Ready, Set, VR?

5min read

Virtual reality. Everyone should get a chance to put a headset on because it’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. Modern VR headsets have been available for more than half a decade and yet not many people own one or have had the luxury of trying one.

I was, and unfortunately I still am, an early adopter of VR. I owned an HTC Vive headset a couple years ago, I sold it. I bought an Oculus Rift S soon after, I sold it. I just bought the recently released Oculus Quest 2 and I might just keep this one.

Each generation of VR has been more affordable than the last and has come with better functionality and usability. Over time, they’ve become more easy to recommend.

The most recent generation of headsets is spearheaded by the Oculus Quest 2. It is a standalone headset that is powerful enough to provide compelling VR experiences without the need for a computer and wires tethering you to the real world.

Being able to spin around as much as you want without having to worry about tripping over wires is a big deal. It helps make VR much more immersive than it would be otherwise.

Having a completely standalone headset means that someone can spend a couple hundred bucks and have a functional and relatively powerful VR system in their hands. This is quite cheap when compared to other headsets on the market which are at least double, if not triple, the price, require you to have a powerful gaming PC and, require wires.

But wait… There’s more!

With the Oculus Quest 2, if you jump through the right, currently unofficial, hoops you can play PC VR games wirelessly by streaming them from the computer to the headset. This is how I’ve been using my headset almost exclusively. It is the best of both worlds; I’m wireless but my beefy computer is running the games with better performance and visuals than I would get with the inferior computing power of the headset on its own.

At first, I didn’t believe that this would work. I was worried about the latency…

But it just works. It feels like magic.

VR is amazing and it gets better and cheaper year by year. But, VR has had and will continue to have one big problem for the foreseeable future.

Not enough people own VR headsets to incentivize game developers to make VR games to the standards of the AAA non-VR game industry. This leaves VR aficionados like me in a pickle when it comes time to recommend VR to other people. There’s never been a better time to get into VR but there are few VR games that are worth experiencing.

There are a few great experiences that I can recommend without any caveats. But, there are so few of them that I can give you a pitch for each of them in the next paragraph.

In Half Life: Alyx, you trek across a dystopian sci-fi city taken over by an alien race to free Gordon Freeman, and it is objectively the best VR game. In Superhot VR, you shoot and dodge your way through a world where your enemies only move when you move allowing you to live out your darkest John Wickean fantasies. In Beat Saber, you dual wield lightsabers and swipe at blocks moving toward you in time with music; it’s simple but it’s great light exercise and a lot of fun. In The Walking Dead Saints and Sinners, you play a survivor in a zombie apocalypse; you explore, you scavenge, you fight zombies and humans alike in a desperate attempt to survive in the harsh post-apocalyptic environment.

That’s it. Every other VR game that I’ve played and enjoyed has to come with a disclaimer. Most VR games are developed by one person in their basement, most look like garbage, most are very short, and don’t make up for that in any way.

For example, I can’t tell a person to play Jet Island without telling them that it looks like a bad original PlayStation game. Even though gliding around an island on a hoverboard at breakneck speeds is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced; the game looks like hot trash.

I can’t recommend a game like Hot Dogs, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades outright. Although the realistic simulation of firearms leads to frantic firefights with humanoid sausages, the amount of actual “gameplay” and environments to play in is severely lacking.

I can’t tell people to play Phasmophobia in good conscience because half the time the game simply doesn’t work. When it does work, it’s quite compelling to be a ghost hunter in a world where ghosts exist and are out to get you.

I’m looking forward to trying Asgard’s Wrath which is one of the few “big” VR games that I haven’t played yet. But… VR headsets have been available to consumers for more than half a decade now. It is a TRAGEDY that there are only a handful of games that are worth playing.

The world isn’t ready for VR, or perhaps VR isn’t ready for the world. Mark my words, one day, VR will be widely adopted and used for all kinds of entertainment. Until then, I’ll be standing here, in my little corner, turning in place forever, cursing at zombies, zooming by on my hoverboard and shooting humanoid hot dogs with a gigantic grin on my face.

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