Losing my Oculus virginity – playing the Rift at EGX 2014

A few of the writers at IM PLAYIN have already used the Oculus Rift, and they’ve been going on about it for over a year. But they’ve only played the old Oculus, I got to try out the new Oculus. Oculus 2.0! As it goes, I’m not just an Oculus virgin, I’m a VR virgin. I’ve never stepped into a virtual reality before, I tend to like my realities ‘real’. Still, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give the Oculus a go and try out VR for myself.

The first thing that I thought, whilst queuing for the Rift and watching other people use it, was how stupid everybody looked sitting there with these massive goggles on their faces, swaying their heads and looking into thin air. They sat on these comfy sofas and casually rocked their heads, looking from left to right, up and down and all around, but not actually focusing on anything in the room (obviously). It wasn’t until I sat down myself and shoved on the cumbersome headgear that I truly understood what they were looking at. Inside those goggles is an invisible world, one that only you can see and you can experience. In that moment, you’re completely shut off from the outside world, from reality. You are completely in the moment and, for those ten minutes of gaming, I forgot that people were watching me; I wasn’t in the same world as them anymore.

In theory, those goggles can be the gateway to anything that you could imagine. You could be a spaceship fighter pilot, a super spy, a soldier on the front line or a skydiver. For my ten minutes, I was… I guess… a soldier of some sorts. I was playing Superhot, a game that I’ve been looking forward to on the Xbox One for some time, but one that I never imagined I’d first play through the Oculus. As a bit of background, Superhot is an indie first person shooter game from developers Superior, where time will only move when you move. It’s an incredibly simple idea, but one that could really change the way in which we play first person shooters. I’ve really been looking forward to playing this when it comes out next year and I was incredibly surprised when I saw people playing it on the Oculus. I didn’t know that it was going to be an Oculus game, but if there was one game that I would have loved to play on the Oculus, it would have been Superhot.

As soon as I placed the goggles over my eyes, I was transported somewhere else. It felt as though I was actually there, in this virtual world – and that’s something that I wasn’t quite expecting. I was always a little sceptical about the Oculus, as I wondered whether or not I’d feel awkward or uncomfortable looking at a screen that close to my eyes. But, in a way, I didn’t actually realise I was looking at a screen, it kind of felt as though I was looking at real life – which is an odd sensation, but one that I really enjoyed. In the game you have to get from one end of a corridor to a gun placed in the centre. At the opposite end of the corridor are three enemies shooting at you, so you need to use the time-slowing mechanism of moving slowly (or not moving at all) to avoid the bullets as you try to reach the gun. As a game on the Xbox One, it sounds incredibly fun, but on the Oculus it was taken to a completely different level. I could see the bullets fizzing past my head and I could hear them screeching past my ear (thanks to the headphones). I’d quickly jolt my head away from the bullets to avoid them and, at one point, a managed to stop a bullet dead in front of my eyes. It felt as though I could reach out and touch the bullet hovering in front of me, it was that ‘real’.

Superhot was probably the perfect game for me to play on the Oculus Rift, it’s the kind of game that this device has been built for (at least as start of projects whilst the tech is less basic). It looked stunning and it felt incredible and, at first, I wasn’t sure if VR is really the next-step in gaming. But, after playing Superhot on the Oculus, I’m starting to believe in the VR revolution. I don’t think I’d want to play every game on the Oculus Rift but for certain games, like Superhot, you probably couldn’t get much better as a gaming experience. I’m itching to play more of the Oculus Rift, and I can’t wait to see where it goes over the course of the year!