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Feature Article

Oculus Rift Review

The Future is Now

Update: Click here to check out our review of the Oculus Touch controllers.

Virtual reality isn't a recent invention, but thanks to the efforts of Oculus, it's more viable than ever. Over the past four years, Oculus has developed and demoed numerous prototypes of its Rift headset, adding features and refining designs at a rapid pace. It wasn't long before VR, and Rift specifically, became the talk of conventions like CES and GDC.

With the likes of HTC and Sony stepping up to the plate with their own VR headsets, and major developers creating games specifically for these devices, it's undeniable: the industry is finally ready to support VR. But for as much momentum as Rift and its competitors have, the general public is still on the fence. At $600, Rift is expensive relative to consoles like PS4 and Xbox One, and when you add the cost of an appropriately-powered PC, VR as a whole is almost prohibitively-priced for the majority of gamers. After spending a week using Rift, however, I can look past the price tag and see it for what it is: a key to a new era of entertainment. It lets you to engage with games in ways that haven't been possible before, instilling a tangible sense of presence that's immediately exciting.

However, the transition into VR isn't seamless. When you first put on a Rift, you are all too aware of the headset. It's somewhat comfortable, but the way it envelopes your head can make it feel like a helmet. When you're using it, the lenses tend to blur images on the edge of the display--which, at 1080p, appears slightly low-res--and you can see a bit of light sneaking in from the bottom of the headset. Though I was painfully aware of these issues at first, Rift's presentation and handling of VR content ultimately distracted me from these initial annoyances.

Rift and its accompanying accessories feel like premium products. The headset's chassis is wrapped in a pleasing, fabric-like material that makes it feel like a luxury item. All three of its straps have a velcro solution for adjustments, and they converge at the back with a sturdy, triangular brace that cups the back of your head. The inside of the headset--the part that makes contact with your face--is lined with contoured foam, and an added layer of felt-like material.

Rift and its included accessories.
Rift and its included accessories.

The built-in headphones are unusual in that they are attached directly to the headset's straps, but they are on rotatable, hinged rails that allow for easy adjustments on-the-fly. The actual headphone portion of the setup is an on-ear configuration with plenty of padding, wrapped in a soft mesh fabric. All told, the headset has a sturdy and intuitive design, with materials that feel in-line with its $600 price tag--nothing about it feels cheap or compromised. While it's hard to completely forget you're wearing it, Rift never feels like a burden when you're mentally invested in a VR experience.

Everyone reacts to VR in different ways, but because Rift's sensor tracks six degrees of movement and its display has a high refresh rate and low pixel persistence, hardware issues that could inadvertently distort your sense of orientation are accounted for out of the gate, making it easy to feel immersed in your game of choice.

That said, games can still play with your senses in undesirable ways that Rift can't account for on its own. Adr1ft, for example, is a game about floating through a broken space station. Your body twists and turns with simulated weightlessness. It's not entirely unlike EVE Valkyrie in that sense, where you pilot a ship that can rapidly flip and rotate. Regardless, Adr1ft made me so uncomfortable in VR that I had to stop playing it--despite the fact that there's a feature in the game designed to combat such issues--whereas I was completely fine in EVE Valkyrie. It's a product of how good Rift is at convincing your brain that what you're seeing is "real" and evidence of the fact that software is an equally important part of the equation.

Playing Adr1ft in VR is an intense experience that may lead to adverse physical effects.
Playing Adr1ft in VR is an intense experience that may lead to adverse physical effects.

Oculus Home identifies three levels of intensity for all games: comfortable, moderate, or intense. It's a helpful grading system, but it's also a reminder that for all of the wonderful opportunities VR presents, it will be challenging to use for people who are susceptible to motion sickness. I wouldn't normally count myself as part of that group, and thankfully, I only felt uneasy in that one instance.

Rift is for more than just games, however, and some of the most enchanting--and least intense--VR experiences are passive. There are 360-degree videos taken from locales around the globe available in Oculus Home, as well as 3D rendered short films that transport you to otherworldly places, sometimes just for the sake of being there. While the quality of some of these videos falls short when compared to the selection of games, they offer a tantalizing taste of what virtual tourism and storytelling will be like once VR gains more traction outside of video games.

