Gaming

Virtual Reality Check: Everything You Need To Know About Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, And HTC Vive

Whether you’re ready or not, the video game industry is diving headfirst into the science fiction-like realm of virtual reality. Almost all the news coming out of last week’s Game Developers Conference was related, in some way, to virtual reality, and over the coming months, the three leading virtual reality headsets — the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR — will all hit the market.

But what if you don’t know an Oculus Rift from a View-Master? How much do these VR headsets cost, what do you need to use them, and, most importantly, are they any good? I’ve gathered up all the pertinent information, along with hands-on reports from Uproxx’s own Mark Shrayber, who attended this year’s GDC and got to test out the Rift, Vive and PS VR in person. Here’s the real story on virtual reality…

Oculus Rift

When’s It Come Out?

March 28, 2016

How Much Does It Cost?

$599

What Else Do You Need to Use It?

A fairly beefy PC with a top of the line graphics card, and at least 8GB of RAM. If you don’t already have something like that, expect to shell out $1,000 (at least).

The headset that sparked the current revival of interest in virtual reality, Oculus Rift found initial funding on Kickstarter back in 2012. Originally, Oculus was pitched as a relatively low-price device that would make VR accessible to mainstream consumers, but that goal seemed to change when Oculus was acquired by Facebook for a whopping $2 billion in 2014. In the end, a hefty $600 Oculus price tag was announced early this year.

In terms of specs, the Oculus Rift offers 2160 x 1200 resolution, a 90Hz refresh rate and a 110 degree field of view, which is as good or better than any of the other upcoming headsets. The Oculus ships with an Xbox One controller, although the somewhat odd, hoop-shaped Oculus Touch motion controller is coming out later in 2016. No word on what they’ll cost yet. In terms of function, the Oculus is meant to be a more traditional gaming device – basically, you stand or sit in one place while using it, with boogieing around not encouraged.

Hands-On Impressions from Mark Shrayber

The Oculus is definitely fun and provided me with the only experience in which I could break things (Toyroom), but it was also heavy and felt more clunky than the other two systems. It also had what felt like the most complicated controls. I liked the fact that I could really see my fingers moving in-game, but the execution was more novel than anything else, and I can’t imagine using it except to show off how cool it is.

While the Oculus is less pricey than the Vive, from a hands-on standpoint, it didn’t feel any more impressive than PlayStation VR (and can sometimes be more blurry). I’ve tried Oculus several times and have never had a better experience than I did while at the official booth at GDC, where the first-party software definitely made a good impression. While some things worked well (like tetherball, which was fantastically fun), I was much less impressed with games that required more finesse. Even coming in as my least favorite, I’d still purchase an Oculus Rift if it was cheaper and don’t think anyone doing so would regret their decision.

Oculus Rift Games to Keep an Eye on

Chronos (Mar. 28)

From the team that created Darksiders, Chronos is an interesting adventure-RPG, in which you delve repeatedly into an atmospheric, puzzle-filled labyrinth. Uniquely, your character ages as the game progresses, with you starting as a physically spry, but untrained hero, and end up old and slow, but more skilled magically. Looks like a deeper experience than most VR-exclusive titles.

Edge of Nowhere (Spring 2016)

A new survival horror experience from Insomniac Games, the folks behind Ratchet & Clank and Sunset Overdrive. You play an explorer looking for a lost expedition in the Antarctic mountains, only to stumble on some mind-flaying, Lovecraftian horrors.

Rock Band VR (2016)

Really immerse yourself in the rock star experience with this exclusive VR version of Rock Band. Sometimes the most obvious ideas are the best ones.

HTC Vive

When’s It Come Out?

April 5, 2016

How Much Does It Cost?

$799

What Else Do You Need to Use It?

A PC roughly as powerful as the one needed to power the Oculus Rift. Again, expect to pay around a grand.

A collaboration between smartphone manufacturer HTC and Steam proprietors Valve, the Vive was unveiled early last year. While the headset is nearly $200 more expensive than the Oculus Rift, it does ship with two custom Vive controllers. The baton-like controllers boast motion sensing, trackpads capabilities, traditional buttons and pressure-sensitive grips.

In terms of basic specs, the Vive is equal with the Rift — 2160 x 1200 resolution, a 90Hz refresh rate and a 110 degree field of view – but it brings a variety of other features to the table. The headset comes with a front-facing camera and two motion sensors, that allow you to move freely around a 15 x 15 foot area while using the headset (without tripping over coffee table). Basically, the Vive promises to deliver simple “holodeck” experiences, where you actually move around a virtual world, while the Oculus is just a more immersive display for traditional games you play on your couch. Oh, and for some reason the Vive also comes with a built in phone, so you can check your voice mail and texts while exploring VR worlds. Shrug.

