Category Archives: Game Gear Reviews

Oculus Quest 2 First Impressions

Rather than writing a full-scale review for the Oculus Quest 2 I’ve decided to just offer up my first impressions after my first 24 hours with the device.  There are plenty of other reviews already out there; it’s not like this is a new product, although it is new to me as it took some serious thought for me to buy this, and then I actually had to locate one after I decided I would.  I did not go into this willingly; more out of obligation to provide future VR coverage.  I have been a big fan of the Oculus Rift S since it released and I still am.  The only reason I finally conceded to purchasing the Quest 2 is because Facebook is discontinuing the Rift S this year, and game studios seem to be shifting their design focus to Quest games only.

The Oculus Quest 2 seems almost deceptively marketed with numerous features removed to keep the price point more tempting for newcomers only to pick your pocket after the purchase.  The most obvious price-determining feature is how much memory the headset has.  Since this is a standalone headset your games must be downloaded and stored on the device, unlike the Rift that simply uses whatever is on your PC.   While the $299 64GB version is more than adequate for now, games are getting bigger, and with no way to increase the storage I opted for the $399 256GB version…just to be safe.

Other quality of life features are also available for a premium price.  Out of the box, the Quest 2 has a head strap setup that seems more like a medieval torture device than something part of next-gen tech.  So make sure you add the $49 Elite Strap to your shopping cart when purchasing.  This basically replaces the flimsy straps with a firm plastic piece with a tension dial on the back – the same setup the Rift S has by default.  If you are coming from a previous headset like the Rift then you likely already have a library of games on Steam and in order to access those you will need a special cable.  Oculus is happy to sell you one for $79 or you can find a cheaper alternative almost anywhere for a third of that.  Yes, this will tether you to your PC with a 16’ cable, eliminating the freedom of a cordless device, but you will actually have access to hundreds of games on the PC instead of only dozens currently on the Oculus store.

So by the time you buy all the extra stuff to make the Quest comfortable and fully functional you’re well over $400/500 depending on your memory choice.  I haven’t done the math, but I’m pretty sure there isn’t 256GB of content on the entire Oculus Quest Store.  I suppose you could use that extra space to download movies and other non-gaming content, but the 64GB seems the wiser purchase.

The other divisive feature is the now-mandatory linking of your Oculus account to a Facebook account.  Personally, I had no problem with this.  I consider myself a low-end Facebook user, so I had no privacy issues.  I understand those who might and I also can see the resentment of having to create an account JUST to use the Quest 2.  While this is a weak attempt by Facebook to bolster their subs they can’t force you to actually use their social platform, and I know several who created accounts just to activate their Quest 2 and never used Facebook again.

Getting started with my new Oculus Quest 2 was relatively uneventful.  I appreciated the nicely designed packaging where all the contents fit with puzzle-like precision.  Out of the box the Quest 2 was already around 90% charged, so I plugged it in to top it off while I unpacked the Elite strap and read the mini-setup guides.  First thing to do was basically disassemble the Quest 2 by removing the face adapter and unsnapping the existing head strap from the sides.  The Elite strap snapped right back into place and I inserted the spacer for glasses and reattached the foam face piece.  Even with the Elite strap the weight balance if off; especially compared to the Rift S.  You really have to crank the strap tight to pull the weight of the headset off your nose, but in my case this extra tension was being transferred to my glasses which was then transferred to my nose.  After multiple hours of usage I have yet to find a totally comfortable solution unlike my Rift S that I can (and have) worn for six hour stretches.  I was worried that the 2-3 hour battery life of the Quest 2 would be an issue, but nose pain has me quit playing before that becomes a problem.

After an intro video you need to install the Oculus app to your mobile device and pair that device to your VR headset.  While you can still access the store and your app library from within the headset, the mobile app is a nice external way of managing your content without having to put on the headset.  There are a few additional steps like pairing with your Wi-Fi, linking to a Facebook account, and using the controller to paint the borders of your play area.  This creates a safe zone for you to move around in, and if you get too close to a wall or piece of furniture you’ll get a visual warning.  It’s the same system you get with the Rift but probably more useful here since you have the freedom of wireless play.

Now it was time to get some games installed on this thing.  I had no idea there were only three major Quest-exclusive games available at this time.  Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge was the first game released last November that gave me a slight case of FOMO.  This month’s release of The Climb 2 was the game that really tipped the scales for me.  I loved the original game and have spent more hours on my Rift S playing The Climb than all other VR games combined.  So those two games and Zombieland VR: Headshot Fever were the first new games to get added to my library, but while browsing the store I started seeing all these FREE games and realized that many games I had already purchased in my Oculus Rift store was being offered as a free download on the Quest store.  Nice perk!

Just for kicks I downloaded the first Climb game just to see how different it was from the Rift version. Having spent over 100 hours playing this on the Rift S I immediately saw some huge graphical and performance deficiencies with the Quest version…at least when the game actually ran.  The Climb constantly drops you out of the game.  The first time was picking my skin color, the second time was during the tutorial, and then my first climb within the actual game dropped me to the Quest home three times before I could reach the top.  It’s definitely something with this version because when I linked to my PC and played the Rift version on the Quest it was flawless.  Thankfully this is the only game that seems to have such issues; sadly it just happens to be my favorite VR game.

After playing the exclusive titles as well as half-dozen Rift originals re-downloaded to the Quest 2 I am not impressed.  You are limited to 3 IPD settings, none of which seemed to fit my needs, so text was often blurry.  There was also a lack of immersion with the game as the Quest headset seemed more apparent in my peripheral vision.  At first I was impressed with the built-in speakers, but once I started Zombieland I had to turn the game to max volume just to hear the dialogue.  Headphone will likely be necessary for future games; more expense and more discomfort.

After the first 24 hours I feel like I was being forced to purchase inferior hardware just to play a few insignificant exclusives and to future-proof myself against Rift extinction.  I’m seriously considering returning the Quest 2.  Even after months of being available there is no compelling reason to own one.  Steam isn’t going anywhere and there are hundreds of Rift games available, so it might be time to double-down and purchase a spare Rift S.  They’re only $299 and you won’t have to spend another $100 to effectively use it, assuming you already have a high-end gaming PC.

My future with the Quest 2 relies on two games at this point.  If The Climb 2 gets announced for the Rift I’d likely ditch my Quest 2.  There is also another game, Lone Echo 2 that I have been waiting on for years now.  It was currently coming to Rift and I fear it might get redirected to the Quest in which case I would likely have to keep my Quest 2.  It’s sad when the value of hundreds of dollars of hardware becomes rooted in these $20-40 games.  We see the same thing going on right now with PS5 and the new Xbox; fancy new consoles and no games to play on them.  I hope the Oculus Quest 2 gets its act together, and I hope it does so before the Quest 3 is announced.  For now I will continue to use my Rift S as my main destination for VR gaming.

