CES 2016: Oculus Rift Hands-On
At E3 last year, I was blown away by the Oculus Rift and amazed at how far it’s come. From Kickstarter to where they are now, the Oculus Rift has seen many changes that have made the unit much more comfortable to use and much more clearer when using it.
I was give four demos and each had a unique experience. First up was Bullet Train. It’s a first person shooter, but you stand still with the only movement available to your is by teleporting. Point to a designated area, push a button, and you instantly go there. Time also slows down when you do this.
The demo using the Unreal engine allowed you to pick up weapons such as shotguns, grenades, dual pistols, and an assault rifle. It’s a big showcase for how the Rift and Oculus Touch controllers are used together. I felt like I was in the middle of an action movie with enemies swarming around me as I pick up guns and aim just by pointing my hands and pressing the trigger. The level of immersion is unreal when all you see around you is the virtual world and you can interact with the weapons using your hands rather than a mouse and keyboard. I do admit I mimic some of the moves I’ve seen such as going akimbo with pistols and alternating using them against the enemies. The pistols were by far my favorite weapons to use in the demo.
The game looks absolutely gorgeous and the Unreal engine really shines in VR. The explosions that happen around me in both real time and when it’s slowed down looked incredibly impressive. When you slow down time and see each individual bullet or rocket fly by you, it kind of leaves you awe stricken. Did I mention you can grab the bullets and rockets and throw them back at the enemies? Yeah, it’s as cool as it sounds when using the Touch and Rift to do it with.
The Toy Box demo at E3 showed off how great it was to play with someone else in a VR space using incredibly accurate motion controllers. Bullet Train showed how intense and immersive it could be in the middle of an action movie.
Afterwards, I went into another room to do three sit down experiences. First up was Insomniac’s Edge of Nowhere. It’s a sort of Tomb Raider like experience but you don’t control the camera. You just look around as the character is in front of you in a third person view. Running through snow covered terrain and icy caves, being immersed inside the world give you a unique perspective in a third person game. Graphics were phenomenal and there some intense moments when monsters were chasing me as the icy bridges were falling apart. The end saw tentacles come from behind my view and around me as it lunged after the character. In VR, the view has a greater impact as you feel like tentacles are wrapping around you too.
Lucky’s Tale is a nice little platform game and it reminds me of the Herobound that I play on my GearVR. You can lean in and get a closer view of Lucky as well as the world around you. Whereas past games had you move the cameras around, with the Oculus Rift, you physically alter your view by moving your head, which makes playing a platform game a pretty unique experience. The game comes with the Oculus Rift and it’s a fun and enjoyable platformer that gives that twist the Oculus Rift provides for a fun time.
Finally, EVE: Valkyrie capped off my time at the Oculus booth. If you’ve seen the video of it in action, the Oculus demo is exactly that. Looking around, you actually feel like you are in the cockpit of a space fighter. Looking down, you could see your body like in Elite Dangerous and when you lean around, the virtual body leans as well. The controls for Valkyrie are a little simplistic compared to other sims, but the action is intense and visually stunning. It makes dog fighting so much easier since all I have to do is look around rather than use a hat switch to change my view. The sense of freedom makes for a much better time when paying these types of games and because all you see is the computer generated world no matter where you look, you can’t help but be lost and immersed in the gaming world.
As one who does suffer some motion sickness with FPS games, I can happily say that I felt fine playing all the demos. Bullet Train, while being a FPS, doesn’t let you move in the traditional way of walking around, thus your brain isn’t out of sync with what your body is doing, which can cause nausea. Even when I did a lot of quick teleports in succession, I felt fine. All the seated games didn’t make me feel queasy either, which is one big thing in making sure you enjoy a VR experience.
When it’s all said and done, the big factor is price. At the show, it was announced it would be $599 + shipping. That’s a hard pill to swallow and while I did come away from the booth very impressed, I still don’t know if I could shell out that much money for it. If you can afford it though, the Oculus Rift is truly a magnificent piece of tech with optics that are about the best I’ve seen in an HMD and controllers that are really easy and fun to use. Which, by the way, the Oculus Touch controllers won’t be out for another quarter and we don’t know how much they will be. Time will tell if the first Rift will be a good seller, but there’s no denying it’s damn fun when you have the right content to play it with.