GamePad, GameCity, & the Oculus Rift – Hands On.

Simply put, this is going to change how games are played, and Sony, Microsoft have missed out on a real chance to shake things up for this next-generation of consoles.

That’s the short version of this piece.

Here’s the longer version:

Game City came and went last week with a series of events that ranged from talks of well-respected people from the gaming industry, such as Martin Hollis, the director of Goldeneye for the N64 and Mike Bithell, known for ‘Thomas Was Alone’.

Across the 7 days was also a space called ‘Gamepad’ which hosted a series of tournaments of game across generations from the early 1990’s to the present.

This brought the owner of ‘Serious Gamer‘ (found in the West Arcade near The Square) and ‘GamerDads‘ to a room full of classics. And then some.

There were:

Tekken 3 (Playstation)

Donkey Kong Country 3 (SNES)

Killer Instinct Gold (N64)

Battlefield 3 (X360)

Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (X360)

To name a few.

If you had enough of the SNES, you could easily find something else to occupy yourself with while the queue for the Rift subsided.

Everyone was friendly, you could easily sit down and play with whoever was sat next. Kazuya with Yoshimitsu in Tekken Tag 2 was a great match up, the two I’m best with. But I was swiftly beaten down after my 2 wins. There’s some hardcore players out there who will take advantage of any slip up you make.

So now, the main event.

As soon as you walk into Gamepad, you’d see the Oculus Rift at the end of the counter.

Large flatscreen TV was connected to a PC, with the Rift at the ready for an onslaught of Portal 2, Quake and much more.

First of all, it’s incredibly light. Some may think that because it’s a headset, it must take some effort to keep your head up without risking damaging your neck.

But that’s definitely not the case here.

It’s a very thin LCD screen at a 720p HD resolution, and it fits on by the straps going over your head, much like just putting a cap or hat on.

If you need to tighten it or focus it, you simply squeeze the front of the rift, and it resizes dependant on how much pressure you’re squeezing on it.

Incredibly simple, and you’d be set up in under a minute.

I had two goes of the Rift, with 3 games in total, and it was definitely enough.

The first, Quake.

As it was made open source over a decade ago, it’s been the subject of many versions of the community.

So someone wondered how it would be with the Rift.

How is it? incredible.

As the picture shows, I only used the mouse to shoot, and the arrow keys to walk and strafe. The HUD was not intrusive, with it being just the right size to know how much ammo and health I had.

Looking around with the Rift was easy, I didn’t have to calibrate it, so if some enemy was firing behind me, I’d look back, shoot, face forward and go on my way. Completely natural, and worked well.

Second game was a dragon mini-game, where I only had to use the rift to direct the dragon where I needed to go.

The objective was to simply fly around an area of small floating islands where different coloured eggs were placed. Some refilled the time limit by a few seconds, others by much longer. As long as the timer kept going, you were free to move your head and barrel roll across the level.

It reminded me of ‘Spyro the Dragon’ in a way, as that game had bonus levels of collecting gems in a certain time limit, just without the first person view and the Rift.

Simple, graphics were decent as well, and it showed great use of the Rift.

Finally, Portal 2.

This is when I was convinced that this is going to be the future.

The controls were the same as before, and using the mouse clicks for the portal gun.

I was also using headphones this time, so I was completely oblivious to anything and anyone around me. I came across a video of me just looking straight up to the ceiling, with no idea I was being filmed, so this added to the feeling of ‘being there’ so much more.

The level chosen was where GladOS was resurrected. I was walking around with Wheatley, hearing every clank and portal sound as I went on.

The following may sound completely strange to you, but when you try this, you’ll completely agree with me and not have me subjected to a psychological exam.

As the smoke was bellowing from the pipes, I felt that I was actually there. I’d look up, and all I’d see was the never-ending ceiling to the facility. Keeping Wheatley close also felt safe to me as well, and during all of this, the turning point to me occurred.

Halfway through this level, you need to plug Wheatley into this socket for him to open this hidden door in the wall. He then asks you to look away.

So there’s me, simply turning my head behind me to turn away, and I just hear Wheatley do his thing, and then he tells me that it’s okay to look now.

That felt like I really was in the game. If I tried that with Half Life 2 when you’re with Alyx, I’d have gotten the same experience I’m sure.

Perhaps when the ending to Half Life 2: Episode 2 occurred, I’d feel emotionally invested into the incident of the character. (Being very vague for anyone who hasn’t played to the end Episode 2. If you haven’t in 5 years since it was released, please do!)

Having that experience, coupled with the Rift, and then when GladOS was resurrected and picked me up, then dropped me into a shaft, I felt it was going to be a huge drop down.

If you’ve been to Alton Towers and went on Oblivion, just before that drop, then that.

Then that concluded my time with the Rift.

There were other games being shown, such as Left 4 Dead too, I’m sure my curiosity would be replaced with being terrified, especially with the ‘Witch’ running towards me.

I was amazed that even with 10 minutes of Portal 2, I felt immersed in a game, more than ever. It didn’t feel like there was a 13 inch Macbook screen holding back that immersion. With the Rift, that feeling goes, and you suddenly find yourself being completely into the game.

It’s incredible that Microsoft and Sony missed out on an opportunity like this.

Nintendo did try slightly with the ‘Virtual Boy’ nearly 20 years ago, but with just a red screen and having to tape yourself to it to simply keep it from falling, this is a new chapter in gaming.

The Rift belonged to a friend of the member of GamerDads who had bought it on Kickstarter, and kindly offered it for the two days at GamePad. Very kind and Im thankful for letting me experience the Rift after reading a lot of articles of it.

A ‘1080p’ version of the Rift is in development at the moment which should ensure for a clearer image for more modern games. Portal 2 was fine for me, but perhaps if, for example, ‘Arkham City’ was modded to be in first person, you’d notice the low resolution.

It has huge potential to not only change today’s games, but also the games of yesteryear. A few come to mind:

Half Life 1

‘Arkham’ series with a mod enabling first-person view

Tomb Raider

Crash Bandicoot

Sonic Adventure

Godus

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Super Mario 64

Mario Kart 64

Gran Turismo

Grand Theft Auto

The list can go on and on.

But for now, if there’s a chance of you to try it, then definitely seize that opportunity, and the frowns you gave to some parts of this write-up will eradicate the moment you try the Oculus Rift.

Some more pictures:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *