It seems like an eternity ago that Kickstarter was set ablaze with a funding campaign for the Oculus Rift – a fresh crack at bringing virtual reality to the consumer space and a new window for games, movies and more. Back in 2012 I don’t think anyone would’ve expected Oculus to take this long – or the surprise hiring of John Carmack, the Facebook buyout or the stiff competition the Rift would face in its launch year. But that all got swept to the side yesterday, as the Rift finally landed in the hands of thousands of early adopters.
And the initial response seems to be really good.
Along with consumers getting their hands on the Rift, yesterday also marked the end of an embargo on Rift reviews, with a multitude of publications getting their thoughts on the headset out into the wild. Being stuck in a region with no Oculus support yet, we sadly haven’t had the chance to mess around with it. But the reviews are overwhelming, and paint a pretty positive picture for the first Rift iteration up for sale.
Gamespot points out that the experience starts with the packaging and finish of the headset, all of which give it a subtle profile with a premium feel. You’re spending $600 on the Rift, and it shows the minute you open the briefcase-like box.
Rift and its accompanying accessories feel like premium products. The headset’s chassis is wrapped in a pleasing, fabric-like material that makes it feel like a luxury item. All three of its straps have a velcro solution for adjustments, and they converge at the back with a sturdy, triangular brace that cups the back of your head. The inside of the headset–the part that makes contact with your face–is lined with contoured foam, and an added layer of felt-like material.
The Rift itself features two 1920X1200 lenses, encased in the headset that tries its best to allow for customisable comfort levels to ensure long play session go headache free. The effectiveness of this can vary though, and as Kotaku found out getting the right fight might take some experimentation. Motion sickness and violent headaches can still occur too, as you find your VR feet.
I usually have to take breaks from Rift games well before I would if I were playing on a monitor. Usually, my eyes start to ache and I can feel the headset digging into my face. On a few rarer instances I’ve had to stop due to motion sickness, which is not a fun reason to stop playing a video game. I made the mistake of playing the intense racing game Radial-G: Racing Revolved right after a 30-minute bout of Eve: Valkyrie, and got woozy enough that I had to stop playing VR for the night. Woof.
That being said, the Rift seems to garner unanimous praise outside of this comfort issues, with games becoming incredibly immersive. The Rift tracks nicely with its included motion sensor, and the headset does a good job of recreating the 30 launch titles with stunning colours and clarity. The included audio solution is pretty standout too, and Engadget found the entire experience one that was truly entrancing.
Over the past week, I’ve been a space pilot dogfighting in distant galaxies in Eve: Valkryie. I’ve been a part of a live-action Adventure Time story. And I’ve seen aliens up close up on their home planets with Oculus’ own Farlands. Of course, the quality of VR experiences varies, but it’s heartening to see some quality content so early in the game.
Still, most if not all of the Rift’s titles right now don’t really want you to stand up and move around. Oculus is eventually launching their own motion controllers later this year, while the likes of the HTC Vive and even PSVR will launch with them. That takes a lot away from the Rift now though, which The Verge felt was inescapable.
This allays one of my biggest fears about virtual reality: that headsets will remain a platform for 20-minute novelty experiences instead of ambitious longform games and fiction. On a purely physical level, however, I’m more ambivalent. Motion-controlled virtual reality experiences — games and apps that ask me to mime things like shooting or painting with my hands — have gotten me physically engaged with computing in a way I’ve never been, and they leave me feeling better as a result.
Kotaku echoes this sentiment, admitting that VR might not immediately feel like the future of games its been heralded as. It is a completely different, more immersive way to play them, but it’s still too early (and too expensive) to tell if it’s here to stay.
After a week, though: The Oculus Rift is often extremely cool but for now it remains assuredly niche. However, the central idea—the feeling that you are inside another reality—is so immediately impressive that it transcends gaming and can appeal to darn near anyone. There’s an intuitive immediacy to VR that sets it apart from many other interactive experiences.
Regardless, all four reviews here all enjoyed their time with the Rift, and don’t hesitate to recommend a purchase if you have the PC to support it and the pockets deep enough to fund it. Oculus Touch might be the real game changer that will propel the Rift into even better days, but right now the first of the three big players launching this year has set a suitably high bar to match. Are you looking at a way to get the Oculus Rift?
Last Updated: March 29, 2016