Never would I have thought that I’d be covering PC games, and now, even hardware. Since I was a child, console gaming was what surrounded me, from my brother’s Atari, to our NES. In the early 90’s, my dad got us a Tandy PC that must’ve cost $3000 easy. All it was good for was booting into Windows 3.1 via a DOS prompt to play Minesweeper and Solitaire, but in my case it was used to attempt running games like “Alone in the Dark”.
This was the closest experience I had to owning a gaming pc until my early adulthood. Even then, the machines I would have could only support games from 3-5 years back, so I was always late to the game. I missed out on plenty of great games and until recently, most would never see a release passed the PC. Well, times have changed and I’ve grown as a gamer. Most of you know I recently joined the PC gaming world and for the most part can play just about every release as it comes out.
With the popularity of Virtual Reality increasing each day, it seemed like the right time to see what all the buzz was about. HTC was kind enough to send me a loaner Vive to check out and review, which worked out perfectly because my PC can run it efficiently vs an Oculus, in which my Rig isn’t strong enough for. Out of the two just from what I’ve read and watched, the Vive was always my top pick, if I was able to own one. From the games, to the control design, I couldn’t wait to get some time in with the Vive.
So did I have a good experience? I would say my actual time playing the Vive was a great experience. Setting it up and getting everything working just right? Not so much. As many people that I’ve seen cover the Vive, I also have a small space in which to set everything up. Did it affect the overall experience? Only for the first couple of sessions.
First and foremost, the box alone it arrived in is somewhat intimidating. The box is huge, which raised the question, “What did I get myself into”? The reviews I've read or viewed didn’t include unboxing videos and I’m happy about that. It allowed me to experience it all for the first time, which made it even more exciting. Once you open the box, you see the headset, controllers, base stations, and compartments with a ton of wires.
The wires were my biggest concern, simply because having a small space potentially means you will be tripping over a bunch of wires. The image of me wearing the headset as I blindly avoid cables was nerve wracking, especially with a 2 month old in the house. To my surprise, most of the wires were power adaptors and would be stowed away in the corners of the room.
The longest cable was the sync cable which links the two base stations. The base stations are the little cubes that you set up on each side of the room which capture the movement of the headset and controllers. Other than getting the two devices in a good spot, the only other obstacle I encountered was in the final setup stage, which was connecting the link box to the PC.
My current video card (NVidia GTX 970) only has one HDMI port, which meant I needed to use the Display Port to send the signal through. This set me back a day or so since I needed to get an adaptor for HDMI to Display Port which the link box can accept. Once in hand, I began the room configuration. You can choose a larger space or standing room experience based on what you have available. I was able to squeeze just enough to meet the minimum for the walk around experience.
I would only recommend to set your layout this way if you have nothing in the way. From experience, I learned the hard way. I was kicking chairs, sometimes my wife (Sorry Jess) and even walking into my movie display. On the plus side, when you accurately layout your room, the VR will create grid based borders for each side of the room so you know how far you can walk.
Once, I reconfigured it for Standing room, my experience was significantly better. The biggest issues I had with the entire experience was due to limited space, I needed to disconnect the headset and headphones from the link box, which I think caused some issues with the Steam VR app and would leave me having to reboot or restart services. At one point the games wouldn’t even boot up, even after firmware updates.
Unfortunately, I spent a decent amount of time troubleshooting these issues on a couple of occasions, but cannot confirm if they were due to me unplugging the unit or something else. During these frustrating moments, I would sometimes just want to not bother. Personally, I wouldn’t suggest that route simply because, it’s tied to me being introduced to new hardware and you need to take the time to configure and understand everything properly for the best experience.
Once you actually get into the Vive experience, you truly get immersed in VR. In order to get the best visual experience, you need to adjust the headset by moving the lens’ closer or further from your face and also the spacing between your eyes. The manual shows you the knobs to do so. Now, it’s all about the games. Where to begin. This review is solely for the hardware, however I’ll briefly touch on some of the games I played during my time with The Vive.
The funniest part of my time with the HTC Vive, was how much I would enjoy playing “Job Simulator”. I mean the title says it all. You have the option of choosing one of four occupations which include, working in a convenience store, as a cook, a mechanic, and even a desk job in a cubicle. The last one is all too familiar. Job Simulator feels like a tech demo with showing you how the interaction within the VR world works. Grab a stapler, shoot stables at your boss. Grab a pack of frozen hotdogs, throw them at your boss. You get my point.
I was able to try several other titles in short spurts since my time with The Vive was limited. Some other games I tried were “The Solus Project”, “Trials of Tatooine”, “VR Funhouse”, “Hover Junkers” and “Raw Data”. Most of the games worked well in the standing room setup and were effective in immersing you into their worlds.
For me though, the highlight game during my time had to be “The Brookhaven Experiment”. I read and watched a ton of content about this game leading to the release and knew it was right up my alley. Survival Horror VR? Yes please. Look for a full review in the coming days after reading this as this game was where I spent most of my time.
Overall, The HTC is one hell of a piece of hardware. I was always a skeptic of VR due to early iterations many years ago causing motion sickness and even headaches. I’m happy to report to not experience any of that with the exception of “The Solus Project” because you can move forward with the controller which made me feel strange. Your brain thinks you’re moving forward and you clearly aren’t. (Note: The VR portion of Solus is in Beta.)
I think this was what some of the early designs suffered from. The only other downside to any headset is prolonged usage will cause plenty of sweating and would highly recommend taking breaks in between sessions. The last piece that will deter some is the price tag. At $799, it’s a tough sell to mainstream gamers but truly worth the price of admission. I wish I could keep the Vive, but I’ll begin to save my pennies now in the hopes of affording it one day.