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Oculus Rift virtual reality headset full review

Virtual reality is an amazing technology. It can transport you to worlds far beyond what is available to most of us in our day to day lives and gives us experiences that are impossible to achieve without strapping on a pretty hefty pair of goggles. With the Rift CV1, Oculus has delivered the product it promised several years before, with the best visuals it has ever produced and an incredibly immersive library of software to play with.

But it is not a perfect piece of kit.

Tracking wise though the Rift does pretty well. The Constellation camera is perfectly adequate for seated and standing experiences and can even stomach some movement. However I found its lack of vertical tracking irritating at times, where it would lose me if I ducked down low to look at the floor or stood too close to it, while not angling it steeply enough.

While the headset itself is comfortable to wear and well balanced, the lines on your face after a session are irritating. The lack of Touch controllers can really be felt in some games too and I truly missed the Chaperone feature from the Vive, as it left me stood stock still much of the time, for fear I would crash into a wall or my table if I moved around much at all.

By not having a window to the outside world, the Rift never quite reaches the level of immersion I wish it could, because I feel the need to consistently remind myself that it is out there, somewhere. With a Chaperone-like digital grid in place, you always have that assurance that you are not going to hit something and I really felt its absence with the Rift.

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That said, what you can do on the Rift now is pretty fun. Chronos is an engaging experience I am looking forward to beating and I am very excited to see what 360 degree movies become in the next few years. There are not that many killer games on there just yet though and some of the ones I was most excited about feel like they have been left behind a little in the years since they first appeared.

To an extent that is how the Oculus Rift feels. As much as I think it is a great bit of kit and certainly the best headset Oculus has ever produced, it does feel a little like the headset of a couple of years ago. The lack of motion controllers or room-scale tracking is a shame, even if to only give you the confidence to just move around a little.

It is fantastically comfortable though, with a great fit and amazing visuals – the screen door effect is damn near dead in the water and I liked the built-in headphones. I just wish there was a little more I was excited about playing. I appreciate there are games I did not test here, AFR1FT, Dreadhalls and Project Cars being some that I will likely get to in the future, but for a headset that seems focused on gaming, with its Xbox One controller bundle, there was not a lot that really made me go wow.

That may be because I am a little jaded after using alternative headsets and from the reactions of friends and family I can tell you that first time VR viewers are absolutely blown away by what the Rift offers. I too at times was awed, but not as much as I hoped.

I cried at Henry, I enjoyed the vistas of The Climb and AltSpace gave me a very exciting view of what the future of online social interaction could be, but the jaw dropping experiences I have had with the Rift could be counted on one hand.

The Oculus Rift is a stupendous product, with some very exciting potential. If you bought one right now, you would not be disappointed, but I do wonder if in a month or two, we would not find ourselves returning to other platforms with greater libraries of solid content, while we wait for a few more killer apps to make investing our time in the virtual world more valuable.

You can buy an Oculus Rift CV1 direct from Oculus for £500+ shipping and there are a few select stores selling them, but stock is extremely low at the moment. Even some who pre-ordered this headset on the day of its release have not received theirs yet, so do not expect to get yours very quickly.

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Pros

  • The fit is excellent and the weight distribution is near-perfect.
  • Comfortable to use over long periods.
  • Visuals are fantastic. Certain scenes offer a huge amount of presence, screen door effect almost gone.
  • Good mix of interactive and passive experiences.
  • Built in headphones work well.
  • 360 degree movies are a joy to behold.
  • Oculus Home is polished, though lacks a few key features.
  • Huge potential for future development. No doubt everything will improve in time.

Cons

  • Fabric wearing is a concern.
  • Leaves you with marks on your face after extended use.
  • Game catalogue feels a bit light and some titles really miss motion controls.
  • Lack of chaperone limits comfort within VR worlds.
  • Side-mounted cable was a regular annoyance.
  • Compatibility with Steam VR is flakey at times.
  • Not cheap, but arguably worth the money for early adopters.

KitGuru Says: While £500 is a lot of money, for those that want to get in on the ground floor of virtual reality, even just to show friends and family, the Oculus Rift is an amazing product. Just remember that this is the first generation of a device and platform that is only going to get better. Jumping in now means that none of it is quite as good as it will be six months from now. Consider that carefully before buying. 

WORTH CONSIDERING

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Rating: 7.0.

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