerned, Fowler found the headset comfortable but was frustrated by the thirteen foot cable that tethers the headset to the PC, which he said was distracting.
Much like the previous review from Leadbetter, Fowler experienced the same nausea when using the Rift and couldn’t even complete a single lap of Project CARS before calling it quits, concluding that the Rift needs to be accompanied by frequent breaks, which as a gaming device doesn’t suit its purpose since gaming sessions usually last for many hours.
Fowler’s review concluded stating that he was already looking forward to the next version of the Rift for enhanced capabilities and improvements over what the current consumer version offered. While the idea and the Rift was undeniably “cool”, he felt the Rift needed a lot of innovation to make it a serious consumer product.
A good start
Other reviews from around the web include the likes of Polygon who described the Rift as “high-quality”, “subtle” and “beautiful” with Wired praising the high quality of the device. Polygon and the New York Times agreed that the current offering of apps and games seemed somewhat basic and that a larger more diverse set of content was needed before the Rift became a must have gadget. Finally, TechRadar felt that the Rift is an “outstanding device” with “stunning” games and “wonderful immersion” despite limitations in price and peripherals, but as Ars Technica’s review highlighted, the Rift has the potential to massively alter the way people think about games, it just needs further development.