HTC Vive review

For Christmas this year I bought myself one of these. I'd previously done a demo when I was on vacation in New York, and it was pretty promising. For the demo you get a good sense of how well the reaction time works in moving your head and the image reacting- that is to say, there is no perceptible delay at all. You also get a chance to see what the basic mechanics are; the ability to literally physically walk around the play area, the real-time reaction of the two joysticks that you hold in your hands, and the ergonomics/action movements. Altogether the demo gives you an idea of the potential of virtual reality in the living room; and it's pretty mind blowing.

About six months after this demo, I'd ordered and recieved one. I paid about 700 euros for it as there was a bit of a promotion on Steam. It was just as I'd remembered it, but now it was all mine to play with as long as I wanted. You do need a relatively powerful PC to hook it up to, but it's not that hard to put a good gaming PC together for around 500 euros. The setup process took about an hour, but I enjoy those kinds of things. Part of it is two sensor detectors which you'll need to install on opposite corners of the room or "play area". If you don't want to use DIY methods to hook them into the walls I'd recommend buying a couple of cheap camera tripods that extend to two metres.

Once set up, I was blown away by the immersiveness. When you put the headset on, you enter another world, forgetting the one you just left completely. this immersiveness comes from several factors. 

  • All light except that of the game being blocked out.
  • Head or earphones blocking external sound.
  • The ability to switch between games and apps without taking the headset off. (there is a camera mounted on the headset in case you need to find your way around the room at some point in order to find a chair or something)
  • The ergonomics of the handheld controllers.
  • Comfort of the headset.
  • You really have to move to achieve your objective. In some of the games not much, but even then I end up having to strip to my tshirt even on the coldest of rooms. Great potential here for Excercise games.

The only significant shortcoming I had was the lack of games and the absense of almost any maintream studio games. It seems to be mostly small and indie studios working hard of developing at the moment. Even Valve hadn't put out any flagship games as part of the Vive package. Don't get me wrong, some of the games are great. Well thought out in terms of gameplay as well as good quality graphics. Most of the games available on the marketplace are terrible though, and seemingly published for a quick buck. The graphics are also the best available in terms of VR, however it is possible to see pixels when you allow yourself to see them. This isn't a big deal in-game, however it does limit the Vive's capability of being used as a PC, since when focussing on smaller details like text, pixels become important in fighting eye strain. So things like word processing, internet browsing, working on your PC/laptop or 2d movie watching for any length of time or instead of on a regular monitor are out of the question, though the Vive is set up to do all those things technically. This is a shame, since as you can imagine, if you enjoy having two screens plugged into your laptop is useful, imagine what it would be like to have a screen literally everywhere. In addition, from time to time you have issues with blurred edges. My (probably long) eyelashes tend to make smudges on the lenses, which I then have to clean with a cloth every so often. But that may just be me. 

There are new games coming out all the time though, you can follow from the Vive's Facebook page. The Vive will likely be future proof for the next couple of years in terms of the hardware. Developers certaily have enough to work with here provided there is enough of a market incentive for them. The two years will hopfully see to that. I would personally like to see some improved versions come out in the time being though, which I think would help make the product more appealing outside of the core gaming market too. If you feel like treating yourself, I'd definitely reccomend supporting VR by purchasing this. Price may be an issue though, and as it stands, I can't legitimise getting a Vive unless you've always been intrigued by VR and have some cash floating around earmarked for a fun but pointless purpose. It's a catch 22 situation. I want Vive's and Steam's VR to continue to develop and improve, but that can't happen without a solid business case behind it.

In order to use Vive, you'll need likely the two tripods I mentioned, as well as a gaming PC and a monitor. In addition, you'll need to buy virtual reality games/apps  from Steam. There are some good demo and bundled games, though these will run out fast. Virtual reality then, is still not ultra accessible to the masses, but it's close. In the next generation of VR, if we can start to see it incorporate effectively the utility related functions of a regular PC, it could become much more appealling for the masses. In turn, people will be more willing to fork out regardless of the price. With Oculus recently tanking in sales and caught up in legal battles, it looks like the more hardcore PC style gaming market for VR has become a one horse race in the form of the Vive, which might not be a bad thing. If VR can be kept in one ecosystem, consumers will be less confused, and developers can create specifically for a consolidated market. Whether VR will survive and in what form, the jury is still out on. We've got the casual market covered by some mobile companies and Google, mid range gaming covered on consoles, and my favorite most constantly innovative market; the more hardcore gaming vertical covered by the Vive. If history is anything to go on, the market will consolidate to the lowest common denominator, i.e. the most profitable one, which will likely be a very dumbed down limited VR solution. Here's to hoping though. 

Price: 6/10 

Overall rating: 7.5/10

ReviewJack Mirzagaming, VRComment