Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Review: Oculus Rift

Each year, new games are unleashed upon us. I’ve been a gamer for the majority of my life and despite a tempestuous beginning have settled into a great relationship with games. I am enjoying being at the point where I don’t need to own every new release under the sun (life takes priority ya know!) but most years, if I’m really frank about the whole thing, I can take or leave the majority. Then comes  the year where every game that makes you moist comes out at EXACTLY the same time!

Case in point: Bioshock Infinite…The Last of Us… Saints Row IV ….and of course Grand Theft Auto V …be still my beating heart. However, this is not a review of those games, but a review of a little gadget called Oculus Rift. A colleague of mine briefly introduced me to the idea some months ago, ending on the bombshell that he had lined himself up for a Developer Kit. Initially I struggled to get my head around the idea and was a bit concerned as what he showed me on screen looked amazingly like a cross between Jeff Fahey in Lawnmower man and Craig Charles as Lister in Red Dwarf ‘Gunmen of the Apocalypse.’

The concept for those not familiar is Virtual Reality but the specific focus of Rift is gaming. The thing that I love about Oculus Rift is the huge amount of backing on Kickstarter, it doesn’t seem to be a case of a bunch of developers telling the public to have the latest peripheral, but a case of people coming together and fans of the concept putting serious money behind it ($2,437,429) to get this off the ground and into production. It has been recently announced that on the back of this investment, a further $16,000,000  led by Spark Capital, Matrix Partners, Founders Fund and Formation 8 has been given to fund development.

So, back to my fellow gamer dude who managed to acquire Oculus and call me over for a view and a quick play. First impressions is that the headset was nowhere near as cumbersome or heavy as the original Virtual Reality headsets of days gone by. To be honest with you, I didn’t know what to expect and I buckled up and turned everything on.

The set up is very straightforward and I closed my eyes as the Rift was put over my head. When I opened them again, I couldn’t help but gasp. Immersive is a word that is so often overused but bloody hell other words just fail me. I was looking at a very basic scene, a new build house with a door and I was standing outside, but it was when I looked up at the sky which was changing that I felt blown away. It was completely seamless, no pixelation, nothing to indicate that everything you see completely surrounds you.

Awe doesn’t quite cover it. I just wasn’t ready

It has been announced in the last few weeks that EVE:Valkyrie when released in 2014 will include the ability to play in  multiplayer dogfight mode with the Rift. To be honest, I know I’m gonna get blowed up to high heaven on a continuous basis as I will be too busy taking everything in to flip a switch or engage an enemy.

Games have improved in terms of quality, viewing pleasure and story over the years. Whilst attending a conversation with Joss Whedon one of the attendees asked about Joss venturing into gaming and then implied, in dismissive tone that he wouldn’t sink so low, because gaming wasn’t really up to standard. As I beat the audience member to a pulp with a handily stashed Xbox 360 controller, Joss did say that you couldn’t write off gaming as there is a wealth of games with excellent stories, some of which put movies to shame.
The point is that while I was there, Rift firmly attached to my head, trying to touch fireflies that flittered past my face and brush away falling leaves, my brain couldn’t wait to apply this to my game experience. The sheer idea that this could evolve enough for me to look through the eyes of a certain chief, call sign 117 and gaze across the landscape….chills down my spine does not quite cover it.

The interesting thing about Rift is about patience. Too many Companies set out to rush things out in time for the summer/Christmas rush. The beauty of the Rift is that time is being taken to get it perfect and the consumers are happy to wait. Who the hell wouldn’t? The child in you will want this now, yesterday, NOW! But the adult in you will be happy to wait for time to be taken to execute an excellent project.
As Team Fortress 2 is available to play using Oculus Rift, please enjoy my latest boozy contribution, via those wonderful folks from The Drunken Moogle

Jarate -Team Fortress 2 Cocktail – Courtesy of the foine folks at The Drunken Moogle
1 Litre of Cloudy lemonade
2 cups of Vodka
1 Cup of triple sec
1 can of twisted tea or 12 oz of another dark tea drink (Add or use less for desired darkness)

Directions: Mix all ingredients together and distribute in mason jars to properly gross out your friends and confuse them as you chug it down.

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