In order to get a smooth and enjoyable experience with Rift, you need a better-than-average gaming PC. The requirements aren't outrageous, and some people may only need to upgrade one or two components in their existing PC to get started. But to build or purchase a Rift-ready system will cost--at a minimum--close to $1,000, raising the entry fee considerably for some customers.

No Caption Provided

Oculus Rift Minimum Requirements

  • Graphics Card: GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290 or better.
  • CPU: Intel Core i5 4590 or greater.
  • RAM: 8GB or more.
  • Video port: HDMI 1.3.
  • USB port: 2 USB 3.0 ports.
  • Operating system: Windows 7 SP1 or newer.

Presuming you have a capable enough PC, setting up Rift is a simple affair. After installing the Oculus software on your PC, you are guided, step-by-step, with clear and simple directions. Essentially, you're told to plug a specific device in, the software confirms that it's connected, and you move on to the next piece of the kit.

The fact that there's so little to say here is a good thing, but it's worth noting that we ran into one issue with our Rift that forced us to reach out to our contact at Oculus. Seemingly out of nowhere, Oculus' software reported it couldn't detect Rift's HDMI cable. While there is a support website for Rift, the solution we needed wasn't on it. After contacting Oculus, we were instructed to pop the foam lining off of the inside of the headset to access Rift's cable connection. After disconnecting and then reseating the cable, our issue was resolved. Oculus told us that this would be added to its support documentation by this week.

Oculus has its own platform for distributing games, apps, and other VR content called Oculus Home. It can be used within the headset, or as a traditional desktop PC app. In VR, your gaze directs an on-screen cursor, and you click icons with the A button on the Xbox One controller, or with the included Oculus' remote. The store is mildly ambiguous at first, but once you begin to look around at various icons, navigating it becomes second nature.

Oculus Home is still a work in progress, but it's off to a good start.
Oculus Home is still a work in progress, but it's off to a good start.

Beyond a means of purchasing and accessing VR content, Oculus Home is also where you can see if your friends in the Oculus network are online and what they're up to. Unfortunately, there's no way to invite friends into games from Oculus Home at launch.

Pressing the home button on the included Xbox One controller during a game will take you to a menu within Oculus Home where you can reorient the headset's positional tracking--a quick, two-step process--adjust the volume of the headphones, check the time, or view notifications from Oculus or your friends.

Oculus has prepared a wide array of games and passive experiences for launch, and everyone who has pre-ordered a Rift gets two games for free. One is a Lucky's Tale, a 3D platformer set in an adorable cartoon landscape that borrows heavily from games like Super Mario 64. The other is EVE Valkyrie, an aerial combat simulator set in outer space. With racing, sports, adventure, horror, strategy, and puzzle games--to name some of the genres represented in the launch lineup--there are plenty of ways to explore the potential VR introduces to video games.

I can look past the price tag and see Rift for what it is: a key to a new era of entertainment.

The best part of the launch lineup is that most of the games are full products, not tech demos. Up until this point, we could only sample Rift's capabilities via brief demos, which had some people concerned that VR games wouldn't be able to compete with traditional console or PC games. Thankfully, this isn't the case. Rift owners will have access to numerous, fully-realized games at launch, and even though some of them are ports of games that originated outside of the scope of VR--including Project C.A.R.S. and AirMech--they still benefit from Rift's capabilities, either by introducing new modes or by allowing you to experience them in a more personal, intimate way than before.

Of course, not every VR game is a good game by default. EVE Valkyrie, for example, is littered with microtransactions that detract from its initial appeal. Lucky's Tale, while charming and fun, pads out its levels by forcing you to replay them with alternate objectives. After five hours battling my way through an enigmatic dungeon, Chronos is--so far--an amazing game that recalls favorites like Resident Evil, The Legend of Zelda, and Dark Souls. However, it stumbles on occasion due to a handful of design flaws, including the unforgiving way that it allows you to walk into pitfalls, some of which are difficult to see due to Chronos' use of fixed camera perspectives.

Chronos is one of the best-looking launch games for Rift.
Chronos is one of the best-looking launch games for Rift.

