We are on the cusp of a possible VR revolution in gaming. Companies are falling all over themselves trying to get a working VR headset onto store shelves and into consumer’s homes. The one that started it all, the Oculus Rift, is inching closer to its 2016 release, and fans, including myself, finally got to go hands-on with the consumer version at E3 2015.
I have tried out the Oculus Rift before, getting to play a few games, such as Elite: Dangerous, and Adr1ft on DK2’s. The device has always been amazing, as its combination of 3D and motion tracking makes players truly feel like they are inside the game.
All of this magic is still present in the Consumer Version of the Oculus Rift, with many being thoroughly improved upon. The motion tracking has reached a new level, with pinpoint, one-to-one accuracy as far as my senses could tell. I intentionally tried to trick the device with fast movements, and angling myself into odd positions, yet it followed along without a hiccup.
The 3D is still stellar as well, with the game I played, Insomniac’s Edge of Nowhere, featuring some really breathtaking moments. Enemies flew in from behind the screen, floors crumbled beneath my feet, and icicles fell to the ground, causing me to actually jump on a couple of occasions. The best part was when the game took a turn for the surreal, messing with my head, and the Oculus Rift’s features, in new and interesting ways.
The newly added headphones were also very comfortable, covering my ears and delivering excellent sound quality for the small size. The unit itself was quite light and small, surprisingly so given the heft of past test versions. the fabric coating gave it a great amount of comfort, and the light weight ensured that I never got tired, or felt like I had a huge device strapped to my face.
Overall the Oculus Rift Consumer Version is the best iteration of VR that I have tried yet, by a wide margin for that matter. However, some issues still remain. Light bleed around the nose was a problem for me, though that’s likely something that can be fixed once I can tailor the device to my particular facial structure.
One thing that can’t be altered though is the resolution. Screen resolution is probably the biggest concern for VR aficionados, and while the Oculus Rift is delivering one of the highest res screens, it still won’t be enough for some people. Pixelation and the “screen door effect”, where you can see the individual black lines separating the pixels on the screen, are still present, though they have been significantly diminished from past iterations.
Some items in the game showed the lower resolution problem more readily than others. A torch, for example, looked more like a block than an actual flame. The experience was a definite step down from the 1440p or even 1080p screens that PC gamers have grown accustomed to over the last few years.
This isn’t a problem for just the Oculus Rift though, as the HTC Vive will feature the same 2160×1200 resolution, while Sony’s Project Morpheus will be much lower. The concern is really that this resolution simply isn’t high enough for VR, since the technology demands the viewer to be so close, and the image to be split between both eyes.
The real question is, do all of the added bonuses of VR trump the resolution problem. With what little time I’ve spent with the tech I would say that that will have to be asked on a game-by-game basis. For something like Adr1ft or Elite: Dangerous, where VR truly brings the experience to life, the problem is easily forgiven and worked around.
But, for something like Edge of Nowhere, which plays like a third-person adventure title, it seems unnecessary, given the drawback. I could easily see myself preferring to stick to my slick, high-res monitor over using the Oculus Rift, or any other VR headset, unless the game was truly enhanced by VR’s capabilities.
Until we really get these things in our hands, and in our homes, to test out under other conditions, we’ll just have to wait and see. I’m still well on the VR bandwagon, but we might be waiting until the Oculus Rift 2 or HTC Vive 2 before VR truly shows us what it can do.