Sony PlayStation 5 System Review

The 9th Generation Console Wars have just begun, and for this generation Sony shows up to the launch week two days after Microsoft enters the arena but still manages to win the hearts and minds of true next-gen gamers.  Perhaps the tides will change in 2021 when there are enough systems to meet the demands of eager gamers, and Microsoft actually has a game…an exclusive game to brag about, but until then Sony has really come out of the gate strong with one of the most impressive launches since the PlayStation 2.

Microsoft and Sony have two very unique and distinct approaches when it comes to dominating your game space.  Since both systems are virtually identical in their PC-like quality of next-gen graphics, that only leaves console-exclusive games and hardware-specific features as the determining factor in which system to buy – assuming you can’t get both.

Microsoft seems more concerned with you subscribing to their Xbox Game Pass service than purchasing one of their impossible-to-find consoles, and rightly so.  They’re losing money on every console they sell, relying on existing and new subscriptions to generate monthly revenue and it works, with 70% of new Xbox systems generating new members.  Meanwhile, Sony is perfectly happy to just let you play games, lots of games both new and old, and for PS Plus members, you’ll find access to 20 top PS4 titles available for immediate and free download.  Those looking for exclusive titles will find a couple already available for PS5 with more around the corner while Xbox gamers will need to wait until Q2 2021 for the new Halo.

But we’re not here to compare apples and oranges because while these two consoles are similarly spec’d and play all of the new third-party cross-platform games there are still some major differences that sets Sony’s system apart.

THE UNBOXING

If you’ve watched any of the unboxing videos you’ll already know that the PlayStation 5 packaging is targeting a compact and utilitarian design with an outer sleeve covering a simple box with a top compartment containing accessories like the HDMI and power cord and the PS5 stand, while the actual console is wrapped in that foam paper and sandwiched between two egg cartons.   The PS5 is deceptively heavy (9.9 lbs.), and I nearly sprained my wrist trying to lift it out of the box with only one hand.  Other goodies to unbox for my review also included an extra DualSense controller, PS5 Camera, the Pulse 3D headset, and the dual charging cradle.  The only item I didn’t bother getting was the Media Remote, as I don’t plan to use this system for anything but gaming.

Opening the actual PlayStation 5 box revealed a surprisingly futuristic system loaded with curves and a modern design aesthetic that screams “NEXT-GEN”!  I was initially put off by the white side panels that made the PS5 really stand out in my black entertainment center already loaded with black equipment, but with the sexy curves and cool case lighting the PS5 almost becomes a sculpture on or off, and I warmed up to it within a day.

THE SETUP

Setting up the PlayStation 5 was fairly straightforward.  Connect the power to the wall, HDMI to the TV (or receiver), and Ethernet to the router unless you are going wireless then you’ll need to provide network name and Wi-Fi password then turn it on.  You’ll need to plug your DualSense into the system using the provided USB-C cable to pair the device then choose language, setup screen size, complete a 3-part HDR setup (if you’re using an HDR display), setup power-saving mode, and finally download the day-one system update.  In my setup I also attached a 5GB external drive to one of the rear USB ports, and out of the box most of these drives will need to be reformatted for PS5 compatibility using the system tools found under Storage.  As far as fitting the super-sized tower in my entertainment center I did have to remove a shelf, switching from an over-under setup to a side-by-side with the PS5 and Xbox Series X now sitting vertically next to each other.  It’s also worth noting that the circular stand required for both horizontal and vertical mounting requires a screw for vertical use.  This screw is actually hidden within the base in a secret compartment that will reveal itself when you rotate the base to the vertical mount position.

The back of the PS5 has minimal ports; an HDMI, an Ethernet, and two USB ports, which were quickly occupied by the HD Camera and the external HDD leaving only the single USB port on the front of the system, which was used for the wireless dongle for the Pulse 3D headset.  So within minutes of setting up the PS5 I had zero expansion opportunities, so if I wanted to connect a racing wheel I’d have to unplug something, and if I wanted to broadcast using a camera and headphones I would have to unplug the HDD, which means that racing game would have to be on the internal storage.  I haven’t tried using a USB hub yet but it’s on my to-do list.

There were only a few other annoying issues during setup.  I wasn’t able to transfer my PS4 games and data to the PS5 over the network.  I suspect having the two systems separated by two routers and a hub (even though they are on the same connected network) was too much for the transfer software to deal with.  I could always temporarily relocate the PS4 to the main gaming area and share the same router to copy everything over.

I have to say I am very disappointed in the extremely short 4-foot USB cable provided to charge the DualSense.  The only thing more disappointing is that when you purchase a second $70 controller you don’t even get a charging cable, which means you either buy your own or only charge one controller at a time.  Ultimately, it didn’t really matter as I had the charging cradle and there is always one controller charging while the other is in use.  I was initially concerned about battery life considering the amount of battery-draining technology now inside the DualSense, but even the most demanding game, Astro’s Playroom, only drained a single bar during a 4-hour marathon session.

Sony HD Camera

Next up was the camera installation, which was as easy as plugging it in and then following the on-screen video guide on where to place the camera and snapping a few face photos in three locations for face-tracking.   This $60 camera comes with this really cool folding clamshell stand that makes it easy to use on a flat surface, clip to the top of your TV, or in my case, attach to a tripod.  The camera not only looks like a cool mini-PS5, it also has some fantastic HD quality with great low-light pick-up when streaming in the dark and good face-tracking so you can center your face in the camera without having to move the camera or tripod.  I only wish this tracking would update in real-time to follow me if I moved slightly or sat forward in my chair.  The USB cable could also be about 3’ longer.

Sony Pulse 3D Wireless Headset

I’ve been a big fan of the PlayStation Gold and Platinum headsets for nearly a decade but nothing could prepare me for the new Pulse 3D wireless headset.  The comfort of the cushy ear pieces combined with the floating head strap means you’ll hardly know you’re wearing them, and the level of control for balancing mic and game audio lets you create the perfect mix for both you and any broadcast audience you might have.  But what totally seals the deal is the pure level of 3D immersion you get with a complete surround sound experience that comes dangerously close to matching my Dolby Atmos home theater setup.  I have noticed intermittent hiccups in game audio like a loss of signal for a fraction of a second.  It’s random and happens in multiple titles, so hopefully it can be fixed with a patch.

