Oculus On A Quest To Bring VR To The Masses
While VR has made steady progress over the past few years, it has yet to reach the dizzying heights foretold by the likes of Ready Player One. VR devices proved too restrictive, cumbersome, expensive or intimidating to entice the casual user. Oculus, however, have attempted to push us all one step closer towards the world of tomorrow, with their latest effort – the Oculus Quest. The Quest promised to teleport the wearer to virtual worlds, both fantastical and familiar, within seconds. But have they done enough to turn science fiction into science fact?
Setting Up Our New Gadget
One significant benefit of the Quest is apparent from the get-go. Anyone who’s had experience with other VR headsets will quickly notice the ease with which the Quest can be set up.
Doing away with external sensors and devices means that entering the virtual world is as easy as slipping on the headset. Upon doing so, you’ll notice that you can see your space “through” the headset, thanks to front-mounted cameras. This is a first for any VR headset. The room or space then dissolves away, transporting you to the vividly coloured Quest hub. On top of this, the layouts of several rooms can be stored and recognised, making set-up even quicker.
For those looking for a more relaxed gaming experience or those limited on space, there is also a stationary option that provides a smaller protected domain around the player – although there are a number of games that require a good deal of space to be played to their full potential.
Overall, the Quest offers unparalleled ease and speed of access that paves the way for making VR more approachable to the masses, who may previously have been turned off by the lengthy set-up and clutter.
The Quest Headset
Committing to a beautifully minimalist style, the headset is sleek, smooth and simple in its design. Buttons and ports kept to an absolute minimum and there’s not a cable to be seen. The Quest sports three easily-adjustable Velcro straps, which serve the dual benefit of feeling light and comfortable, as well as making the device compact enough to be easily portable. The external sensorsof previous generations of VR find themselves replaced with four in-built cameras, positioned in the corners of the headset, capable of tracking the controllers over six degrees of freedom. Also included is the ability to manually adjust the focal distance for fine-tuning vision, a great boon when switching between users.
The audio-visual elements of this headset have also received something of an overhaul. An OLED display with a 1400×1600 per eye resolution has been implemented, ensuring that images look clear and crisp, even if the all-in-one device lacks the processing capabilities to match the high fidelity graphics of high-end gaming PCs. Once again shedding any unnecessary weight or attachments, the speakers have been integrated into the head strap. They offer a satisfying binaural experience, whilst still allowing you to maintain an awareness of the real world, though this comes at the detriment of sound quality. There is a quick-fix to this in the form of two separate audio jacks either side of the headset for those who do want to plug in their own headphones.
However, this stripped-down headset is not without its drawbacks. For those hoping for longer play sessions, you may find the relatively short battery life (2-3 hours) disappointing and, whilst generally comfortable to wear, discomfort can occur after extended use due to the front-heavy build. This shouldn’t be too big an issue for the casual gamer, but for others may it be a deal breaker.
Updates To Touch Controllers
The updated Touch controllers are very similar to those seen with the Oculus Rift with only some minor aesthetic tweaks. They still feel light yet sturdy and natural to grip, although they may feel fairly small to those with larger hands. Especially important for the Quest, the tracking is tremendously responsive, registering movement to the smallest degree as long as within the field detected by the front-facing cameras.
The most notable downside of the Touch controllers is that they are reliant upon AA batteries; no doubt heavy users will see themselves quickly powering through packs of rechargeable batteries.
Playing Games on Oculus Quest
As soon as you get your hands on the Quest, you can find yourself looking for the rest of it. Surely such a small device (only 100g heavier than the Rift) can’t pack the firepower necessary to come close to the gaming experience offered by competitors? Shockingly, it manages to achieve much of the same as complex home setups with surprisingly little compromise.
Whilst the Quest runs at a lower frame-rate of 72Hz and lacks the graphical fidelity boasted by its competitors, it’s still able to deliver a gaming experience that feels fluid and satisfying, with the games we tested running without issue. This is all with the added benefit of being completely untethered – you can walk, crouch and spin around without concern, an incredibly freeing experience that greatly increases your sense of immersion within the virtual world.
Vader Immortal, one of the landmark launch titles available on the Quest, takes spectacular advantage of these features. The most visually impressive gaming experience currently available (you can almost feel the sulphurous fumes of the volcanic hellscape of Mustafar), and also one of the most enjoyable. Upon igniting your lightsaber you’ll find yourself in a galaxy far, far away, the gentle vibration of the Touch controller and the soft hum emanating from the headset making the experience tangible as you swing around your weapon to swiftly dispatch enemies as they attack from all angles. The Force is strong with this one, taking exceptional advantage of all the Quest has to offer.
Other games among the 50-or-so available at launch include the action-intensive Superhot and Robot Recall. The ability to duck, dive and dodge bullets and fists as they come flying towards you makes for an exhilarating experience; rather than controlling the action hero, you ARE the action hero. One game sees you frantically blasting as you are assaulted from every direction, whereas the other depends on you carefully plotting your every move to survive – both expertly executed on this platform.
For those looking for a more grounded experience, sporting games like Creed: Rise to Glory and Tennis Scramble make for solid entertainment. Whilst Creed is far from visually stunning, its heart-pounding head-to-head bouts will have you feeling like you have gone a few rounds in the ring. After just a few sparring sessions you’ll have definitively fitted in your cardio regimen for the day. Tennis Scramble also made for a fun novelty experience, although the lack of weight in the controller can leave the experience feeling a tad ‘floaty’, especially as the standard tennis racket is transformed into a variety of batting tools – everything from a cricket bat to a foam finger.
The Zelda-esque Journey of the Gods demo conjures up an incredibly immersive fantasy realm for you to explore, trading in photo-realistic graphics for highly-stylised painted vistas. You are given an impressive selection of weapons from the get go, encouraging you to approach combat in a variety of ways. Executing numerous attacks involves learning an assortment of hand gestures, helping to keep things fresh throughout. The ‘God mode’ is where the game really dials things up, seeing you grow to gargantuan proportions and given the ability to influence the world around you. This is most often used to solve puzzles or bolster your defences but reaches its pinnacle when allowing you to reach into the sky and cast a hail of lightning bolts down upon your foes.
Beyond gaming, the Quest also delivers on numerous platforms for viewing videos and other media, a built-in browser providing boundless potential for new games to be explored and offering the opportunity to socialise with other VR-users.
There is currently nothing that competes with the Oculus Quest. Delivering on its promise of unmatched freedom, what is truly surprising how few compromises have been made to get there. It may not have the longest battery life, nor display graphics at the refresh rates of PC-powered VR kits, but overall these differences are imperceptible to most. The Quest offers a solid gaming experience that rarely falters and is made all the more immersive by no longer constricting your movement.
For those previously put-off by the cost and time-consuming set-up of other models, the Quest may finally be the thing to entice them into VR gaming. A standalone device that no longer carries with it the necessity of owning a high-end PC, it offers convenience and affordability never seen before. Able to easily fit into your back pack, the Quest is portable as long as you can locate a suitable play-space. Not far off the price of most current gen consoles upon release, this is the sure-fire option for those looking to branch into VR without forking out well over a grand.
Overall, the Oculus Quest is a new landmark in the ever forward march of VR, making it more accessible, and helping to usher in a new era of virtual entertainment.