Virtual reality became a reality Monday with the first Oculus Rift headsets delivered to Kickstarter backers. Those lucky early adopters are not the only individuals diving into VR. The Rift was put through its paces by several critics. While Oculus’ headset did not stumble out of the gate, reviewers said it’s far from a perfect start.
There appear to be two camps established from the first wave of Rift reviews. On one side are the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, where the Rift is seen as an interesting glimpse of the future of computing and gaming. For these reviewers, it’s about potential that falls just short of being transformative. Other reviews focused on the rough edges that prevent the Rift from being an immersive experience.
Setting up the Oculus Rift requires a round of adjustments not unlike the experience of moving a radio antenna around to find that sweet spot where the broadcast comes in clear. For Wall Street Journal reviewer Geoffrey A. Fowler, a sensor glitch briefly hindered the start of the VR experience. For New York Times reviewer Brian Chen, the overall setup process took about an hour — including configuring the PC, headset, camera and Xbox controller and adjusting the headset for maximum comfort. Mashable’s review rated the Rift’s ease of use at 3.5 out of 5, noting there’s some work required to get the perfect VR setup.
Putting on the Rift is like putting on a blindfold, according to the reviews. Unlike the HTC Vive, shipping in April, the Rift does not have a built-in camera in the headset. That means any potential obstacle or items that could be knocked over must be cleared. Using the included Xbox One wireless requires users to memorize the button layout and control schemes. The interactive Oculus Touch controllers won’t ship until the second half of 2016.
Cost was another important factor in the reviews. The Oculus Rift requires a PC with a powerful processor and graphics card, with the most affordable Oculus-ready PC priced at $949. That’s not including the $600 price of the Rift, which means VR has a high cost of entry.
Reviewers said the Rift is an incredibly fun gaming machine that may make you feel a bit queasy. Gizmodo and Polygon gave the Rift the highest praise for providing an immersive experience. The additional VR experience, such as watching a movie or an interactive tour of the human body, were the weakest offerings for all reviewers. The Rift works best as a gaming device, but there is a physical factor out of a player’s control that limits the overall enjoyment.
Playing “Lucky’s Tale” is a fun experience due to the lack of motion. Players can look around, collect coins and play the game as though it were on a large TV screen. There’s an interactive element, but it’s comfortable. The more impressive technical feats such as with “EVE: Valkyrie” and “Into the Dead” can be too much of a good thing. All reviewers had trouble playing “EVE: Valkyrie” for an extended period of time due to motion sickness. “Into the Dead” has breaks in the action to help reduce the discomfort.
Preorders ship Wednesday, with arrival later in the week. Facebook’s Oculus Rift is the first of three VR headsets arriving on the heads of consumers in 2016. The $799 HTC Vive ships in April while the PlayStation VR ships in October.