Clearly, VR games are susceptible the same problems as regular games, but there's something about the unique, VR experience that makes up the difference--at least a little bit. When I'm flying around in EVE Valkyrie, immersed in my virtual cockpit, soaring through space debris, I'm entranced by how convincing it feels. When I lean in to get a closer look at Lucky the fox, I feel a connection, however contrived, when he looks up and greets me with a wave and a smile. Likewise, when I guide him through a narrow tunnel, I can sense space shrink around me. When you're playing a game on a monitor, the real world is in equal view. When that is stripped away and filled in with the world of the game you're playing in VR, it's a very powerful experience that traditional gaming platforms simply don't offer.

VR is a very powerful experience that traditional gaming platforms simply don't offer.

Were Rift more uncomfortable to wear, or less technically capable of displaying frames quickly with low latency, then I wouldn't feel comfortable recommending it. If it wasn't easy to setup and configure, I would think twice before claiming it's ready for market. But these concerns were quickly dashed. I had Rift up and running in a matter of minutes. I played game after game that opened my eyes to the possibilities that VR and headsets like Rift make possible.

$600 is a lot to pay for a piece of gaming hardware. But Rift is different from a console or a new graphics card. Rift allows you to experience games in ways that we've only dreamed of up until now, and while it requires you to make a few compromises in the name of immersion, it's worth it. Yes, you will look silly to anyone who watches you use it, and you will potentially feel uneasy after an intense VR session, but these issues can't take away from the fact that Rift delivers on its promise to enable more immersive and personal gaming experiences than we've ever seen before.

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Peter Brown

Peter is Managing Editor at GameSpot, and when he's not covering the latest games, he's desperately trying to recapture his youth by playing the classics that made him happy as a kid.
Lucky's Tale

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375 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for dcole001

They really need to update this review to include Touch Controllers. It make a complete difference in experience. The Rift is a game changer.

Avatar image for sporingt

the reality is that this will end up in the porn industry, and people will remain on computers looking at their led monitors

virtual reality is uncomfortable, the way games are designed in it is just not that inclusive, yeah for exploration games and horror there will be some interest but it wont last

i can see how pokemon could benefit from this , but the majority of games wont

maybe entertainment can such as movies and exploration of places and watching movies/documentaries in 3d , but for games i think this wont be that big of a hit

Avatar image for croxus

Note that i am an early adopter of the 3D and still enjoying, i have a VR ready PS4 (camera) and PC (GTX 1070) i will NOT invest in this first wave of VR devices, its unacceptable that a technology so old, returns half baked again, the effects of dizzyness are mostly caused of bad framerate and resolution, motion nausea because of the wrongly set gyrometer sensors. If the technology isnt ready, then they shouldnt launch it!

Avatar image for uberwolfe

@croxus: Well, it appears that someone knows nothing of which they speak of.

Avatar image for Baconstrip78

@pasullica: Yeah, yeah, and Elvis's swaying hips were going to cause the downfall of modern civilization.

Go back to your side-scroller gramps.

Avatar image for Drkoolbeanz

The greatest thing about Kickstarter is you no longer have to pay back your investors. The Rift had 9,550 original backers that would have received over $200,000 each from the Facebook buyout of $2,000,000,000. Instead the backers will get a $600 Rift. Good for Palmer Luckey for selling out his crowd sourced project into a closed ecosystem like Apple and the most sinister company around, Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook which literally profits off the things we love most. Got the Vive and the Rift. Vive dominates, give your money to Valve.

Avatar image for Baconstrip78

@Drkoolbeanz: Outside of search engines, Facebook has been one of, if not THE most used application in the history of the internet. It's been free since its inception. How is Mark Z the devil here?

Avatar image for p1p3dream

I'm awaiting my Oculus Pre-Order, but in the meantime I've been using my DK2. All I have to say is, VR is fucking insane amazing, and as I've poo poo'd the nay sayers before, I will do so again. Anyone who says this is a fad, or a gimmick, you're either a f***king idiot, or you haven't actually put one of these things on. Every single person I've had over and demo'd the rift to has shat their pants. It's so cool that VR is finally here in a state that actually works, I've never been more excited for the future of video games and computing. Stokeeeeeeed.