Hands-On Impressions from Mark

The HTC Vive is the most expensive option, but it also produces some of the sharpest graphics I’ve seen, and even the archery game I tried (I am very bad at archery) was immersive enough that I would have happily played it for more than the five minutes I was allotted.

What keeps Vive from being number one is how expensive it is, and the fact that there’s a real heft difference between this system system and the PS VR. My head did feel tired after playing. I scored 575 points to my opponent’s 3625, by the way, so I was a little sore about that, too. But defeat never looked crisper and it’s still an excellent choice for somebody who has the money to pay for one.

HTC Vive Games to Keep an Eye on

HTC and Valve are claiming the Vive won’t have any true exclusives, the developers of their games are all free to go somewhere else, but a number of games will launch only on the Vive.

Hover Junkers (April 5)

Hover Junkers is a first-person multiplayer shooter, in which you can also craft elaborate flying machines to take on your opponents with. The ship-building process, in particular, really looks to take advantage of the HTC Vive’s unique control capabilities.

Audioshield (April)

A neat arcade-like experience, Audioshield gives you two shields and tasks you with blocking an incoming barrage of orbs and missiles. These projectiles will be timed to whatever MP3s from your collection you put into the game – mellow songs will make for an easier experiences, and your favorite black metal tracks will create an unstoppable onslaught.

Google Tilt Brush (April 5)

Google Tilt Brush isn’t really a game, but it’s definitely being positioned as one of the highlights of the Vive launch. Google Tilt Brush uses the Vive free-roaming capabilities to let you create works of art in three-dimensional space. If Tilt Brush is as easy to use as Google claims, this is what everybody will be doing with their Vive early on.

PlayStation VR

When’s It Come Out?

October, 2016

How Much Does It Cost?

$399

What Else Do You Need to Use It?

PlayStation VR mostly uses existing PlayStation peripherals. You’ll need a PS4, a PS Camera and two PS Move controllers, which cost a little over $500, combined. Sony is also selling a selling a PS VR bundle with everything you need to use the headset (minus a PS4) for $500.

Sony’s more mainstream-targeted PlayStation VR was announced back in 2014, and is powered by the PS4 rather than a high-end computer like its competitors. PS VR falls a bit short of the Rift and Vive in some areas, only boasting 1920 x 1080 resolution and a 100 degree field of view, but it actually beats the competition with a 120Hz refresh rate, which should help with blur and motion sickness.

PlayStation VR doesn’t have the unique features of the HTC Vive, instead it’s hoping corner the market via a lower price and ease of use. Getting running with PlayStation VR costs half as much (or less) as the Rift or Vive, and setting it up should be a snap for most folks who already have a PS4 in their living room. Sony is also promising all PS4 games and media will be easily viewable using PlayStation VR’s “cinematic mode.”

Hands-On Impressions from Mark

Sony’s PlayStation VR was the clear winner for me in terms of price, graphics and easy of use. I tried it twice and while the controls took some getting used to when it came to trying to use the Move controllers, using a DualShock was no different than playing PS4.

I especially like the 3D sound (it really felt like it was coming from every direction) and that the PS VR is a plug-and-play option for people who may not be technologically inclined. Sony promises to make the experience standardized for everyone, which will also make it a more attractive option for the casual player, as will the social aspect that allows multiple people to play the same game with only one headset. It doesn’t come out until October, but PS VR is definitely the one I’m waiting for.

You can also check out Mark’s more in-depth PlayStation VR impressions, right here.

PlayStation VR Games to Keep an Eye on

Golem (2017)

Created by ex-Halo and Destiny developers, Golem lets you control a variety of different golems, some 20 feet tall, some small enough to fit under the floor boards of a house. Golem is looking stylish, and certainly comes with a solid developer pedigree.

Robinson: The Journey (Fall 2016)

If you asked kids what they’d like to do in a virtual reality world, what would most of them say? Hang out with dinosaurs, of course. I mean, duh. Well, Robinson: The Journey, from Far Cry and Crysis creators Crytek, lets you do exactly that. Do you really need to know anything else? You do not.

Until Dawn: Rush of Blood (Fall 2016)

Until Dawn was one of the surprise hits of last year, and now Sony is bringing the slasher-style goodness to PS VR in an original new title. Rush of Blood looks like it will be more of an on-rails shooter experience, but it will also have the branching decisions that were a major part of the original game.

Hopefully you now have a better handle on the upcoming virtual reality options. Interested in hopping aboard the virtual reality train? Which of the three upcoming headsets seems the most promising? Hash it out, below.

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