Oculus Rift HD and Eve: Valkyrie: Hands-on with the duo made for each other
When we first had a go of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset at CES in January it was in a very rough and ready form. It was only a standard definition headset at the time and the software was not really anything that truly showed the potential of what it was capable of.
But time moves fast in the tech world and a meeting with CCP games in London allowed us to see the newest version of the VR device, a prototype HD version with a 1920 x 1080 display running at 60 frames per second, and we have to say that it makes for a much more immersive, much crisper experience.
We also got to trial the headset using CCP's latest build of Eve: Valkyrie, one of the best space dogfight games we've played. It too is merely in an early stage, with the same level we saw at both E3 and Gamescom this year, but it's a different kettle of fish in Full HD.
For those who haven't encountered or read about Oculus Rift before, it is a 3D virtual reality headset that, when worn, completely immerses you in the three-dimensional world being run on an attached computer. The experience is completed through gaming headphones and a control system - in this case an Xbox controller - and as soon as you are strapped in, you can't see, hear or feel anything else going on around you in the real world.
Wherever you look, the camera will face, so in the case of Eve: Valkyrie, where you are in the cockpit of a small space fighter much like those in Battlestar Galactica or an X-Wing in Star Wars, you can look out into space, but also have the technical dashboard and, even, your own legs in front of you.
To aid the concept, CCP has added a look to target mechanism, which encourages you to look around constantly, and you soon get used to looking in the direction you want to travel, even though it is the movements on the controller that determine direction.
The difference between playing the same game on the SD Oculus Rift and the new version is that not once do you feel disorientated on the HD headset. There was a feeling of a disconnect when the screen was a little blurry (even though it was in 1280 x 800 resolution even then). Your brain couldn't process why things didn't look real, so you didn't feel as immersed.
The Oculus Rift HD prototype, while not perfect, gave a far clearer view and you soon adjust. You can still see the pixels, and the CCP team told us that an even higher resolution version is being worked on by Oculus VR, but there were times when you just forgot where you were and settled down to enjoy the game.
Whether the headset will ever become truly mainstream rather than an object of fancy is debatable, HD or no. We'd buy one, but we're hardcore gaming types who like all aspects of the genre. It's a very solo experience, even when playing a multiplayer game, and one that takes some setting up and climbing into. You can be assured though that once you do, it will be hard climbing back out again.