Tuesday 24 April 2018

HTC Vive review roundup - is VR ready for the world stage?

HTC Vive
HTC Vive

Daniel Anderson

Virtual Reality has been right on the cusp of its big reveal for years now and with the launch of the HTC Vive, it has finally arrived

Virtual Reality as a concept has been around for more than 20 years but it's latest iteration is a very different state of affairs. The main difference is that this isn't a piece of technology which is aimed only at a select group of people but instead at everyone. These are consumer models in the widest sense possible (given the current hardware restrictions) and the kinds of devices you'll actually see on store shelves, particularly when the PlayStation VR arrives in October.

That's a pretty huge change, and it is reflected in the sheer volume of column inches already devoted to the likes of Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. With the embargo lifted, all manner of reviews are starting to filter out, and we're taking a look at a few to get an idea of the overall impressions of this major new technological breakthrough.

Firstly the reviews are generally positive for the Vive, looking forward to the potential of the technology. And that's also an important word - potential - because another common thread is thinking about the headset very much a work in progress. Like games which are put out in a beta form for further testing, there's a sense in which the Vive seems to feel just not quite finished. Maybe that's because the virtual reality sphere is so new to us, or because there's still a ways to go to really integrate the technology.

There are other issues too - like the need for an open space to map the area of 'virtual' world you can walk around in and some clunkiness in the way games and experiences are opened and used, stemming from the Steam menu. Those games too are said to be fairly limited for the moment, again more like early demo versions with short playtimes and some awkard interactions

That said, the words 'slack-jawed' and 'awe-inspiring' appear pretty regularly in the reviews to date, and it's pretty clear that there are some experiences which are possible here that simple don't exist on any other platform, thanks to the combination of the wireless handheld controllers and the ability to walk around and interact. Plus there's always the 3D painting of Tilt Brush to astound all comers.

Here are a selection of the reviews so far:

"It's an impressive effort by HTC, which has had a rough few years in mobile, and Valve. It's oh-so close to being the holy grail of VR experiences. It's just too bad that ergonomics get in the way of truly enjoying it." - Engadget

"The HTC Vive is without a doubt the most cutting-edge gadget you can buy right now. Its capabilities surpass any other device on the planet, and for that alone, it deserves to be celebrated. Whether it’s worth the $800 (that doesn’t include the additional $900 or so for the gaming computer) is a different story." - Gizmodo

"Oculus has clearly thrown its weight behind VR film and gaming, but Valve and HTC have been more circumspect — they didn’t craft an entertainment ecosystem, they just showed up with some goggles and controllers and let people play with them. For now, at least, that’s turned out to be enough." - The Verge

"Everyone has the same reaction after their demo in our experience: They remark on how complicated it seems and how little they’d want to set one up in their own home, and then they get wide eyed and want to tell you all about how amazed they are by the experience. Valve’s challenge is to get the second part of that reaction to overrule the first, and they’re going to have an uphill battle on their hands, but it’s off to a very promising start." - Polygon

The Vive is out now, with a retail release in Ireland expected later in 2016.

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