Arriving at an Oculus Rift preview, it becomes very clear very quickly that Oculus is not going to let its slow start (in comparison with PS4 VR) and its $500 million lawsuit with Zenimax affect its commitment to fronting the VR charge. Thanks, perhaps, to its ownership under Facebook since 2014, Oculus is clearly making a statement that it is planning to be the most ambitious and forward-thinking of the VR producers – whatever the cost.
Last week, at what was a surprisingly star-studded event (who knew Nick Grimshaw and Jonathan Ross would mix in with the nerds?), Oculus Rift showcased some of its relatively new technology (notably the Oculus Touch controllers) and upcoming games which look set to shake up the VR race for the end of 2017.
Once I got over the rage of being queue-jumped by Foals (although clearly not over it), I tried a few of the upcoming Oculus games set for release later this year and it became obvious very fast that Oculus has its sights set on big things. The games are varied and constantly fill you with those wonderful ‘surprised’ moments where you can’t quite believe different aspects of the game actually work (you can actually inject yourself in the leg with the controller to heal your HP. Bring on the bruises!)
Titles such as Brass Tactics, an RTS game from the creator of Age of Empires (Mark Terrano), demonstrate how Oculus is considering the wider picture and trying to branch out and cater to all areas. For those who don’t want the sickness-inducing reality of some of the titles, games like this illustrate how VR can enrich more than just the FPS experience. Meanwhile, zombie FPS Killing Floor: Incursion indicate Oculus are keeping a finger firmly on the pulse and are keen to hone the formats that have always proved popular.
What is most exciting, however, is the highly ambitious plans for online multiplayer, incorporating seemingly endless and progressive gameplay. None seem to exemplify this better than the upcoming title From Other Suns – a VR game so immersive most probably won’t feel ready for it yet (motion sickness sufferers, you may want to stick to third-person). With a potential for 3 separate players in the same world, warping through space and conquering galaxies in an endless battle against droids mankind created who have taken over the universe – From Other Suns is a daring effort at the kind of VR games we assumed would one day exist, but not in our life time.
And whilst Oculus has always held a slightly stronger hand than its two main competitors in the game department, it has placed down its wild card with the Oculus Touch controllers, which make the Vive controllers look like basic bitches.
Initially, upon holding the Oculus Touch controllers and hearing a 25 step-guide of how to use all the different mechanisms you will feel like you will never get the hang of it. Five minutes later and the instinctive nature of the controls means you can’t help but feel like a total badass who has ‘mastered’ some sort of fine art. This translates into hand movements in-game which are more realistic and, in fact, creepy than ever as the way the Touch controllers function mean we are starting to see the beginnings of individual finger movement in VR.
Will Oculus overtake all competition? Perhaps. It depends on what Vive/PS4 have up their sleeves for this year. What is certain is that Oculus, with its more advanced hardware and access to exclusive games, will be a tough competitor. Indeed, it seems the days where we give up on real-life and live inside our headsets may not be as far away as we thought! The only question seems to be will they spend enough time out of mischief to execute these ambitions?