Monday, April 04, 2016

Oculus Rift Review

Mashable has published a comprehensive and intelligent review of the recently released $600 virtual reality headset.

Excerpts follow:

“The Oculus Rift began as a bulky Kickstarter project nearly four years ago; it’s now a highly anticipated headset boosted by multiple billions in Facebook money.”

“The Oculus Rift is a masterwork of design that makes virtual reality both jaw-droppingly beautiful and necessarily comfortable.”

“Running the Oculus Rift takes a lot of PC power [Macs are not supported, Ed.]. Someone who already owns a gaming rig still may need to spend $200 or more to get their graphics card the necessary updates; starting from scratch will cost about $1,000.”

“The Oculus Rift arrives in a sleek, black case, containing the headset itself, a sensor that stands on a desk nearby to track its position, a small remote and an Xbox One controller. Aside from a minuscule instruction manual and a lens cleaning cloth, every item included has an immediate, obvious gaming purpose. Provided you have all the required USB ports on your PC (two USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0), initial setup will take less than 10 minutes.”

“You'll need room to move around when you’re in VR. While you'll probably remain in an office chair as you use the headset, it’s imperative to be sure you won't knock anything over when your real-world vision disappears. Otherwise, you run the risk of hurting yourself, or something else.”

“The Rift headset is pretty comfortable. The foam around the headset moulds it snugly to your face, but it doesn't retain a lot of your body heat — I was surprised at how cool it felt, even after an hour or two of use. Generally, neck strain wasn’t that bad, though by the fifth day of testing I needed to take the headset off after an hour due to fatigue.”

“The Rift's headphones provide crisp, immersive audio for games, and using them is much nicer than trying to add a pair of large headphones on top of a bulky headset. Audio is essential for making VR feel real, especially when you can understand where sounds are coming from; these headphones do it right.”

“The Oculus Rift launch lineup offers a lot of impressive games for the first few months of VR. Almost every purchasable title (ranging from $9.99 to $59.99) is polished and comfortable.”

“The launch games for Oculus rely almost entirely on the Xbox One controller, though a few have also adapted controls to the Oculus Remote. Some put you in the shoes of one person; others position you as an omnipotent figure leaning over the game. Almost everything works in concert with your head’s movement, so you’re never just looking straight ahead. Your view often becomes the cursor for selecting items, or a reticle for targeting — and blasting down — enemy ships.”

“The current crop of games has some standouts. ADR1FT, a haunting story of an astronaut struggling to survive after her space station blows to pieces, puts you in a barely working space suit miles above the earth.”

“The most pleasant surprise of the Rift launch lineup is how many games succeed even without that first-person perspective. Virtual reality adds a diorama feel to third-person platformers like the charming Lucky's Tale, as your head becomes the camera. You can lean all over a scene and feel like you're playing with a sandbox of toy, which is really immersive in strategy games like AirMech: Command and tower defense titles like Defense Grid 2. Even pinball and air hockey are novel when played in VR, though they’re perhaps not as deep of a playing experience.”

“These virtual reality games are best enjoyed when you don't have anything else going on. You don't realise until you're in the Rift how cut off you are from the outside world; you can't check your phone, glance at another program or even look at the clock while playing. You're really in another universe — and having to lift the headset up from your eyes every five to 10 minutes feels far more disruptive than just pausing a regular game.”

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