So Which Experiences Are Worth Your Time?

Aside from impressive hardware, the Vive is launching with an impressive suite of complementary software. There are dozens of games available now, and we're told another 100+ should be available soon. A majority are designed to take advantage of room-scale VR, too. And so far, every title that I’ve tried is worth checking out. If it uses hand controls and exploits the physical space you make available to it, the resulting experience is unlike anything else you've tried.

To be frank, the Rift left me scratching my head as to why I'd need virtual reality to enjoy some of its games. Meanwhile, all of the games designed for the Vive leave no question as to why they require hand controls. VR for games that work in 2D is neat, but it feels like a novelty after sampling the alternative. Room-scale games do not feel that way at all.

Shooters are incredible, first-person adventures and puzzles twist your mind in ways you couldn't have imagined previously and even third-person games aren't so disconnected when your hands can reach in and interact.

You Really Do Have To Try This

HTC and Valve came together and created something truly incredible. The experience that you get from room-scale VR with hand-tracked controllers is going to change your definition of what gaming can be. Rather than sitting in a chair, using a gamepad and imagining what it’d be like to vanquish your enemies with a sword, you can get up and swing it yourself. That sense of glory from winning a battle gets a lot more real.

The truth is, I’ve never in my life had this kind of experience, and I mean that. I can't compare it to anything I've ever done before. Playing games on one monitor is fun. A bigger, higher-resolution screen is incrementally cooler. And gaming across multiple displays seems like the most immersive window into that world possible the first time you sit down in front of three screens. But none of that compares even remotely to being inside the game.

The Rift almost gets there. And it'll likely deliver a similar experience when Touch arrives later this year. But without hands, today I still feel like a spectator. Intuitive controls and the ability to walk around are indescribable assets to a virtual reality experience. Really, you need to find a rich friend who bought the Vive, sight unseen, and try it out for yourself. That's the only way you're going to fully comprehend the magnitude of what VR can be. If you emerge on the other end and claim this is a gimmick at risk of a quick death, I'd be surprised.

At $800, the Vive is far from an affordable toy. But I insist the price is well worth paying. Don’t compare this to a mouse, keyboard or joystick. Don’t even compare it to a racing wheel. The Vive and Rift signal the beginning of a new era in gaming. When 4K displays first surfaced, they sold for thousands of dollars. New technology always commands a high price. And what you're paying for VR is actually quite reasonable in that context. You just can't quantify the level of entertainment the Vive delivers.

High prices will come down, and more enthusiasts will be able to afford the Vive months from now. If you have the money to buy in now, you won’t be disappointed. If you don't, make a friend who does. Or you could consider selling some teeth. And just imagine how slaying skeletons will help keep your mind off the pain!

PROS

Incomparable experience • 6DoF controllers • Room-scale tracking • Comfort • Intuitive interface

CONS

Price • Bulky cable • Hard on neck and back • Potential tripping hazard

VERDICT

HTC's Vive provides an experience you can't get with any other product. It is expensive, but in our view that cost is justified.