After a few years of beefing up my PC, I finally dropped some money on a virtual reality headset. VR was last year’s big craze which is still fairly popular now. Now that I’ve been able to own a headset myself and play a bunch of games, I thought to share my first impressions and experiences to people who may be on the fence with VR. I’ll cover my headset research, setup, the games, and motion sickness.
Starting off with the headset. Right now there’s three big-brand options for VR: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Sony PSVR. I did a lot of research for each headset but it basically boiled down to this:
Pros: Lightweight, comfortable, $400 with bundled touch controllers during summer sale.
Cons: Not as intended for room-scale as the Vive, not supported by some Steam games.
Pros: Intended for room-scale, works with almost all Steam games, many focal options.
Cons: Heavy, $800.
Pros: Lightweight, most comfortable, $350 for the headset, already own motion controllers and camera.
Cons: Console exclusive, lower field of vision and resolution.
PSVR would’ve been a nice option since Dreams (a game I’m looking forward to) will most likely support it, but since it’s console exclusive it wouldn’t run games as nicely as my beefy PC. Then it was boiled down to the Oculus or Vive. In the end I went Oculus because I was saving myself nearly four hundred dollars. The differences between the two headsets were too small to justify the extra money, so the cheap option was a no-brainer. However, since the headset was on sale everyone and their mothers were ordering one, so it took two weeks to actually get into my hands.
Setup & Hardware
Setting up this beast was a little confusing at first but you learn the ropes after you do it the first time. I ordered a 3rd tracking camera for room-scale compatibility so it took 4 USBs and one HDMI input to get it all hooked up. Keep in mind that it recommends USB 3.0 ports for the best result but I got away with only using one for a camera and 2.0 ports for the rest. Software-wise the Oculus setup is fairly easy and walks you through step-by-step, however it took me a little troubleshooting and computer restarts to get it working with the Steam VR software. Once it was all working though it ran like a dream!
One noteworthy hiccup on the hardware side is the length of the cord. It’s very small since the headset isn’t aimed towards the room-scale audience, and because the headset connector is both a USB and HDMI cord I had to make an emergency stop to Walmart to pick up an HDMI coupler. Once I got those hooked up, room-scale worked perfectly with no noticeable blindspots or disconnections. The actual headset is easy to adjust and comfortable. I do recommend getting a new face pad for it as the one it comes with absorbs sweat and can easily get gross.
So far I’ve spent 30-60 minutes in 9 different VR games. Some are VR exclusive and others are compatible games I’ve played previously. I’ll give my thoughts and impressions on each game and give it a Vom rating. My Vom (or vomit) rating is a 1-5 scale of how motion sick I felt during the game. 1 being “I wasn’t sick at all and I could play this game for hours”, and 5 being “I almost threw up on-the-spot and had to stop immediately”. Onto the impressions!
SuperHot is a game I already played and loved when it first came out, so I was very exited to give VR a shot! The “Time only moves when you move” mechanic helps when getting your bearings and planning your next attack. Throwing objects is a little awkward as you have to really telegraph your throw but everything else, from the shooting to the punching, is spot on. As with the original, this game can be difficult at times which leads to repetition, and I’ve noticed that flailing your arms the same way over and over again is more frustrating and exhausting than flailing a mouse, so keep that in mind.
Since you’re teleported to different play areas around a map, this game is very motion friendly and gets a 1 on the Vom scale.
Gorn is a fun brawl-them-up with heavy weapons and squishy targets to hit. The game does a really good job making you feel like a gladiator with motion prompts to start and end a fight, absurdly huge weapons, and enemies taunting you with a fake language. As the name implies, this is the goriest game I’ve played with heads and limbs being torn off with fountains of blood sprayed across the ground. My only complaint gameplay-wise is how light the opponents feel. They are huge and muscly but feel like inflatable balloons when tossed around. Other than that their movements are physics-based, funny, and awesome!
You have two options of movement for this game. For one you use the regular control stick and the other you pull and drag your hands in a direction. Both of them feel a little iffy but since you can play most of this game without moving at all I’ll give it a 2 on the Vom scale.
Windlands is an exploration adventure game where you swing around floating islands to find glowing blue gems. With all the flying and the swinging I expected this to be a vom-fest but it’s actually not that bad. It’s a little getting-used-too, but once you get the “hang” of it, swinging is super fun and satisfying. I haven’t played much past the second level so I don’t know how interesting the story gets later on, but if exploring’s your thing this is a good choice!