Sony DualSense Controller

There is something uniquely special about the DualSense controller the moment you slip it from its foam pouch.  The gamepad is slightly larger than the DualShock 4, likely to house a bigger battery and all the extra tech needed to make this controller do what it does.  All of the individual components like the sticks, triggers, and buttons feel solid but the D-pad was kind of sloppy, although it didn’t seem to matter when using it in a game; it was still responsive.  But you can’t truly appreciate everything this controller can do until you fire up Astro’s Playroom, which is as much a game as it is a tech demo for the DualSense.  You can feel vibrations within the controller; not just the whole controller but distinct parts within the grips and body.  The triggers are unbelievable with variable tension that feels like you are squeezing through grainy sand before there is this snap into full-motion freedom.  When combined with in-game design elements you truly feel connected to the characters and environments in a way previously unavailable.  The only downside to this new feature is possible finger fatigue.  After only an hour or so of playing the new Call of Duty my trigger finger was getting sore from the added resistance and force feedback I was experiencing.  In WRC9, an off-road rally racing game, the constant rumble and vibration of the engine and road surface was numbing my hands and fingers, but I wouldn’t trade this added level of immersion for anything.

Also improved on the DualSense is the built-in speaker which now plays much louder, clearer sounds that truly enhance the gameplay in several of the launch titles.  In Astro’s Playroom you can hear every robot footstep with unique sounds for a variety of surfaces.  In WRC9 you can hear gravel kicking up under the car.  The touchpad is slightly larger and much more sensitive and there is also a built-in microphone so you can chat online or do broadcast commentary, but you’ll probably still want to use a headset to avoid game echo.  It’s worth noting that using a headset mutes the controller mic that can interfere with games that want you to blow into the controller.  The PS button is now a raised symbol located away from the face buttons to avoid accidental presses, and that big light in the front is now just a thin decorative accent around the touchpad. There are also four LED’s below the touchpad that will light up to indicate what player you are.   The Options and Share buttons are also moved up and out of the way, and as with the SIXAXIS and DualShock 4, the DualSense has built-in gyroscopic functions for accurate motion tracking in 3D space.  This is easily my favorite controller in over 30 years of console gaming, and I hope future games exploit all the potential the DualSense offers.

Sony DualSense Charging Station

There’s not much to the DualSense Charging Station.  You basically plug it into the wall and place up to two controllers into the curved slots.  No moving parts or retractable pins; just a nice metal contact with no-fuss recharging and off-the-floor storage.  The stylish cradle also features the black and white design aesthetic similar to the camera and the PS5 unit itself.  So far I have yet to fully deplete a controller battery, but I did get it down to a single bar after about ten hours of use with games that had significant feedback and advanced trigger functions.

THE INTERFACE

Sony hasn’t really changed its interface more than refined it.  While the overall menu system is nearly the same the level of sub-content has been greatly enhanced with the Options button offering a lot more options.  You still have your main view with recently accessed apps sandwiched between the Store icon on the left and the Library icon on the right.  You have quick access to settings and such at the top menu and you can pop-up the system menu along the bottom with a tap of the PS button.  This bottom menu is also configurable, so you can streamline it to only the things you commonly use.  Interestingly enough Sony has removed the folder option that allowed you to combine games and apps into themed groups.  You still have plenty of filtering and sorting options when viewing the library as well as choosing to view internal and external storage, but it’s still odd to remove a feature we waited so long to get on the PS4.  Static and dynamic background themes are also gone since now, the background is used to display game-specific data based on your current selection.  The system interface is now rendered in 4K with HDR, so everything looks crisp and colorful, and the overall layout is ultimately one of the slickest and most intuitive menus in console history.  There are even these cool new game-specific tiles on the game pause screen that show your current progress towards various goals and trophies along with hint and tips videos.  Many of these act as shortcuts to take you to that part of the game; especially useful if you are trying to complete a trophy objective.

PERFORMANCE

Everything about the PS5 is designed to shave precious seconds off any non-gaming activity.  Using the fancy new internal SSD your games are going to install, load, and play faster than ever.  Load times are near-instant in many games.  I’ve even noticed that some games that use load screens to display game tips or even game-relevant backstory are flashing by so fast I only get to read the first few words before it’s gone.  The system interface is very fast when navigating the menus, library, and storefront.  I don’t even use the sleep mode because the system cold-boots in under 10 seconds and there seems to be some stability issues with sleep mode.

Regardless of whether you purchase a game on the PlayStation Store or buy a retail copy, that game must be fully installed on the HDD.  If it’s a PS5 game it must be installed on the internal SSD.  The deciding factor here is if you have the bandwidth limits and speeds to download upwards of 40-100GB for many new games.  If so, the clear winner is always a digital download.  Physical copies, even though fully installed, still require the disc to be inserted before you can play the game, so there is no real benefit to a physical copy other than possibly selling it or loaning it to a friend when you are finished.  Also, while the PS5 is virtually silent during normal operation the disc drive can be obnoxiously loud.  Games can still be played after reaching a certain point in the installation (noted by a segmented progress bar) and larger games like Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War will even let you pick what parts to install first.

SHARING

Sharing is caring and PlayStation 5’s Share button is your one-tap access to screenshots, video clips, and even broadcasting to Twitch and YouTube.  Sony has added a lot of flexibility to the streaming situation, allowing you to turn off those annoying notification boxes for trophies and system events and even hide the viewer count.  You can stream up to 1080p at 60fps in HDR and insert your own camera feed into a variety of window shapes and sizes or even go transparent with a green screen.  I really love the ability to move the camera location around the border of the screen, even while broadcasting, so you don’t cover up important parts of the game interface.  You also have a nice setup screen to name and describe your video and can even use voice recognition instead of typing this info.  My only minor annoyance is you cannot start a stream until you have started the game, which means you could lose part of an opening cinematic if you aren’t fast enough, but overall if you have the Pulse 3D, and the HD Camera you are ready to stream like a pro.

The PS5 will also save and store important video clips and screenshots from your gameplay like when earning a trophy.  These can be tweaked or even turned off if storage becomes an issue.  After a week of playing numerous launch titles I had over a gigabyte of media clips saved up, but these are easily deleted from the storage menu.

THE GAMES

When it comes to choosing a new console it’s all about the games, especially when Sony is clearly pursuing gamers as their target demographic, so you better have the games.   Over the years each system has had their exclusives and Sony usually wins in this category, but with Xbox and their Game Pass, which now includes EA Play titles and the entire Bethesda library with future titles that will likely be Xbox-exclusive, the scales are starting to balance.  Sony still has a great line-up of exclusives although more and more of the larger titles are making their way to PC.  Even so, for this 9th-gen launch Sony is the only system to have any exclusives.

