VR Experience So Far
I’ve owned a Valve Index for about a week now. Here’s my experience with it so far:
The Index kit is very well put together. The speakers sound amazing (when they’re over your ear) and there’s no discomfort from having headphones touching your ear. It fits my head much better than the PSVR did, though I have a slight problem where things aren’t in focus unless it’s situated Just Right. This is a common problem for the Index from what I’ve read online. I’m usually able to adjust it enough though - being able to adjust the distance between the eye lenses (the Inter-Pupillary Distance) definitely helps with that.
Running VR absolutely melts my laptop though. It’s a 2019 Razer Blade 15 with an RTX 2060 and an i7-9xxx. The processor sits in that 90 to 100C range and the GPU sits in the 85C range - so it gets uncomfortably hot. We will be building Rosie a desktop system soon, and I’ll start using that for VR instead of my laptop.
Beat Saber is a VR rhythm game where you slash the beats of adrenaline-pumping music as they fly towards you, surrounded by a futuristic world.
Dance Dance Revolution, but with light sabers. This is the game that originally convinced me that VR might be something worth getting in to, specifically this video of Overkill by Riot. (We even went to a show in Minneapolis for that song alone.😅)
One thing I noticed right away was how tuned the latency was. Specifically, that I didn’t have to configure the latency - it just worked. This is amazing to me since I always had to tweak the latency when playing games like DDR or Guitar Hero - I couldn’t quantify it, but I could always feel when the latency was off by as little at 5ms.
The base game doesn’t come with a whole lot of songs - which is understandable, most rhythm games are like that. There are a couple websites where you can download custom maps, but it’s generally hit or miss. Most tracks there only have one or two difficulties (usually harder ones) and the tracks are either well put together or a total mess.
TLDR: If you’re into rhythm games (DDR, Guitar Hero, etc), get it. Find websites that have tracks you like and get those too.
Welcome to The Lab, a compilation of Valve’s room-scale VR experiments set in a pocket universe within Aperture Science. Fix a robot, defend a castle, adopt a mechanical dog, and more. Still not sold? It’s free!
I didn’t really know what this game was before going into it - I just watched the trailer on Steam. It really is a collection of tech demos, some cool some boring as shit.
The real-world environments are neat to look at but there’s not much to do there (except play fetch with the robot dog).
The “robot repair” minigame seemed like it was going to be really cool, but it turns out it’s just a super linear, 99% scripted story.
Similarly, the shop room was cool to look at but it was very disappointing that you could barely interact with anything. It would have been way more engaging if you could at least pick up every object.
The solar system room is boring as hell. Not much to do except throw the planets into the sun and watch them go “poof”.
Human Medical Scan isn’t even worth looking at. It’s supposed to feature the kind of medical imaging that could be possible with VR, but for non-medical people it just seems pointless.
Slingshot is a game where you throw Personality Cores (from Portal) into tall stock shelves (Angry Birds but without the birds or pigs). Fun to play, but not very long.
Longbow is quite fun, but my arms got tired after a while.
Xortex is by far my favorite part of The Lab (and could easily stand on its own). It’s a 3d bullet hell / alien invaders game. You physically move a little drone around, shooting enemies and avoiding bullets / obstacles coming at you. I’ve spent the most time in this room and could easily spend hours more in it!
TLDR: Mostly “meh”, but Xortex is quite fun. At least it’s free.
Half Life: Alyx
Half-Life: Alyx is Valve’s VR return to the Half-Life series. It’s the story of an impossible fight against a vicious alien race known as the Combine, set between the events of Half-Life and Half-Life 2. Playing as Alyx Vance, you are humanity’s only chance for survival.
Two words: Holy F@$*k! I purposefully stayed away from reading about this game before I played it: I didn’t want any spoilers, story or gameplay.
The start of the game is training the player on how to play a FPS in VR. The controls are pretty quick to pick up, but I find aiming with the pistol to be difficult. I suppose that’s true of real life as well!
When I finally got the shotgun, it took me a solid half hour to figure out how to load shells into it. I eventually caved and googled how to do it (which took longer than I would have though in of itself). Pressing the mag drop button to open the shotgun was a “DOH!” moment, but having to put the box of shells in my backpack and then take them back out to load into the gun was not even close to “intuitive”. The rest of the controls are pretty easy to get used to though. Reloading the pistol takes tiiiime, which is especially nerve wracking when in the middle of a tense firefight.
At one point I’m coming to an encounter with a couple Combine soldiers and I can tell it’s going to be a firefight.
Seeing that I’m in a subway car, I can tell this is the perfect opportunity to use the VR to it’s maximum - ducking behind walls and below windows.
At one point I was damn near laying on the ground avoiding incoming fire.
But then an enemy just wanders in through the door and starts shooting at me.
And I just happened to run out of ammo in the gun at that moment.
So there I am, laying on the ground, empty pistol in hand staring up at an enemy who should have no problem blowing me away.
He was nice enough to stop shooting for a bit, giving me time to try loading my pistol. Turns out reloading in that situation is damn near impossible, but switching to the shotgun and blasting him was easy.
(I need to figure out how to record VR gameplay just for stupid moments like that.)
Then you get into the terrifying parts of the game. I won’t spoil it for you, but headcrabs and barnacles are waaaaaaaaaaay more terrifying in VR. And dark areas with a hand-mounted flashlight are waaaaaaaaaaay more terrifying in VR.
TLDR: Definitely worth getting, but have a new pair of pants on standby.