Last month Oculus hosted a public demo of their Virtual Reality (VR) hardware at the Stratford Westfield shopping centre. I went along to try out some VR games and see what all the fuss is about.
I would have to say it’s definitely worth it; the immersion levels are quite something. As a lifelong gamer I’m well versed in games but they’re almost entirely played at a desk while sitting down. Going from that to having to stand up and be active was off-putting at first, but it is a welcome change. For example, when I tried The Climb, I was tasked with climbing a mountain from a first person perspective – something you would usually do by some simple arrow key movements. Here, however, you have to move your own arms towards each ledge and grab onto it using the two small controllers provided with the Oculus.
This made for a vastly different playstyle, but I was made to feel like I was actually climbing the mountain myself, right up until the moment the demo ended and the tech assistant removed the headgear. I felt like I was still in that world, falling to my death for the tenth time in a row. I won’t lie, I had to sit down for a few minutes to regain my senses and readjust to the real world.
There were three other games that were available to try out but unfortunately they only give you enough time for one. The others all looked interesting though: the one about having duelling sorcerers, another focusing on sports, and the final one based on making sculptures. Give me Moore!
As for the hardware, the Oculus headset is surprisingly light and comfortable to wear. The only downside is that the built-in speakers are not exactly the greatest. Room for imporvement here, as I could hardly hear the game despite having the volume all the way up. The other core elements in the Oculus set-up are the two small controllers that you hold in both hands. These fit perfectly, using a minimal design so that your hands aren’t overwhelmed.
Overall, the Oculus is a fine piece of equipment and a great start for VR gaming. However, we need more fully formed games for it. At the moment most of them are merely demos or mini-game collections which while nice are far too short. And the biggest downside of them all: the price of £600 is notably high. But this is the first phase of VR and it will only be cheaper and better down the line.