Games like Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Demon Souls are certainly system-sellers along with Godfall, also on PC but not Xbox.  Sackboy: A Big Adventure is one of the few family games that also supports four-person multiplayer if you can drop another $210 on controllers, but this game is also available on PS4.  In fact many PS5 games are cross-generation like DIRT5, Miles Morales, and the new Call of Duty game, and unlike Xbox’s smart delivery system you have to be careful when installing or you might just install both versions if you don’t specify upfront.  There are over two dozen new “launch titles” for PS5, many of which are cross-platform like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Watch Dogs Legion, as well as 20 titles in the PS Plus Collection.  If this is your first PlayStation or you missed out on any of the top-tier games from the PS4 era now is your chance to enjoy an amazing assortment of games, free to all PS Plus members.  And there are over a dozen other PS5 games, many of which are exclusive, coming out over the next few months.

If you’d like to see first-look gameplay videos for most of the launch line-up head over to our YouTube channel.

STORAGE

There is a lot of complaining about the limited space available on the PS5’s internal SSD drive.  That 1 TB of storage is under attack by system files, game save data, and a growing library of media clips, but it is not as bad as everyone thinks.  I have 14 PS5 launch titles currently installed on my internal drive along with Days Gone, Ghost of Tsushima, and the new Crash Bandicoot game that I “moved” from external storage so I could enjoy faster disc access.   That’s 17 games with 21 GB remaining.  I know everyone wants to have their entire library available at the click of a button but let’s be reasonable; 17 games is a lot, and in my situation when I do need more internal space I have over 120 GB of PS4 titles I can move back to external storage.  And no, you cannot move PS5 games (or save data) to an external drive; at least not for now.

CONCLUSION

As is the case with most every new console launch the question isn’t IF you should buy a PlayStation 5 as much as WHEN you should buy one.   If you’ve got $500 burning a hole in your wallet and you can actually get your hands on one of these consoles then go for it, but don’t let FOMO send you to the eBay scalpers to pay 2-3x MSRP for a console that won’t find its stride until next year.  Many of the current titles are just visual upgrades of games that you can already be playing on a system you may already own, and many of those games will upgrade for free when you finally do get a PS5.

True gamers have always been early adopters, but I believe the next-generation of gaming is still months away when it comes to game design and making the most out of the amazing system and controller that Sony has delivered.    Sony has always had the best track record for innovation and evolution, and if you are a gamer first and foremost and you want to share that passion with a connected set of friends on the best looking and best performing console currently out there then look no further than the PlayStation 5.

New Studio, Far From Home Announces First Game Codenamed “Project Oxygen”

Today marks the day that Far From Home emerges from the dark. A group of highly experienced AAA developers, who for years have been in talks on an idea that never could seem to let go, step forward with their exciting project, now in production.

Welcome Aboard Project Oxygen

While specific details of their first game, code-named “Project Oxygen” are still a guarded secret, certain elements have seen the light. Players will embody a lone scientist, exploring an ecologically ruined and evolved Earth after humanity failed to fight off their own demise. To allow for a deeper immersion in this unique world, the game will be set in first person perspective and built around a strong survival game loop that will require players to regularly venture deep into the dangerous unknown.

Exploration, survival and success will be strongly tied to each player’s technologically advanced zeppelin air base that they will be able to pilot, upgrade and customize. This zeppelin will be the player’s main lifeline and refuge against the inhospitable world raging below and around them. A mobile air base that will act as their everything – transport, life support, storage, research laboratory, shelter and escape.

“Project Oxygen” is being built in Unreal Engine and is currently intended for PC, PS5 and Xbox Series X. The game will be a single-player experience upgraded with a coop mode at a later stage.
The Story So Far – When Our World Died, Two Emerged in its Place.

At the peak of a global ecological disaster, humanity was pushed towards the sky as the Earth had become increasingly inhabitable. In a desperate bid to survive, people created monstrous, makeshift towers to rise above the inhospitable layer of toxic fumes. From here they would rebuild society, create a staging base for research and try to undo the disaster unfolding below. Inevitably, they failed. It remains a mystery, however, how a small group managed to survive and escape.

Now, hundreds of years later a vicious and newly evolved ecosystem lives and flourishes in the toxic dust covering the Earth, while the empty towers of humanity’s last stand crumble above. It is then that one lone human returns and the story of “Project Oxygen” begins.

A Team of Dreamers – Who is Far From Home?

The Far From Home crew each come from various corners of the AAA and indie game dev galaxy, having notably worked on titles such as Dying Light, Dying Light 2, Dead Island, The Medium, Chernobylite and Divinity Original Sin 1 and 2.

With this collective wealth of experience and talent, the team are aiming to create games that revolve around mature topics, meaningful themes, while delivering a strong gameplay focus. They are equally driven by the idea of finally breaking away from the unsustainable AAA practices but still being able to surpass the scope and quality restraints that many cash-strapped indies often face. Thus the team is pushing to create high caliber AA+ games, with “Project Oxygen” already having highly polished visuals and tight survival gameplay strongly built into its early design and planning.

To put these ambitions into motion, Far From Home has already secured the first round of significant funding from notable Polish video game investor funds and will soon be looking to scale up the team to go into full production.

Our Own Home Base – Wroclaw Poland

The home base for the Far From Home crew will inevitably be the city of Wroclaw, already a hotbed of talent with teams such as Techland, CDPR and Donkey Crew. The team will be working remotely for what remains of 2020 and will be open to bringing on team members remotely for the entire project.

For more info and current team openings visit the links below:

Website: https://farfromhomegames.com/

Oculus Rift S Review – PC

Oculus is back after only three years since their last offering, the Oculus Rift, to ask that timeless question…”How rich are you?” Their new Oculus Rift S is by no means a second generation offering but rather a mid-gen refresh, much like the Xbox One X and the PS4 Pro. Knowing that going in will certainly help guide existing Rift owners in making their purchase decision, but for those still sitting on the fence or those entirely new to VR, this review is for you.

If price is an issue then those who have been patiently waiting these past three years will certainly enjoy the $400 entry fee versus the combined $800 I paid in 2016 for a Rift and Touch sold separately at the time. Pioneers definitely pay the price, but I wouldn’t trade the experiences I’ve had these last three years for any amount. I’ve been dabbling with VR tech since the early 90’s, so there is a certain expectation of frivolous spending if you want to be on the cutting edge of new or experimental technology.