Avatar image for RobDev

yep, the companies are willing to invest in VR, like they did in 3D, and that was a rip roaring success.......oh.........wait.

Avatar image for Baconstrip78

@RobDev: 3D failed because the experience it provides isn't worth the price of wearing special glasses. VR's experience is well worth it.

Avatar image for crazynotstupid

@RobDev: And that means what ? They are not supposed to invest in new tech to see if it works ? With this kind of mentality video games would never have come as far as they have. Not every venture end in success. It doesn't mean you should stop launching ventures altogether.

Avatar image for RobDev

@crazynotstupid: i would have thought it was obvious what it means. The fact that companies are willing to invest in it doesn't mean it will be successful. For now it looks like a gimmick.

Avatar image for crazynotstupid

@RobDev: It looks like a gimmick because VR tech is just starting. Its still very raw and expensive to produce, hence costly. But all that will change in a few years when the quality/features will be better and the costs will come down. I wouldn't buy any of these headsets coming out now but I'm still excited that the tech has arrived. The iteration process will start now. I'll probably hold out until 3rd gen VR comes out, which might be 5 -10 years.

Avatar image for RobDev

@crazynotstupid: thanks for proving my point. You won't get one now and neither will most people. There may not be a 3rd hen in 5 to 10 years. Without early adopters this stuff fails. People were the same with 3D. Sounded great but the cost of getting a new tv etc outweighed the benefits. So it died. Without early adopters and a lot of them they will stop investing in it.

Avatar image for crazynotstupid

@RobDev: That's true. Without profit they won't reinvest so the tech won't advance. But how can a company know if something will succeed or fail if they don't even try it out? 3D failed but various other technologies succeeded. VR may or may not succeed. Only time will tell.

My whole point is experimentation is not a bad thing and should not be discouraged, even though sometimes it may fail. Your OP felt negative, that's why raised the issue.

Avatar image for sirgreendown

Oh sheesh yall! Twas a dream!

Avatar image for ArchoNils2

I do own both DKs and most things they improved never bothered me (like weight). What really bothers me is the horrible resolution of the screen. I think VR will be really interessting once the they use a 4k screen and the GPUs that can output 4k @120Hz are cheap enough for a lot of people to get. Only then, when you won't see pixels that good anymore can you really get imersed.

Still I'm obsessed with the idea of VR and I would have actually bough the CV1 of OR if they would have delivered to my country (Switzerland - it's insane they delivered the DKs but not the CV1). So I guess I'll get whatever looks the best in a year and hope somebody actually offers a software that let's me use the DK2 for a CV1 software

Avatar image for facts23

so funny how the majority of users are always putting it like they are so cool-minded and all while in reality they just can't afford it. if they would be true to themselves and the rest of the world their posts would sound quite different. but humans being brought up by nature to fake their way through existence i guess there is just nothing one can do about it but be sarcastic about it. it's not just like that with VR it's basically like that with every new piece of hardware that gets released. everybody is stoked about vr or about the new hardware and everybody would get one if they could afford it. but instead we got arguments and discussions and everybody is trying to convince the others that everybody should better also not be able to buy it. herd-thinking. oh, well. pathetic. i am not talking about you users, i am talking about nature itself. which is a pretty questionable concept to begin with.

Avatar image for ArchoNils2

@facts23: I'm sorry, but I do not understand what you mean at all. So you think most can't afford it, but want it, but since everybody says they don't want it, they don't want it even though they want it? What?

Avatar image for thehawk3986

meh..... its looks really good, but people are fooling themselves if they think that gaming isn't the most important component to all this. Without quality software available for these overpriced hardware devices Oculus, Playstation VR, and Vive all die quickly like motion gaming and ps vita. I hope developers really jump behind the software so I can justify purchasing one of these bad boys.

Avatar image for henry4

Most reviews I've read say something along the lines of "you will look silly wearing this thing." The silly thing is suggesting there is any viable alternative to wearing some sort of head gear for VR. You are likely going to be playing alone in a room. Who cares what you look like? In fact, it looks pretty cool to me...

