EVE Valkyrie might be the most disappointing Oculus Rift experience available

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So I bought an Oculus Rift this weekend. The stores finally had filled all their pre-orders and I found it in-stock at my local Best Buy.

After getting a quick walk-up demo… I was sold. Rift isn’t something that can be explained or demonstrated in a television or YouTube ad. You have to strap it on to experience it.

When I heard about Oculus’s head-tracking stuff originally, I thought, “pfft, head tracking, no big deal”.   I figured the head tracking was a nice to have but non-essential feature.  But once I strapped this thing on my head… I realized how wrong I was.   Head-tracking is the absolute coolest aspect of Oculus Rift, partly because they do it so so very well.   Not only can you lookup and down and left and right, but you can tilt your head, lay down on your sofa even…. or, my favorite, lean into things to examine them closely.   If the tracking were at all inaccurate or laggy, the illusion would fall apart.   It is something that has to be experienced.

With perfect head tracking , the illusion then becomes complete: that these goggles on your head are truly simply a glass window into a virtual world that you can peer into and look around.   I found myself amazed at how accurate they were.  I could examine miniature details up-close, peer around corners, inside craters, and under hollowed-out logs.

Furthermore, head-tracking allows for life-scale objects to be in the scene.  A grand piano, looks  grand-piano-sized.  40-story buildings look like 40-story buildings!  400 foot tall redwood trees look 400-ft tall!  Peering over the edge of the cliff triggers autonomic physiological responses like adrenaline, convulsions, twitching, and flinching.  Don’t play this with an unhealthy heart.  Seriously, don’t!

I found myself getting sick from the adrenaline rush caused by falling off a cliff a dozen times and had to take a 4-hour nap after playing Windlands for just 15 minutes to deal with the adrenaline crash afterwards.  My body was sore the next day from convulsions.

Is it too real?  Arguably it may be better to keep things a bit “softcore” for the masses.  Not everyone wants to have a bejeezus scared out of them all the time, which is something that Oculus is perfectly capable of doing.

Still technically, it is not perfect. The screen combined with the optics seem a tad bit low res for its purpose. The pixels give you a bit of a “screen door” effect which can be distracting and underwhelming. The goggles are difficult to put on and wouldn’t fit over my friends’ glasses. I was shocked that I needed to wear my glasses at all, as I’m near-sighted. But the process of focusing the lenses is not very versatile nor practical.  You basically wiggle the goggles up and down until it looks sorta okay.  Furthermore, the goggles aren’t ventilated,  I make sure to blow a fan directly on my face when I’m playing, that helps.  But the lenses inside can get fogged up and gross, sweaty, and unsanitary.

The biggest disappointment, however, I’ve found to be the underwhelming games content.   By far the best game I’ve played for Oculus is Lucky’s Tale… a Mario 64 clone, essentially, but designed from the ground up to show off the Oculus Rift’s technology in creative ways.  It was a short game, but a pleasure to play.  I’d love to see more like it, possibly a sequel.

But I just shelled out $60 for EVE Valkyrie and I totally feel ripped off.  Once you get through EVE’s boring opening dialogue, set in basically a dark, under-decorated room and finally get to the point where you’re in a ship and about to blast off… I’ll say that the blast-off experience is pretty spectacular.  Just being able to look out the cockpit of your ship and see the massive guns on the wings is a pretty epic sight, and you almost seem to feel the inertia of the catapult out the mothership’s tunnel into wide open space surrounded by asteroids the size of high-rise buildings.  That part is great.

Then … there’s nothing.  The game does basically nothing from there on out.  Despite the trailers suggesting a rich single player campaign, there is basically none to be found.  I played through the “story” in about 10 minutes.  All the blogs that seem to report this as being one of the best games in VR, but I wouldn’t believe them.  EVE Valkyrie  basically stops at the blast-off part and then there’s virtually no reason to keep on playing after that.  Be warned, this game is basically a multiplayer deathmatch game where every level is basically a bunch of asteroids floating in space.  I could have built these levels in 20-minutes in Unity.   They basically took a few blobs and put rock textures on them.  There’s zero thought put into level design, story, weapons, or gameplay.  You just run around and shoot and things in the sky for 10 minutes until the nausea sets in and you become physically ill.

Don’t get tricked into paying $60 for this game.  It is worth $9.99 at best.  There are free-to-play games out there that are far more worth your time.  I had more fun playing Mountain Goat Mountain (free in the Oculus Store).