The first thing I noticed about the Oculus Rift S was the compact packaging with both the headset and the Touch controllers strategically placed in a box smaller than the original Rift package. This is mostly in part to the new Rift S not coming with tracking sensors or the Xbox controller. Less stuff in the box means less stuff to plug in, and the new Rift S now connects to your PC with only a DisplayPort video and a USB-A plug splitting off the end of a 15-foot cord. New VR owners need only download the setup program from Oculus while existing Rift owners with the software already installed will get a pop-up detecting when the new headset is plugged in and perform the necessary firmware updates.   The entire setup takes less than ten minutes based on your internet speed. While that is going on you can insert the included AA batteries into the Touch controllers so those are ready to go.

There are a few more configuration steps to finalize before you are ready to jump into a game. You’ll need to designate a safe play area, and performing this task introduces you to one of cool new features of the Rift S; the pass-through camera. Unlike the original Rift that used up to three external sensors to track the headset and motion controllers, the new Rift S has five cameras mounted to the headset, which offers the same level of tracking as a 3-sensor setup without all the connection issues. SteamVR will even show the Rift S as a 3-sensor configuration. These same cameras are able to display a real-time feed of your play space by stitching together five images into a crude but functional B/W image. This view can easily be switched on if you need to check your surroundings, get a drink, check your phone, etc. without removing the headset. At this point of the setup process you will be using one of your Touch controllers as a “laser pointer” to trace the outline of a clear playable space which will in turn create the Guardian boundary so you don’t bump into furniture or knock over a lamp when things get crazy.  This new boundary is pretty cool because if you break the virtual wall the cameras will allow your real surroundings to spill into the VR world like peeking through a curtain.

The two big obstacles VR headsets need to overcome are comfort and performance. Let’s start with comfort, as the new Rift S has a major redesign to the way this fits on your head. The original Rift had rubber straps with Velcro adjustments and an elastic piece that made the unit easy to slip on an off, but not very convenient if you wanted to swap the headset around a group of friends. It was always like having somebody else driving your car and adjusting the seat and mirrors, then you get back in and have to set it all back up for you. Lenovo is responsible for the new halo mount, which owners of the PSVR may find very familiar. A large circular knob on the back of the unit twists to open up the ring so you can slip the headset on and then tighten it back up with the same knob. There is still a Velcro strap across the top but this seems to need far less adjustment than the original Rift. You will definitely want this strap to be snug to support the added weight (1.2 pounds) of the Rift S and keep it from riding your nose.

There are a few interesting changes to the eye box design. You can now adjust the box away from your face making this much better for gamers with glasses. I wear bifocals and was constantly struggling with the old Rift so it was positioned properly, but the new Rift S just works every time. The new Rift S lacks the slider to manually adjust the IPD (a side effect of a single screen vs. two lenses), and while there is a digital adjustment within the settings, anyone with pupil distances far from the 63.5mm default might have some blurriness.

Checking the specs we find the new LED display offers a 1280×1440 (per eye) display; a noticeable upgrade over the original 1200×1080 resolution.   The new LED display doesn’t get quite as dark as the original OLED display, so some blacks might not be as dark, and colors might not be as vibrant, but the added resolution and increased sub-pixels all but eliminate that annoying screen-door haze from the original Rift. Everything is much clearer and text is crisp and easier to read. The new lens design also greatly reduces that annoying reflection and god ray effect that was prominent on the original Rift.  The only minor caveat to the new display is that the refresh rate has dropped from 90Hz to 80Hz but honestly, I couldn’t tell the difference.

Another significant improvement for the Oculus Rift S is the tracking. What used to require two sensors for forward-facing VR or three sensors for room-scale is now all self-contained in what is called “inside-out tracking”. The five cameras on the headset now track your head, body, and hands based on your position in the predefined play space as well as your hand positions in relation to your headset. This means the tracking system is always moving with you, so if you spin around you are never losing contact with a sensor. There is also new technology in place, so that if the Touch ever does lose tracking the system will interpolate motion based on what it thinks you were doing.

The Touch controllers have been redesigned, and while I was sure having the tracking rings on top would be super-annoying I have to admit it didn’t bother me at all. What I did enjoy was the repositioning of the menu buttons. On the original Touch I was always accidentally hitting those buttons – usually in a frantic firefight while trying to reload or even just shifting my grip during an energetic round of Beat Saber. These buttons are now low and center, far from any other buttons or the natural resting position of my thumb. The overall tracking for the Touch as well as the entire Rift S ensemble is fantastic and best put to the test with a few hours of SUPERHOT VR or Lone Echo.

Perhaps the biggest setback to the Rift S is the weak implementation of audio. Admittedly, the original Rift didn’t have amazing speakers, but at least they came down over your ears and offered adequate immersion and some reasonably good frequency response.   The new halo headband now has built-in ported audio near your ears – it’s the equivalent of having earbuds hanging from your lobes but not actually in your ear. Everything is weak and slightly tinny and there is absolutely no bass. Games like Valkyrie Warzone, where you must use positional audio to find secret stashes in space, are impossible to play using the built-in speakers.   Thankfully there is a 3.5mm jack, so you can plug in your own headset or earbuds. Personally, I don’t like anything in my ears and finding a headset that comfortably fits over the Rift S halo ring has been impossible so far.

The Oculus Rift S makes use of the same store as the original Rift and your existing library will be instantly available along with future Rift titles. Existing Rift owners will likely find themselves replaying a lot of their old games just to see how much better they look on the Rift S, and they do look better. The Rift S is all about ease of use, from the near-instantaneous installation to the simplification of putting the headset on and quickly dialing in that comfortable fit. Ironically, the extended 15-foot cable was a major selling point for me, as I can now play VR in my home theater recliner, which greatly adds to the immersion in certain space and driving games with a cockpit. The sliding eye box is also a huge improvement and I can now get the headset to finally work with my bifocals without smashing them into my face.

But there are issues as well, such as the lack of a physical IPD setting, poor audio implementation, and the simple fact that the Oculus Rift S just isn’t that much of a significant upgrade over the original when you start to break it down. I was also slightly annoyed that the Rift S doesn’t turn off or go to sleep when you shut down the Oculus app. The headset light is always on until the computer is turned off or goes to sleep.  Another potential obstacle for laptop gamers is the Rift S now uses a DisplayPort plug.  There is a mini-DisplayPort adapter included, which may help.

The Oculus Rift S is a fantastic VR headset, perfect for ushering in a whole new generation of VR gamers with its quality experiences and reasonably affordable price. While it might not be the product existing Rift owners were hoping for, those who want to stay current or those seeking more comfort, cleaner visuals, and easier setup with less room clutter will definitely want to make this mid-generational leap.