Since you’re falling and flying around the place it feels weird to land or swing in certain directions, but I never actually started feeling sick so this game gets a 3 on the Vom scale.
Google Earth VR
This one isn’t really much of a “game” but it’s free and fun to mess around in. It’s exactly like google earth but you can see all the major cities and locations as miniature 3D models when immersed in VR. It’s easy and cool to locate familiar locations and stomp around like Godzilla. Only complaint is that less populated locations don’t have all the 3D models you’d expect and end up being a long, flat, texture.
You’re mostly clicking and dragging the globe to move around so it’s fairly easy on the senses. Transitioning from aerial view to ground view can feel a little odd, but if my grandparents can handle it then you can too! This gets a 2 on the Vom scale.
Space Pirate Trainer
Probably one of the nicer-looking VR games out there, Space Pirate Trainer has you shooting down spherical robots to chase your highest score. You have a lot of weapons to choose from and can switch on-the-fly for certain enemy patterns. There’s also a few different variants and difficulty settings to vary the gameplay and skill level of waves. If you’re not much of the score-chaser this game won’t be for you since that’s all it offers, but it’s still a very polished and user-friendly title.
You stand in one spot and shoot. 1 on the Vom scale.
Distance is a Kickstarter-backed racing game that had a VR mode added in a recent update. Regular 2D Distance is an incredibly fun gravity-bending racer with cool flipping mechanics and graphics. VR Distance, however, makes me feel like I’m in a tumble-dryer. There are many options like car size and head bobbing that attempt to reduce motion sickness, but even with those adjusted I had to quit after 20-30 minutes or I would’ve actually thrown-up. This game is still in early access but I don’t think anything will save this VR mode.
Distance: Amazingly fun game that transitions horribly to VR. 5 on the Vom scale.
I played a ton of Thumper on PS4 when it first came out but never actually finished it. It’s a difficult rhythm game with a focus on violent drum beats and space beetles. The game’s visuals look stunning on an HD TV and they only look better when you’re actually in the world. It plays the exact same way in VR as it does in 2D but the added depth-perception helps me a bit with hitting incoming beats and grinds. Even if you don’t have VR you should give this game a shot!
I had no problems with Thumper but there is quite a bit of motion on-screen at some points so I’ll give it a 2 on the Vom scale.
Not to be confused with Ohio State University, Osu is a free rhythm game that has you clicking circles to the beat of songs. If you’ve heard of Osu… yes… I play Osu. If you’ve never heard of Osu it’s a place where weebs go to listen to their favorite anime intro themes. The official game doesn’t have VR support but McOsu, a fan-made steam mod, does. In-game you have two screens, one for selecting songs and the other for playing the 3D map. This game transitions great into VR and I find it much easier to play in in this mode than I do with a mouse and keyboard. Resizing and adjusting the screens is a little clunky, but for a fan-made mod its pretty functional!
You stand still and click circles. 1 on the Vom scale.
Robo Recall is the only Oculus exclusive game I’ve played so far, but holy crap it’s the best VR game I’ve played overall! Made by Epic Games, it feels like a full-fledged triple-A game with natural gameplay and amazing graphics. You play as an agent who must prevent a robot uprising by blasting them with shotguns and ripping them apart. I mentioned how Gorn enemies felt too light, well they should learn from this game because everything you do, from shooting to throwing to dismemberment, feels extremely satisfying. Combine this with a light-hearted arcade style and you have yourself the best VR title on the market. I love this game so much and it makes me glad I chose the Oculus headset!
You teleport around similar to SuperHot but some robots jump in your face and it can get confusing. 2 on the Vom scale.
If you have a beefy PC and want to spoil yourself, the Oculus headset is totally worth it. The price is getting cheaper, setup is relatively hassle-free, and you get a decent lineup of games. There are still a bunch of good games out there that I didn’t mention here, so go out and do some research of you’re interested in a headset. If you’re not itching to dive into VR just yet there is still stuff planned for the future like wireless and standalone models, so save up you’re big bucks! While most of the games I’ve played are one-trick ponies, there are a few that I’ll play regularly such as Thumper, SuperHot, McOsu, and Robo Recall. I hope this has helped you with a potential purchase and I’m super exited to see what new and awesome VR games come out in the future! I’m still waiting for a Kaiju/mech fighting simulator!