2016 is set to be the year that technology finally makes good on one of cinema’s age old promises - the virtual reality headset. With many still sceptical of whether this future is one worth investing in, I’m here to share my thoughts following a brief hands-on experience.
After plunging from your precarious position, you’ll be pulled into and down a spinning whirlpool. I was half dreading it upon approach for fear of it inducing motion sickness, but it didn’t - nothing did. Writing some notes on the journey home had a more adverse affect. The demo handler informed me that Ubisoft had taken steps to ensure people shouldn't suffer motion sickness, and whatever they did, it worked.
The absence of any motion-tracking latency, or inaccuracy, when looking around helped greatly on this front and made taking in the virtual landscape feel perfectly natural. There were points of interest wherever you looked, which makes for added replayability, as it’s physically impossible to see everything in one run. This level of perspective has me particularly excited: imagine something as small as a game in which you’re betrayed, then on a subsequent playthrough you keep an eye on the offender throughout and quite literally see things unfold in a totally new light.
Unfortunately, it was somewhat immersion breaking to be able to see the edges of the headset in my peripheral vision, rather than being entirely enveloped by the product on-screen. The resolution also wasn't amazing, which birthed noticeably fuzzy and soft visuals. Again, this is based on the Oculus Rift Development Kit 2 and not the final product, so this hopefully won't be as big an issue - if an issue at all - come launch.
Despite those visual niggles, my lasting impression is a hugely positive one; one which justified my PlayStation VR pre-order and has me eagerly awaiting its arrival in October. VR seemingly brought joy to everyone at the event - I overheard excitable parties discussing how “amazing” it was, observed users with unflinching smiles, and even saw my previously sceptic brother converted in a matter of minutes.
I asked my brother how he’d describe the experience, to which he replied: “Totally immersive and exciting to see where it can take the industry.” A sentiment I’ll end by echoing.