The official launch of the highly anticipated Oculus Rift virtual reality headset is finally here, and Oculus creator Palmer Lucky himself flew to Alaska to personally deliver the first unit. The release of the Oculus Rift kicks off the first wave of consumer VR devices hitting the market this year, with the HTC Vive arriving April 5, and the PlayStation VR launching in October. If you are a technology enthusiast with $600 to spare, and are considering taking the plunge into VR, our Oculus Rift Launch Guide will tell you everything you need to know to get started.
If you are a technology enthusiast with $600 to spare, and are considering taking the plunge into VR, our Oculus Rift Launch Guide will tell you everything you need to know to get started.
How Does It Work?
Virtual reality combines advanced display technology and movement tracking systems to give the user the sensation of “presence” – a term used in the VR world to describe the feeling of actually being somewhere else. The headset contains two displays — one over each eye — and completely surrounds your field of vision with a 3D view. This, combined with the integrated VR audio earphones give the illusion that you are actually in a game or similar VR experience, and can make you feel like you are moving when you are actually sitting still. Our own Brett Bates offers a more in-depth description of how this all works in this explanation of the difference between VR and AR.
What Are the Specs?
The Oculus Rift is a headset that contains two 1080×1200 screens that combine for an effective resolution of 2160×1200 at a 110-degree viewing angle. All of this is delivered at a smooth 90 frames per second, which is necessary in order to reduce the motion sickness that can sometimes accompany VR. The Rift includes a sensor that is placed in front of you and uses infrared LEDs to translate your real-world movements into VR. This “constellation” tracking system, as Oculus calls it, can track you whether you are seated or standing.
The Oculus Rift does not currently support “room-scale” VR, a feature its main competitor, the HTC Vive, will offer at launch. Room-scale VR allows the system to track actual body movements across a room. In the case of the Vive this is confined to a 15×15 space. Instead, the Oculus Rift provides a “desk-scale” experience, with movement tracking confined to an area around the user about the size of a desk. This means the Oculus is more suited for “cockpit” experiences such as flight simulators, though it will allow for free in-game movement using the controller.
What Comes In the Box?
The Oculus Rift box includes the following:
- One headset with removable earphones and 13-foot tether that attaches to your PC.
- The earphones can be removed to allow for the use of your own preferred audio device.
- One sensor with included base that can be tilted up to accommodate standing.
- The sensor can also be unscrewed from the base and attached to any standard camera mount or tripod.
- One remote with a lanyard to keep it on your wrist, since looking down to find a controller can be next to impossible once you are strapped into the headset.
- The remote is intended for simple navigation and controls for things like watching videos or more casual game experiences.
- One Xbox One controller with PC dongle.
- One USB extender to allow for more distance between the headset and your PC.
- An instruction booklet, cleaning cloth, and two stickers, which will feel familiar to anyone who has purchased an Apple device in the past few years.
What Doesn’t Come in the Box… Yet
The Oculus Touch controllers, which allow for hand gestures and controls — and provide an even more immersive VR experience — are not included with the Oculus Rift launchunits. These controllers will be sold separately later this year.
What Else Is Required to Run It?
The Oculus Rift relies on a PC with fairly hefty specs to process the complex visuals and movement tracking sent to and from the headset. Here are the recommended system requirements:
Video Card: NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD R9 290 equivalent or greater
CPU: Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
Memory: 8GB or more RAM
Video Output: Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output
USB Ports: Three (3) USB 3.0 ports plus One (1) USB 2.0 port
OS: Windows 7 SP1 64 bit or newer
If you are unsure about your PC specs, the Oculus Rift Compatibility Tool will check your system and tell you if your PC is Rift ready.
If you know you need an upgrade, or just want to get everything done at the same time, Oculus has partnered with ASUS, Dell, and Alienware to provide a range of systems that are optimized for Rift and come bundled with the headset.
What Can It Do?
The Oculus Rift promises to redefine entertainment with 3D interactive content. Out of the box, the unit has access to apps that will allow you to watch videos and movies in all-new ways, view photo panoramas in 360 degrees, and go places and see things never before thought possible via a variety of interactive experiences.
That all seems nice, but we all know the main attractions are the 30 games available at launch. Here is a selection of the best Oculus Rift launch games which are available right now:
Lucky’s Tale is a third-person platforming adventure game designed exclusively for the Oculus Rift. It combines platforming staples such as colorful environments and characters, mini-games, and boss battles with a camera and control scheme that has been designed with VR in mind to make you feel like you are actually inside a cartoonish video game. Every Oculus Rift unit comes bundled with the game, so it should be a good showcase for what the system is capable of.
The third-person RPG Chronos combines the slow, methodical combat of Dark Souls with the exploration and puzzle-solving elements of the Zelda series, all told from a perspective not unlike early Resident Evil games.
EVE: Valkyrie has received a lot of attention as one of the most immersive Oculus Rift experiences yet. The game places you in the cockpit of a heavily armed fighter where you will participate in battles set within the EVE universe.
ADR1FT is an immersive FPX (First-Person Experience) that takes place in a destroyed space station. Walking simulators are all the rage right now, and are a natural fit for VR, since the platform immerses you in the game through the perspective of the main character. If you are a fan of these types of games, the Oculus Rift version of Adr1ft should be at the top of your list.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
Most people think VR is a solo experience, and that the headset isolates the user from the outside world. Games like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes seek to prove that assumption wrong, as they actually require participation from the other people in the room. In this multiplayer party puzzler, the person using the Rift is trapped in a virtual room with a ticking time bomb, and the people around them must relay instructions from a bomb defusal manual. Take a look at the actual manual for an idea of how hilariously confusing and frantic this game can become.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is another walking simulator where you step into the virtual shoes of a private detective that communicates with the dead to discover the fate of a missing boy and solve the mystery of an ancient evil inhabiting a small town. The original game was atmospheric and moody, and the VR version highlights those aspects even more.
One problem racing games tend to have is that the perception of speed, spatial awareness, and momentum is never truly there. No amount of in-game view options or racing wheels will ever give you the feeling of actually driving a car at breakneck speeds. Project Cars for Oculus Rift goes a long way toward solving that problem. Now, with the turn of your head, you can check over your shoulder before overtaking an opponent, then glance up in your virtual mirror to watch them eat your dust.
Pinball FX2 VR
The geniuses at Zen Studios have brought us some of the most creative and insane digital pinball tables ever conceived. That same level of creativity is now being applied to Pinball FX2 VR to place three unique tables in the middle of immersive VR environments, creating a brand new way to play a game that was once confined to arcades, convenience stores, and bowling alleys.
How Much Does it Cost?
The Oculus Rift headset by itself is $599.
The official Oculus Ready PC bundles range in price from $1500 – $3150.
Where Can You Get One?
Currently, you can’t. At least, not through the usual retail channels. The first shipments of Oculus Rift pre-orders sold out in a few days. However, they are still taking orders, and units are expected to ship later this year.
Another option is the secondhand market through private sellers on sites such as eBay, where units are going for upwards of $1200.
Keep an eye out next week for our HTC Vive Launch Guide.
Let us know @getfandom which VR platform you are going to buy.