The First Few is a series where we take raw unfiltered first impressions of the game and write down exactly what we think within the initial hours of it. Whereas a review covers the experience as a whole, The First Few focuses on the opening act of the title or more commonly known as the “hook”.
I usually try to start off my articles with an intro to ease into a topic and provide my own spin and perspective. But what can be said that hasn’t already been said about the Oculus Rift? With that said, let’s dive right in.
When my package arrived, it was quite heavy. Thirteen pounds to be exact. I was worried about how much of that weight would be in the headset itself, fearing for the health of my neck. Luckily, a significant portion of that weight is built into the extremely high-quality box. If you like to keep boxes for collecting or other reasons, this thing is sturdy and will stand the test of time. Inside was the headset itself, a tracking sensor, a remote, an Xbox One controller (with USB cable), a wireless receiver for the controller, and a set of AA batteries, all nice and neat and easy to remove.
Setup wasn’t quick, but it certainly was easy. I was directed to a website to download the Oculus software, which guided me through setting up my headset with clear and to-the-point directions, complete with video visuals and interactive sections. My greatest worry was having the lenses or the headset strap setup incorrectly, but it was all a breeze.
The headset itself is extremely well designed. Straps are intuitive to adjust, and when adjusted properly, the Rift doesn’t place a lot of weight down on your cheeks. It blocks out pretty much all of the outside world, while not completely sealing in your eyes, so fogging wasn’t an issue at all. I didn’t expect much from the headphones from looking at them, but they are quite comfortable and effective. Removing the headset is also really easy, as the straps will give a certain amount when pulled with enough pressure to allow you to comfortably take it off.
Once setup was complete and I had my Rift on, I was told to stand up. Looking where my desk should be, I could see my Oculus sensor sticking out of a cloud, perfectly mimicking its position and orientation on my desk. It was sort of a nice transition from the real world into the immersive virtual world I was entering. I was instructed to look down. Below me was a circle. This circle represented how far I was allowed to move while using the Rift. I tried walking around it, and indeed, I was moving in this virtual world, and having only used a DK1 up to this point, I was quite impressed.
Once I was ready to begin, I pressed a button on my controller, and was sent through a few very short experiences to show off some of what was possible. I was surrounded by nature, with lush colors and soothing sounds all around me. I could have seen myself spending half an hour there on an evening after a stressful day at work, but before I knew it, I was whisked away to an alien planet. What I assume was one of its citizens was in front of me, trying to communicate to me, but frustrated that he could not find the words he needed. We both examined each other, moving our faces in, cocking our heads to the side. It was quite amusing to see how much we had in common. Suddenly, I was in a city, on the edge of a tall building at night. Lit balloons were floating up into the sky all around me, and I was able to step forward and look all the way down into the streets. Finally, I found myself in a long hallway in what appeared to be museum, with some loud thuds in the distance. From around the corner, a T-Rex came stomping down towards me and stopped as it came closer. It was searching for me, unable to see me as I stood perfectly still. Sniffing for me right in front of my very eyes. It let out a massive roar as saliva sprayed past my face, and walked right over me.
Alright, I am impressed.
At this point, I am taken to the Oculus Home area. Funny enough, it is an actual house, and a very cool one at that. The main focus is pointed at the app store, as this is where you acquire and launch applications. There isn’t a giant selection at the moment, but there’s also not a dearth of content either. I was a bit surprised the Netflix hasn’t released an application for the Rift despite having already made one for the Oculus-powered Gear VR, but lets face it, I’m here for the games.
My Oculus Rift came with a free copy of Lucky’s Tale, and EVE: Valkyrie. I knew Valkyrie was the real flagship title, but my first time with the headest, I knew I didn’t have long to play, and I am a big sucker for platformers, so I gave Lucky’s Tale a try first.
I want to have more to say about this game, but to be honest, it’s a generic platformer. This one isn’t really a VR showpiece, it’s more of an example of how standard non-first-person games can be enhanced by VR, and in that regard, it does its job well. You control character movement with a joystick, and the camera is semi-automatic, semi-controlled by the headset. Moving to specific points will move the camera to a new point to give you a view of what you need to see, but you can look around the area, peak around bushes, stand up and look over to see previously obscured platforms in the distance. There was a short section where I was given a set of bombs and instructed to look where I wanted to throw them. It worked well and was satisfying. The developers didn’t try to stuff VR gimmicks in everywhere, and for that, I applaud them, as it reminded me a lot of motion-controls and Wii games. Many games on the Wii really overdid it on the motion-controls, and a lot of the better titles used it as an enhancement to a game that would have worked fine without it (Super Mario Galaxy, for example).
Going in, I knew this was the flagship VR title. Still, I kept away from gameplay videos because I didn’t want to spoil the experience for myself and set expectations. I wasn’t sure how much looking around I would really be doing in a cockpit when I’m only able to shoot forward. I was very pleasantly surprised.
I was prepped for battle by Katee Sackhoff, and as a big Battlestar Galactica fan, that was a great way to start off. Before long, I was in my cockpit, waiting for launch. As I looked around, I saw that my character was holding the flight stick at the exact same position I was holding my controller. An excellent touch from the developers. Suddenly, sparks started to fly, and I was sent hurtling through the launch tube. I could feel the speed in my body, and it felt good. I was surrounded by interesting things to look at. Friendly units flying in from above and beside me. All of the readouts spread throughout my cockpit. I was already doing some looking around. But what about when the dogfighting started? Would I really be looking around much, or would I be staring straight ahead and turning my ship to point at the enemy?
It didn’t take long to answer my question, as several enemies appeared at our location, and I was tasked with taking down as many as possible. I shot down a few just keeping them in front of my ship as I expected, but then I started following a trickier enemy. This ship was flying all over the place to dodge out of my line of site, and every sharp turn it took, my head followed before my ship did to make sure I never took my eyes off of it.
This. Is. Cool.
The Rift is definitely cool, and I intend to spend some time with it every day. Whenever I took it off, it was because I had to do something else, not because I was fatigued from using it. That being said, do I think this is the future of gaming? Not just yet, but it’s another step closer. This is by far the most immersive experience I’ve seen, and I think this is definitely the future of entertainment. But the core part of gaming is interactivity, and I don’t think this brings enough to the table yet to be that next giant leap in gaming. Maybe once users are able to more freely walk around like with the Vive, or when the motion controllers come out, I think those have the potential to really solidify this as the future of games. However, Oculus chose to release the headset by itself early, and it’s still quite enjoyable to use on its own.
Control Method: Oculus Rift Headset and Xbox One Controller
Time Spent: 2 Hours