Snakebyte Head:Set Pro Review

Over the past 20 years I’ve reviewed a lot of gaming hardware, and headsets seem to make up a large part of those reviews whether they are targeting console or PC gamers or sometimes both. There seems to be a “king of the hill” mentality around the office where all these new headsets come in and try to take the spot of the reigning favorite. In this particular instance the “king” is Kingston’s HyperX Cloud II Pro Gaming Headset; a headset I reviewed over four years ago and still use today. While many have tried, no one has yet to beat this headset on comfort, quality, and performance. Please keep in mind, I am not doing a direct comparison review here, but I just want you to know what I am using now and what my expectations are for anything that might try to replace it.

German developer, Snakebyte has recently released their Head:Set Pro 7.1 gaming headset; a rather unassuming name for the surprisingly flashy product inside the modest box. The packaging hints at the even brighter color of the headset, as you slip it from its plastic sheath and admire the high contrast of flat black juxtaposed against a neon-lime-green I haven’t seen since the last time I popped open a can of Wilson tennis balls. Rest assured; it gets even brighter when you plug them in.

As I was plugging in the Head:Set Pro I came across the first potential caveat; this is a USB only headset. Not that this instantly disqualifies it from consideration; after all this is marketed as a PC headset, but nearly all of the recent PC headsets I’ve been reviewing have had a 3.5mm plug making them instantly accessible for PS4, Xbox, and even some mobile devices. The 7ft USB cord is long enough for desk use, but if you are gaming in a living room or larger game space you’ll need to use a USB extension – again, not a complaint but rather a warning.

Once plugged in the headset lights up like you’re in a TRON movie with neon lime-yellow lights on both ends of the earpiece supports, a ring around the flexible mic, and the buttons on the in-line controls. While flashy lights seem a bit frivolous to me personally, I can definitely see the appeal for those who play in groups such as LAN parties or eSports events, or those appearing on camera in livestreams or YouTube videos, especially if you are in a dark environment. I did appreciate the lights on the buttons when playing in the dark and the mic light that goes dark when the mic is muted.

The in-line control box is really large considering what it does and doesn’t do. You basically have a button for bass boost, mic mute, and a spinning wheel on the side for volume control. I really don’t like wheel controls for volume, especially when that wheel can easily drag against my body or the chair and mess with my volume. There was also no separate control for mic volume or any way to balance chat vs. gameplay levels from the in-line controls.

Aesthetics aside, how does the Head:Set Pro perform? Honestly, just about as good as you would expect from a $40 gaming headset. Here are the stats for those that live and breathe by the numbers.

Speakers

  • Drivers: 50mm
  • Impedance: 32 Ohms
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20KHz
  • Sensitivity: 100dB

Microphone

  • Sensitivity: -42dB
  • Polar Pattern: Omnidirectional
  • Impedance: 2.2 KOhms
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20KHz

All of those stats translate into a fairly average listening experience. I wasn’t blown away by the highs or lows, even after toggling the bass boost, which did deepen the audio, but seemed to do so with more muffling of the sound than actually punching up the bass.   The virtual 7.1 surround sound admittedly works but only at the most basic levels. After 100+ hours of The Division 2 using the HyperX 7.1 surround, the surround and overall openness of the positional audio just seemed limited.

The mic offered good audio pick-up and I was told I was coming in loud and clear in multiplayer games, but using these for streaming or YouTube required me to go in and boost the gain in the audio-recording options. The boom mic has no foam cap yet still did a good job of eliminating pops in my speech, but ambient room noise seemed to come through almost as clearly as my voice. This is definitely not for broadcasting unless you are in a soundproof studio.

I will commend the Snakebyte Head:Set Pro for its unparalleled comfort thanks to the use of a dedicated strap anchored in with elastic bits at each end, so the headset fits firmly across your head while the cans are independently suspended by twin rails. My only nitpick with the strap is that I had just gotten an Oculus Rift S which is in dire need of third-party headphones, but since this set uses a form-fitting strap across the head there was no way to combine them with the halo mount of the Rift S – again, not a complaint but merely an observation, as I have found no headsets that work well with the Rift S yet. I did appreciate the material used on the head strap that never got sweaty or sticky, but the non-breathing plastic on the ear cups had my ears sweating to the point where I had to keep a hand towel nearby to dry the cups and my ears.

There’s not much left to say about the Snakebyte Head:Set Pro other than it delivers on all its promises but fails to set itself apart from a growing pack of competitors all going after your headset dollars. It looks cool, and is super-comfortable minus the ear sweat, but the sound performance, both incoming and outgoing are nothing special and perhaps even a bit below average, but if $40 is all you have to spend on headphones and looks and build quality are more important than the audio you could do worse…but you could also do better.     

Fantom Drives Xbox One 2TB SSHD and Storage Hub

We’ve come a long way over the years in the advancements of gaming hardware. The days of games residing solely on physical media have shifted to require installations for disc based titles and of course digital downloads. With so many title out there, gamers eventually come to a realization that the storage on their console of choice just isn’t enough. So to combat the war on available storage space players have turned to extra storage so they don’t have to keep uninstalling titles. Seems like Fantom Drives wants to help fight that war with the creation of products like their Fantom Drives™ Xbox® One 2TB SSHD and Storage Hub.

The first thing that I liked when I unboxed the 2TB SSHD and Storage Hub was the aesthetics. It should be known that this design is made for the original Xbox One models which for plenty of you folks out there can be a welcome relief. Installation requires nothing more than a small flathead screwdriver to pry off the plastic cover on the left side of your console. Realigning that cover on the underside of the SSHD and Storage Hub before snapping both parts back onto the system when it’s positioned in its vertical position for maximum connection.

Once attached the 2TB SSHD and Storage Hub blends right in matching the Xbox One’s original style. The SSHD and Storage Hub taps into the USB port located on the system’s left side but thanks to a creative design allows for two more additional USB ports than before. With the 3 front facing USB 3.0 ports you can now charge controllers, add additional storage and even plug in a keyboard at the same time without having to choose like before. They also designed it so that you can still pair up wireless controllers with the press of a larger sync button that makes contact with the primary button underneath.While the extra USB ports do support external hard drives themselves, the real storage potential comes within the SSHD and Storage Hub itself. Fantom Drives™ offers several variations of their Xbox storage solutions but the one I got the pleasure to test out is one of 2 options currently to feature a Seagate Firecuda SSHD (or Solid State plus Hard Drive) within its chassis. Because of the drive the 2TB SSHD and Storage Hub is quite a bit lighter than I expected but I saw no drawbacks from this. The original Xbox One models are already heavy enough as they are so the lightweight build is much appreciated.

