EGX Rezzed 2016 - Hands on with the HTC Vive

Published: April 19, 2016 9:00 AM /

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With the new age of VR gaming pretty much upon us, the sheer amount of VR tech at EGX Rezzed was to be expected. However, it seemed like every other demo had an oculus setup, the PSVR showroom was probably the biggest showcase at Rezzed, and the Vive had people queuing around the corner just to book a time slot. So after around half an hour of queuing the proper British way, we had an appointment booked. Below you can check out my excited rambling first impressions (Correction when I said Dev kit 2 and 3, I meant 1 and 2):

Having tried the Gear VR, Oculus and Google Cardboard on previous occasions, I sort of knew what to expect from the situation. However, I knew that the Vive came with a premium cost, therefore, I was expecting maybe something a little more refined than the dev kit 2's I had tried previously. The Vive was leagues ahead of every other VR experience I had. While I admittedly only tried development kits and far cheaper options before hand, the Vive still stands tall as the premier VR experience. Firstly, the accuracy absolutely astounded me. The precision of the controllers in every single demo I tried was bang-on. Having only used a VR headset before, I was not expecting the interaction between the headset and the controller to be so seamless. While obviously not one-to-one, I didn't notice any input delay in all the demos I tested.

I got to experience demos of 4 individual games: TheBluVR, Job Simulator, Space Pirate Trainer, and Tilt Brush, all of which showed off different aspects of the tech in their own wonderfully unique ways. Firstly, TheBluVR wasn't interactive unlike the others, it did however boast the most impressive graphical fidelity and the atmosphere out of any demo. The content was nothing special, you were stood on a sunken boat at the bottom of the sea and merely watched the sea life float around you. No interactivity, just a little tech demo to show off the immersive capabilities, and it succeeded excellently.

Next up was Job Simulator, a little comedy experience, similar to other, more successful simulator games like Surgeon Simulator in which you performed a bunch of menial tasks around an office. This includes making coffee, checking emails, sending invoices etc. Obviously the ability to completely screw everything up, throwing coffee at your co-worker robots, deleting all your emails, throwing the contents of your drawers around the office was all cathartic and provided me with a few genuine laughs. However, like most simulator games, it is a one trick pony. But that one trick set in VR was enough to be fantastically entertaining at this early stage.

Space Pirate Trainer was probably the most "gamey" of them all. You were dropped into a big circular arena, with the two controllers representing dual pistols with alternate modes of fire. The game simply involved you destroying waves of flying enemy robots and trying not to get hit. When looking at the design of the Vive controllers, it is clear that they translate well to mimicking handguns. Space Pirate Trainer is probably the game that best demonstrated the Vive's potential for gaming. While again a simple little game, it was cool to be playing what is essentially the game that everyone thought of when the words VR gaming were mentioned about a decade ago.

Not only was that a cool little experience, but it functioned very well. The guns were amazingly accurate, the ability to dodge and duck  under incoming fire was great. Space Pirate Trainer seems to have hit the nail on the head for how FPS games should function on the Vive. Little movement arcade shooters with full 360-degree engagement seem to be the way to go for shooter experiences on the VIVE. I can imagine various arcade shooters and lightgun games would make a great transition to the Vive.

Finally was Tilt Brush. Tilt Brush is a 3D paint program. All your brush types, colour palettes, tools etc are accessed by scrolling on the touch-pad on the back of the controller in the coolest VR HUD imaginable, with all the tools being selectable on a cube you can rotate using the touch-pad and selecting the tool with your other controller. It was weird that a mere Paint tool felt the most Sci Fi to me, but doing what is essentially the real life equivalent of the typical film VR trait of scrolling through files with one's fingertips was a fantastic moment for me.

This isn't to even mention the concept of 3D painting itself. The ability to draw a line in space, adding more lines of different textures in different positions and just looking at it from multiple angles was a purely joyful experience. Even something as silly as writing a name and walking around to study it from the other side was a surreal experience. Out of all the demos shown Tilt Brush should have felt gimmicky, and it might be, but it's a damn good one. The potential of good artists getting their hands on these tools and the possibility of 3D VR art installations is definitely an intriguing prospect.

However, a few of the hang-ups I had with VR are still present. The blurry text and pixel density are still somewhat of an issue. But having said that, these are small gripes with an otherwise game-changing piece of tech. Don't get me wrong, the Vive is an exceptional bit of kit that I would urge anyone with the money to buy. But at such a high price point, it's just not feasible for the majority of gamers or tech enthusiasts, especially with having to invest in a decent PC as well. That's not to suggest however that the Vive isn't a good deal. I still can't quite believe that tech such as the Oculus and the Vive are even consumer goods right now. They still seem like this cutting-edge prototype technology that won't hit the market for another 5 years, and I still can't grasp that we are on the cusp of witnessing this tech be readily available to the  public. While the issues above are apparent, these are small gripes with an otherwise game-changing piece of tech.

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I am a UK based game/tech writer person. Also, I share a name (barring one letter) with a famous actor who I am not sadly.