Oculus Rift + Touch VR
Of all three of the major VR headsets on the market, it’s easy to say that Oculus Rift is aesthetically the best of the bunch. Regardless, Oculus’ attention to detail with the Rift’s design is second to none. The main body that houses the lenses and displays is wrapped in a soft, yet rugged, black fabric. It’s a subtle design decision, especially when it looks like matte plastic from afar, but it adds a touch of warmth to the Rift. It looks like a premium piece of technology.
In terms of design, the only criticism we’d have to level at the Oculus Rift is its built-in on-ear headphones. It’s handy not having to fumble around for a pair of earbuds or over-ear headphones with your headset on, but they do always seem to get in the way and don’t feel overly comfortable to have perched on your ear. Oculus does offer an option to switch them out for its alternative built-in earbuds, which aren’t included in the box. The general sound quality is pretty impressive, if not slightly over loud, but they’re just not really for us.
In terms of headset hardware specifications, the Oculus Rift is practically identical to that of the HTC Vive. Both have 110-degree viewing angles, twin 1,200 x 1,080-pixel OLED displays and a 90Hz refresh rate. The difference in visual clarity also seems to be down to personal preferences. One thing the Oculus Rift does have going for it over the HTC Vive is its lower minimum system requirements. The HTC Vive needs at least a Nvidia GTX 970 to run, along with an Intel Core i5-4590, but thanks to AMD’s Asynchronous Spacewarp technology, Oculus Rift can actually run on an Intel Core i3-6100 or AMD FX4350, Nvidia GTX 960 or Radeon R9 290 and 8GB of RAM.
You’ll be pleased to know that Oculus Rift is actually rather straightforward in terms of initial setup. Thanks to the lack of Lighthouse beacons, and no need to put out a separate feed from your computer to a TV, it actually has fewer cables than both the HTC Vive and PlayStation VR. Because of this, you can simply plug in the tracking cameras you have into USB 2 or USB 3 ports. The software detects if you have one, two or three cameras hooked in and follow the on-screen instructions. In total, setting up for standing play with Oculus Touch took around ten minutes once all drivers were installed.
Room Scale took a little longer due to optimising camera positions but was no longer than 15 to 20 minutes. Once you’re good to go, you’ll go through Oculus’ mandatory introductory session. It thrusts you into a Ready Player One-style ramshackle caravan in the far-flung future filled with old-school computers and holographic displays. As introductions go, it’s a great way to familiarise yourself with the Touch’s ability to grab or poke or throw objects around a virtual space. Unfortunately, it’s seemingly unstoppable and, after setting up the Rift more than once, it becomes tiresome rather quickly. Still, it is entertaining.
To ensure that there’s more than enough VR content available to justify the purchase of its own headset, Oculus has really been pushing the boundaries of VR games and applications available for Rift. It’s thanks to this development and publishing arm that Oculus Rift has some genuinely incredible exclusives available to it. All of which make excellent use of Oculus’ VR technology to create stunning games to immerse yourself within. However, even multi-platform games like SuperHot VR, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, EVE: Valkyrie and more all play wonderfully on the Rift.
Its VR interface, which takes place within a virtual home, is pleasingly comfortable to navigate through – and doesn’t feel as bleak as the HTC Vive’s interface nor as cumbersome as PlayStation VR’s 2D PS4 menu. The Oculus Store highlights games of interest and jumping around simply requires you to point and click, rather than flick through a series of menus. It’s genuinely intuitive.
It’s in these small details that you can really see how Oculus is positioning itself. Oculus Rift, however, is here for the people. It’s the PC version of PlayStation VR, it’s all about the games. Sony can get away with some rough edges to its PlayStation VR experience but, as Oculus Rift’s premium price means premium expectations, it has to deliver. Thankfully, it seems to do just that.
Now every Oculus Rift purchase comes with a free Oculus Touch and Oculus Touch is a world apart from the now archaic gamepad. Looking somewhat like tools from the future, Oculus Touch’s handheld controllers have the main grip with two triggers, and a ring of plastic protecting your fist from smacking into something rather hard while holding a Touch controller. As a general tracking tool, they’re as accurate as HTC Vive’s plastic wands but are definitely more comfortable to hold for longer durations and actually have some rather clever bits of technology packed within.
Each Oculus Touch controller has a thumbstick for traditional controller navigation, along with A, B, Y, X face buttons split between your left and right hands. The face of each Touch controller also has a menu and “Oculus” button which work like the navigation and “Start” buttons on an Xbox One pad and is capable of sensing if your thumb is touching the surface or is raised up. The main index-finger trigger can do similar, capable of telling if you’re pointing or gripping the trigger ahead of clenching a fist.
Being able to track these movements seems somewhat pointless on paper, but in VR it’s revelatory. Thanks to Oculus Touch, Oculus Rift is the only VR headset capable of letting you interact with virtual worlds via pointing or using gestures like thumbs up or clenched fists. Few games are yet to make any use of this, but it’s great for VR social spaces like Facebook’s Spaces application.
Oculus Touch also runs on AAA batteries that, so far, have lasted quite a while of use. Comparatively, the HTC Vive and PlayStation Move controllers internal batteries seem to run down woefully quickly.
If you like games, and you only see owning a VR headset as a gateway to playing more games rather than VR experiences, Oculus Rift is for you. It’s got a fantastic catalogue featuring some of the best VR games around and, because Oculus works directly as a VR games publisher and with game development, many VR titles feel fantastic to play with an Oculus Rift.
The Oculus Rift represents one of the best value-for-money purchases in the VR hardware space. It’s almost a must-buy for those interested in VR and it seems that now is as good a time as any to pick up an Oculus Rift.
The Oculus Rift is a triumph for every tech-head, this isn’t just a step towards the future, it is an almighty leap. It’s by no means perfect, but it’s already fulfilling a healthy fraction of its ultimate potential. We would recommend this to anyone that wants to dip his/her toes into the future. Literally, mind-blowing.