Review Price £300.00
Oculus Rift preview
Oculus Rift release date: Q1 2016
Oculus Touch release date: First half of 2016
When I saw Oculus Rift at E3 2015, experiencing the consumer version and the innovative Oculus Touch controllers, something shifted in my mind. I suddenly realised that virtual reality was actually going to happen, and in the very imminent future.
It’s not like I wasn’t a believer before, but things feel different now I’ve been playing with a consumer version of a virtual reality headset. Everything is more refined than ever before, and that applies to the headset, the software and the overall experience.
And at Gamescom 2015, it’s another smooth experience with the Oculus Rift. While the HTC Vive is still very much in the prototype stage and Project Morpheus is a complete no-show, the Oculus is ready to rock.
See also: Oculus Rift vs HTC Vive
Oculus Rift — Design
The consumer version actually looks and feels like a final product, with the latest headset lighter and more comfortable than ever before. The headband has been revamped, with a larger panel around the back to keep it securely fitted to your head. This time around I was allowed to fit the headset myself, reducing the light leakage and ensuring that I had the most comfortable positioning.
The front of the panel is now a smooth, single piece of plastic, while the sides have been covered with a mesh-like material to hide the inner workings. The change in materials has minimised the misting issue I’d had with previous models too, so even though my face started to get hot, the displays weren’t misting up at all.
See also: Oculus Rift vs Project Morpheus
Oculus Rift — Demos
I was treated to the same two demos I’d had at E3 2015, but this time I was allowed to play two games from the selection of nine in the virtual reality lounge.
This time around I decided to try something a little different. One of the options was a title called Edge of Nowhere, currently being developed by Insomniac Games exclusively for the Oculus Rift.
This third-person adventure sends you, a solo explorer, in search of a lost Arctic expedition. But it all goes a little wrong. Well, horribly wrong in fact, as our explorer comes face to face with some otherworldly creatures who are less than hospitable.
Even though it’s a third-person adventure, it doesn’t limit the sense of immersion you feel playing with the Oculus Rift. I found myself feeling a little scared and nervous, turning around to check how close the creatures were on my tail. This was especially true near the end of the demo, when I found myself in a cosy front room with no explanation. But before I could work out what was happening, a set of tentacles started wrapping themselves around my eyes and it all went dark.
See also: Microsoft Hololens vs Oculus Rift
Next on the agenda was Eve Valkyrie, which is being touted as one of the flagship titles for the Oculus Rift. And it’s easy to see why. I’ve not played Valkyrie for some time on the Rift and with the latest advancements in hardware, it’s looking pretty amazing.
It’s a great title for easing gamers into VR because it’s a seated experience with excellent graphics and total immersion. You start out in a cockpit, looking down at your hands clasping a pair of joysticks that you’ll be using to fly the spacecraft.
As you’re launched into space, you’re told this is just a routine transport mission. But, as in the Edge of Nowhere demo, it all starts to go wrong when enemy forces attack.
I instantly forgot I was wearing the Rift and was looking all around the cockpit to find the enemy crafts, and tilting my head back as the ship flipped back in space. You do really feel like you’re flying through the stars and quickly adjust to the controls because it feels so natural.
See also: PS4 vs Xbox One
At E3 2015, I plucked for the colourful Lucky’s Tale, what I feel is a slight homage to Rare’s Conker series. You join Lucky in this action adventure as a watcher; a floating head that controls the camera and glides along behind Lucky as he jumps from platform to platform.
Oculus Rift is certainly a new way to experience a platformer as fireballs whizz past your head as you navigate the moving platforms using the Xbox One controller in your hand. It feels strange not to experience a VR title from the first-person perspective, but it gives you an idea as to how more traditional games can be conveyed in virtual reality.
Oculus Rift — Oculus Touch Controllers
But, while testing out the first Oculus Rift games with an Xbox One controller was great, it was nothing compared to the Oculus Touch controllers.
Don’t be deceived by the bizarre appearance of the Oculus Touch controllers. Although these prototype “Half-Moon” versions might look like an Xbox One controller that’s been snapped in half with a couple of hoops attached to go around your hand, they showcase just how immersive virtual reality can be.
My experience wasn’t lessened at all by the fact this was my second time around with the Oculus Touch either. It was actually heightened because they didn’t feel as alien in my hands. I quickly remembered what all the buttons and triggers were for and jumped straight into making the most of what Oculus is calling its Toybox test environment.
The Toybox is what Oculus uses internally to test the Oculus Touch and allows you to trial the functionality of the Touch with a selection of toys — making the whole experience very simple, natural and full of childlike joy.
See also: Xbox One vs Xbox 360
What’s great about the Oculus Touch is that you can see your fingers moving in a more natural way than the HTC Vive controllers. On each Touch controller there’s an analogue stick and set of two buttons under your thumb, then a trigger under each of your forefinger and middle finger.
The triggers are used to make a fist and the middle finger trigger picks things up, but you can make more gestures with your hands because the forefinger trigger and analogue stick have pressure sensors in them. That means I was giving thumbs up and making air guns all over the shot, even the second time around.
The fact that you are in the Toybox with another Oculus Rift user is still a wonderful experience. Mustafa, my guide for the second time (lucky him), and I were able to play around with the toys together, which gave me a glimpse of the social, multiplayer aspect that you could have with the Oculus Rift and other VR headsets in the future.
See also: PS4 vs PS3
During the demo, I was picking up a toy robot and pulling his limbs off with ease, before moving on to lighting fireworks and sparklers with my Oculus pal.
That was a chance to show off the spacial audio of the Rift too, moving the sparkler around my head actually caused the audio to react accordingly, making the entire experience feel so much more real.
Working out how much I could actually do with the controllers came very naturally. Sonic blasters and slingshots were my favourite things to test out, firing at moving arcade-style targets with Mustafa makes you quickly forget that you’re in a virtual reality environment. You could even duck under the table and shoot targets from a new angle.
See also: Best Games 2015
I tossed blocks, used a punching bag, guided a remote control tank with working cannons, attempted a rally in ping-pong and flicked cuboids into space. Not to mention being shrunk with a shrink ray.
The only issue is the lack of weight awareness. Although there’s feedback in the controllers to show you’re picking something up or coming into contact with something, there was no sense of weight to anything I was holding, which jars the brain a little.
But virtual reality as a place to hang with your mates suddenly felt like it could be a viable option on a rainy Sunday.
I used to be firmly in the HTC Vive camp, but the Oculus Rift is blowing its competition out of the waters. Virtual reality really is becoming a reality and the Oculus Rift is right on the cusp of being in your home.
It has a raft of top-notch developers on board for launch and the demos I’ve tried so far aren’t just tech demos to show off the headset’s capabilities. They’re part of real games that are in development now. They’re AAA titles made exclusively for VR and it shows.
This could actually be the future of gaming. And the Oculus Rift is back where it belongs — at the front of the pack.
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