I’m writing this the night after my first real experience of VR and my mind is blown.
I have been looking forward to moving my sim racing rig into the virtual reality world for a couple of years now and I pre-ordered the Oculus Rift on launch day.
So after a few months of waiting my HMD finally met my H and you know what, the Matrix is real.
Costs & Requirements
The Rift costs £499 in the UK for that you get the head mounted display, an XBox One controller (and Bluetooth dongle receiver to go in your PC) and a little remote control.You’ll need a decent spec gaming PC (around £1,000) to drive it. The official minimum requirements at launch are:
- GPU: 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 x USB 3.0 ports.
- OS: Windows 7 SP1 or newer.
If you’re a sim racer you’ll need a wheel and pedals and a seat setup too. If you’re into flight sims you’ll want a HOTAS setup instead. So all in all a substantial outlay.
On My Face
Putting the Rift on is easy, think of it like a baseball cap and slide the back part on first then pull the front down over your face. It’s not so simple if you wear glasses though. There’s a bit of a knack to it, try glasses first. I’ve actually found it works well for me without my glasses making it much easier to put on and take off.
The ‘sweet spot’ is narrow and you need to adjust the straps, the tilt and the inter-pupillary distance slider, but when you position it just right everything looks better.
Having never tried any of the previous Rift development kits I have to say I was disappointed with the resolution when I first put the Rift on. The res can be especially jarring when you are looking off into the distance and trying to discern detail.
The forums are full of talk of ‘god rays’ and SDE too but you get past all that the moment you start driving. It’s an incredible feeling. Even though you clearly know you aren’t sitting in a race car, your sub-conscious brain takes over. I’ve reached out several times automatically to try and touch stuff in the car!
In the Matrix
Like everyone else we spent the first night going through the demos and getting the family to try it out. My daughter laughed (and cried) and my better half screamed as she walked along the ledge of a tall building. Clearly there’s something incredible going on with your brain here.
My absolute favourite racing game is still Project Cars. Here’s a video from one of the best Sim Racing YouTubers, Gamermuscle that gives a good impression of what VR racing is like with Project Cars and the Rift…
The Nordschleife is even better in Assetto Corsa although I can get motion sickness playing it for some reason, where I get none with Project Cars.
I’ve little or no interest in other gaming genres but I’ve tried a few. While I’ve had no motion sickness after hours of driving in Project Cars, a single barrel roll in the 6-axis space shooter E Valkerie had my stomach trying to exit via my mouth. In general if you are the sort of person that gets travel sick then you may be more susceptible.
There are plenty of reviews comparing the Rift to the HTC Vive. Its major difference is (perceived?) better room scale performance and you can read up on the whole lighthouse versus constellation debate if you like. Checkout the video below for a good comparison of the 2 systems.
Many reviews conclude that the Rift is mainly let down by its lack of hand controllers at launch (they are coming later this year). But sim racers do have a hand controller – a steering wheel, and this definitely helps with the immersion.
I’ve not used the Vive yet but the bottom line, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by either device. Playstation owners will be able to jump aboard the VR train this October at a lower price point too.
I’ve been playing racing sims on and off since the 90’s and back then I’d never have imagined this level of realism would be possible in my lifetime.
While the resolution is undoubtedly the weakest link in this generation of VR, once you’re in a race and ‘presence’ kicks in there’s just nothing to compare. I’ve not played a non-VR sim since the Rift arrived and I’ve no longer got any desire to do so. Enough said.
Right, I’m heading back out in my Ariel Atom for just one more race around the Oulton Park Island circuit 🙂
+ Totally Immersive Experience
+ Racing is way easier in 3D VR
+ Incredible Tracking Accuracy & Low Latency