The Fantom Drives™ Xbox® One 2TB SSHD and Storage Hub sound good on paper but how good is the drive inside really. I’ve spent some time with the 2TB SSHD and Storage Hub for a while now and it’s held up remarkable with every download, transfer and gameplay session. The Seagate Firecuda Gaming SSHD installed in the chassis is rated and supports up to 5Gbps through the Xbox’s 3.0 USB port. Keeping in mind that this 2TB SSHD and Storage Hub is powered solely by the system itself I’ll admit was worried about performance. While it was not a problem for me, there is an optional power supply that you can purchase through Fantom Drives™ that may aid in a more stable experience.

While Microsoft is making strides to get you playing quicker with faster loading and crowdsourced data to install the modes that you want to play most with some games, you still are at the mercy of drive speeds. I took the opportunity to install some of the largest games available in the Xbox One library and a few smaller ones to test out the install times. For instance one of my favorite racers, Forza Horizon 3, with a complete install of 57.7GB took my roughly 40 minutes to install on the SSHD drive. With a plethora of digital indie title that I enjoy the SSHD drive allows for 2-3GB games to be installed in mere minutes. These numbers of course depend heavily on your internet connection speeds so I would expect some variances.To test the USB ports I opted to hook up my trusty external WD Passport drive for my Xbox gaming on the go. Everything that I ran from Indies like Assault Android Cactus to giants like The Witcher 3 ran smooth with no real noticeable drops in performance. Regardless of what you use those much needed USB ports for the Firecuda found within the Storage Hub makes full use of the Multi-tier caching technology that improves your read and write performance as well as increased system performance with the Flash-accelerated drive.

With all the options available to gamers for adding much needed storage to their original Xbox One models it’s no surprise that most settle for quick solutions. Only then do they find out that they’ve created another issue like being able to have quick USB access for charging controllers. The Fantom Drives™ Xbox® One 2TB SSHD and Storage Hub solves both of these problems with in a simple, sleek and easy to install device. For those that own an original Xbox One and looking for fast external storage then the Fantom Drives™ Xbox® One 2TB SSHD and Storage Hub is definitely worth checking out.

IOGEAR Kaliber Gaming HVER RGB Aluminum Gaming Keyboard Review

IOGEAR is back with some more new gaming hardware; this time the IOGEAR Kaliber Gaming HVER RGB Aluminum Gaming Keyboard. I tend not to pad these types of reviews with bulleted lists of features and specs, so if you want to see those simply go to the IOGEAR product page. Instead, I’ll stick to my hands-on experience with the keyboard and my thoughts and conclusions after over a weeks’ worth of constant usage in both gaming and word processing, including the typing of this very review.

As you may have guessed from the $50 MSRP, the HVER RGB is a mid-range gaming keyboard. It is neither wireless nor mechanical and there are no dedicated media buttons; although function keys can be used to control media playback and volume. The membrane tech for the keys provides solid, reliable, and surprisingly silent operation, especially when transitioning from a mechanical keyboard. The 67” cable is plenty long for most desktop configurations, but in my larger studio environment I did have to use a USB extension. I most appreciated the aluminum design which keeps this keyboard at 2.6lbs; perfect for extended lap usage and extremely stable on a desktop.

IOGEAR gets big style points for the overall look and design of this new keyboard, which features a gorgeous black brushed aluminum chassis with high-rise keys that perch atop translucent RGB-lit plungers. Snap-lock, flip-down feet and sticky rubber pads keep the keyboard in place and at the desired angle, even during the most intense gaming situations. My only minor quibble with the design of this keyboard was the font they chose for the lettering. It’s this odd stencil style where any number or letter with a closed loop has a break in the font. It’s not a huge deal for me as I’ve been a touch typist for 30+ years and rarely look down at the keys. Even though several of the keys appear to have parts of the letter/number scratched or worn off, rest assured the double injected keycap lettering will likely outlive you.

Despite my issue with the chosen font there is no denying the brilliant colors and backlighting effects this keyboard is able to produce with 13 lighting patterns that can be customized and assigned to three specific profiles. And it’s just not colors; you can also create your own set of custom macros and make those profile-specific, so in the case of playing DOOM, you can create a profile to custom assign your weapons to certain keys and make the keyboard glow in a sinister orange.

While the HVER RGB is perfectly usable right out of the box, you will most certainly want to download the Kaliber Gaming software from IOGEAR to take advantage of all the programmable macros and advanced lighting functionality this keyboard has to offer including the ability to match your lighting with other IOGEAR and take advantage of those custom user profiles.

Installation is a snap; just plug into a standard USB port and you’re ready to go, although advanced users will want to take a moment to visit IOGEAR’s site to download the aforementioned software. I loved the way this keyboard felt. The plunger design for the keys made using  this keyboard just as reliable as any mechanical keyboard I’ve used prior, and it was virtually silent while using. The anti-ghosting tech makes sure that the 26 most popular 3-key combinations are 100% reliable.

To be honest, 99% of all my PC gaming is typically done with an Xbox controller, mostly because games are designed for controllers these days.  I really had to go out of my way to find some games that were either keyboard and mouse only or made sense to try with a keyboard.  Battlezone: Combat Commander is a unique FPS-RTS hybrid that responded nicely to the HVER RGB, and Battlestar Galactica Deadlock actually proved more enjoyable using a keyboard than struggling with partial controller support.  Elite Dangerous was also another great keyboard game; at least when not playing in VR. Moving away from space strategy games I gave DOOM and Far Cry 5 a shot.

While the HVER RGB offers reliable and precision input for movement and inventory management it became increasingly clear that game design has adopted controller support as the new standard, even for the PC, for all but the most input-heavy genres such as RTS and simulations.  For FPS purists looking for ultra-precision gameplay, much of that relies on your mouse, but the HVER RGB will team up nicely with any precision game mouse.

The HVER RGB is definitely targeting the gaming crowd. While it works just fine for non-gaming such as typing this review, in my office environment I enjoy a bit more functionality like media operation and volume control for listing to music and podcasts while I work. As a gaming device, the IOGEAR Kaliber Gaming HVER RGB Aluminum Gaming Keyboard is a surprisingly responsive, durable, and attractive keyboard. I dare say it rivals mechanical keyboards at twice the price, and the RGB backlighting is guaranteed to brighten up your room and your gaming experience.