Avatar image for milk

@henry4: Wouldn't the silly thing be that there's someone else just sitting there watching you play VR?

Avatar image for hitechgraphs

@henry4 If the point is how do you look like with the stupid thing then it´s quite a con. You look like an a**. A creepy one have to ad. But the point is for now all reviews are bells and whistles. I don´t believe in reviews anymore the clever thing would be wait at least 2 years if the thing really catch masses interest for now that price is mean.

Avatar image for kazrium

I am excited to get mine, but it is back-ordered so it won't be until June probably. I have demo'd the Oculus and I was blown away. Really excited about VR in general, I can't wait to see what the future holds for this new form of entertainment!

Avatar image for Zloth2

It isn't all just about games, either. There's a 'virtual monitor' program that lets you plop up a monitor in virtual space that matches your PC's monitor's display (or monitors). You can resize it, curve it - whatever. You can watch 3D movies on it, too, though I think that requires 3D player software.

What's really sad is that all the DLC for Dead or Alive 5 on PC costs more than a Rift now.

Avatar image for ArchoNils2

@Zloth2: You do know, that looking at, say a 4k screen, with a screen that's around full HD does look much worse than actually using the 4k screen itself?

Avatar image for tag1000

@PhilipO45:I agree and I was actually thinking beyond gaming as the bigger picture. I too will have a Vive next month and a Oculus in May or June.

Avatar image for demi0227_basic

Forza 7 Please...with full Rift support.

Avatar image for lorenzd

Studies show staring at your monitor for long periods cause eye strain.

Imagine having HD display mere inches from eyes for over an hour, Cancer in a Box for $600.

Just smoke a cigarettes at $15 a pack too, live it up

Avatar image for RobDev

@lorenzd: hmmmm, so eye strain causes cancer now?

Avatar image for omgmynamewontfi

@lorenzd: thats just ridiculous. id like to see these "studies." go to sleep

Avatar image for hitechgraphs

@lorenzd Probably won´t cause cancer but eyesight problems and motion sickness. Especially the last one is a fact.

Avatar image for DrizztDark


Ok... Thanks for the advise Dr. Wiki

Avatar image for lorenzd

@DrizztDark: Common sense that devices like Cell phones, microwaves, CRT monitors emit energy waves that may cause harm to human body.

Avatar image for RobDev

@lorenzd: If only someone one had done studies on the effects of these devices. Oh wait, they have. hundreds of them.

Avatar image for Zloth2

@lorenzd: Straining muscles causes cancer!? And wouldn't a more distant monitor that you're straining to see cause more muscle strain?

Avatar image for stannisrez

I have tried the Occulus Rift and it's real awesome but I've been on the fence about VR. I would love to play a game like Fallout 4 in VR. However I'm also concern that it may just be a fad like motion controls because gamers are just gonna go back to playing the old fashion way. I do hope that this is the future of gaming and entertainment.

Avatar image for Bread_or_Decide

Ready Player One, we're one step closer.

Avatar image for FallenOneX

I know I've seen GS do a video where they get a staff member that has never played a certain series and watch them go through either the first or the latest game in said series. Have you thought about doing one with a staff member that spent their own money on a Rift and requisite PC? No offense, but I want to hear from a person that actually spent up to $1600.

Avatar image for Phazevariance

Still my question... Rift or Vive?

Avatar image for Zloth2

@Phazevariance: If you've got the money and the space, Vive. Else Rift. (Probably. The Vive isn't even out yet.)

Avatar image for Myron117

@Phazevariance: Vive, all day, everyday

Avatar image for ApatheticClone

@Phazevariance: Looking like Vive if you're wanting the most premium headset, though it's honestly not so much better that that will be the deciding factor, alone. Unless you have a good deal of disposable income, it'll probably be good to wait a year or so to see what the landscape of exclusives/reviews will be like before making a decision.

Avatar image for Shantmaster_K

I'm going to give VR a while before jumping to it.

Avatar image for maybock3000

I'm going to wait a couple of years before buying a VR headset, just to see if it will be a success or not. I have a feeling thePlaystation headset will probably be more accepted because people won't have to pay an extra grand in upgrading their PC.