PDP Media Remote for PlayStation 4

Before all of our DVD and Blu-ray players had all the apps for watching our favorite TV shows and movies we were treated to those apps on our PS3. Like most of you, my PS3 was more than just a game console; it was my everything with games, TV shows, and movies. My PS3 was the most treasured item I owned in college since it allowed me to escape from life in so many ways and just let me relax. The only problem I had was that darn PS3 controller when I was watching movies and Netflix. I always seemed to totally stop my movie or skip chapters on accident by forgetting which button did the fast forward vs chapter skip. The best accessory I ever bought was the PS3 media remote. It worked just like any other remote and allowed me to use one hand to control everything instead of tying up both hands. Everything was just easier with that remote and I used it all the time!


Now the PS3 is all but obsolete and we all have upgraded our TVs from HD to 4K, it was time for all of us to upgrade to the PS4. I quickly found out that my coveted PS3 media remote did not work for the PS4. If there was any doubt in my mind on how much I loved using the media remote it was quickly brought back to my attention once I had to go back to using the PS4 controllers again. This prompted me to search high and low for a new media remote and I quickly found the PlayStation 4 PDP Media Remote. Listed for $24.99 I quickly saw that I was saving $5 dollars compared to the $29.99 I paid for my PS3 remote. I thought what a great deal because I know I will use it all the time, my wife will be able to use it now without angrily throwing the PS4 controller at me telling me she can’t get to the exact spot she was before, and the PS4 media remote is smaller than the previous version! It seemed like a win-win and I couldn’t wait to get home and test it out.

I quickly unboxed the remote and was ready to sync it to my PS4. I was extremely happy with the new design and feel of the buttons; buttons that don’t stick out over the remote too much and all have a smooth soft feel of the DualShock 4. From there I noticed exactly how much smaller the remote was compared to the previous bulky version. The PS3 media remote was about a foot long while the PS4 PDP remote is a little longer than an iPhone 7 while being a third narrower than said phone. After being excited about the look and feel of the remote I was quickly irritated when I found no batteries in the box. Surely for the $24.99 price tag Sony could have given me 2 AAA knock off batteries that could have lasted a month or so. Sadly, that was not the case. Lucky for me though that was really my only issue and that quickly went away once I put my own batteries in and started to sync it to my console. The directions are quick, direct, easy to follow, and syncing took no more than a minute.

Once you have synced your controller just hit the PS button at the top to “wake-up” the remote and you are notified how much battery life you have in the top left corner of your screen just like any other controller. From there it was just like I remembered. You have the directional buttons and enter button to navigate through any screen on the PS4 or your app menus. You get roughly 30 feet of range with the Bluetooth signal to fit any room and if you happen to fall asleep while watching a movie the remote powers down to save your battery after roughly 30 minutes of non-usage.

This is one of the easiest controllers to use. There is also an upgraded feature that gives you all your normal buttons (Square, Circle, X, Triangle, L1, L2, R1, and R2) at your fingertips if you like using those commands but are still looking for a smaller easy to use remote. They have even included the share and options buttons at the top. While you can’t game without analog sticks, you can still edit and share a clip using this remote! This is a must own accessory if you use your PS4 for anything more than gaming.

Oculus Touch Review

Back in May 2016 when I first reviewed the Oculus Rift there was very little I could say about the VR headset that wasn’t glowingly positive. Then in August I got my hands on an HTC Vive and discovered the world of motion controls and room-scale gaming. Things were suddenly very different, but Oculus was already working on their own set of motion controls, and even though it wouldn’t be until December that we would quite literally get our hands on them, after a month of Oculus Touch gaming I can firmly attest it was worth the wait, and in many ways the Oculus Touch is much better than the Vive controllers.

Of course the first thing you’ll have to overcome is the $200 sticker shock, which may seem like a lot until you realize that when you combine that with the cost of the Rift you’re now close to the same cost as the Vive that came with the controllers. This actually makes it a nicer option for those gamers who prefer using the Xbox controller and playing from a seated position, since you aren’t being forced to buy controllers you may not want.  But let’s be honest…YOU WANT THESE!

Opening the box reveals only a few items resting in the foam insert including a pair of Touch controllers, a secondary sensor, a Rock Band adapter, and a pair of AA batteries. As with the Rift, the setup is elegantly simple with onscreen instructions for connecting, positioning, and calibrating your new sensor then walking you through the specific ways you can use your new Touch controllers. There is even a delightful demo that has you interacting with a cute robot.

The first thing you’ll notice is just how comfortable the Touch controllers are; so comfortable you’ll soon forget you are even holding them thanks to their extreme light weight and contoured grip. The buttons are, for the most part, easy to access, although I found I would often hit the Menu button with the lower pad of my thumb when trying to press one of the lettered buttons. It took me several hours to learn to arch my thumb.

The magic really happens when you load up any of the Touch-supported games or experiences. Unlike the Vive that usually shows you virtual versions of the controllers or maybe replaces them with a gun or device the Oculus Touch tends to show virtual hands that you can then use to grab guns or gadgets within the game.   Through clever use of a grip trigger, index trigger, and thumbstick you can intuitively replicate realistic hand movements including pointing and grasping items or even making a fist; all of which are expertly used in the various games and experiences.

Playing a game like Arizona Sunshine on the Oculus Touch just feels so much more natural when you are picking up items or gripping your gun, loading up your ammo belt, reloading your empty clip or even grabbing a grenade from your bandolier, pulling the pin, and tossing it. The hand movements are much more realistic than gripping the twin sticks of the Vive adding to the overall immersion. In a game like SUPERHOT where every microsecond counts, your ability to interact with the world around you with micro-precision is only possible with the Oculus Touch.

There are dozens of other games that are either coming out specifically for the Touch or in the case of a game like The Climb being updated to support the new controllers in a way that is actually redefining the original gameplay. I enjoyed playing around with Crytek’s rock-climbing simulation but was always partly removed from the immersion because I was using a gamepad, but now with the Touch and being able to reach up and physically grab and pull myself up these cliffs the experience is exponentially better and totally realistic. There are dozens of Touch-enabled titles already available and we’ll have reviews for many of them posted shortly.

The addition of a second sensor also allows for more standing experiences, but you still don’t have the room-scale freedom that the Vive offers. This means you can’t walk around nearly as much, but it also means you don’t have to dedicate a room to the Rift. As long as you can take one or two steps in any direction and spin around you are ready to go.

The bottom line is that if you own an Oculus Rift then you definitely need to get the Touch. It may be a major purchase up front, but it will make many of the games you already own and almost all of the new ones coming out infinitely better. I hate to use the phrase, but this is a “game changer”.   Before the Touch you were mostly using your headset to look around a game that you were playing with a controller just like any other video game, but with the Oculus Touch you now get to physically interact with these virtual worlds on a new level of realism that will blow your mind and change the way we play games moving forward.