With the increased competition from HTC and Microsoft, it was up to pioneers Oculus to spearhead the way into the next step for Virtual Reality, I believe they’ve done more than a serviceable job with the new Oculus Quest, released late May. Starting at £399 for the 64GB model and £499 for the 128GB, its safe to say that its more than affordable for the average consumer in respect to the alternatives of having both the PC and headset, but how does it perform?
The headset itself is sleek and beautifully crafted, the matte black finish on the front giving a very smooth feel to the device, with 4 cameras on the front as there are no external sensors with this offering, as well as the tried and tested stretch mechanism, it’s a good looking piece of equipment for sure. A tough fabric protects the users face and eyes from the plastic casing and I found this to be very comfortable, even during extended sessions. Controller wise the Quest is very similar to previous Oculus iterations, the main difference I could spot was the sensor loop having been moved from the underside of the controller to now sitting on top. I feel as though this gives a good balance to the controller and much less risk of getting a finger or knuckle caught inside during intense moments. The now capacitive buttons and triggers also allow for a little extra immersion, however I have yet to find a practical use for this in any of the applications I used, maybe future titles will capitalise on this and give us some new and interesting ways to interact with the game worlds they create.
With load times for games being less than 10 seconds and the OS booting in less than 5, there is no worry that the mobile chipset powering the device is sufficient, apps run smooth and even during hectic or power hungry segments in games such as Robo-Recall or Beat Sabre I was unable to notice any slowdown or frame rate drops. The only difference I could see was the slightly lower resolution as compared to the beefier, PC powered counterpart, but this is to be expected and when immersed will not take away from the experiences on offer. There is still however, a graininess to the screen that plagues all of the oculus devices, while at a decent resolution, the graphical fidelity of some sections suffer, mostly when visualising objects at a distance. Despite this I was very impressed with the performance of the console and unless you are a stickler for having the best possible graphics, the Oculus Quest is a very tantalising choice.
The user experience is also a very simple one. From setting play boundaries to loading an app, all it takes is the press of a button. Nothing is hidden behind menus or button combinations. The whole experience is laid very bare for all to see. A truly easy and enjoyable way to pick up and play.
While the claim of being a completely wireless experience holds true for the Quest, a drawback to this is then having to be concerned with the battery, while okay for a quick session, any wishes for extended play will be quickly diminished. On average I was able to pull around 2 hours on a single charge for the headset, which is considerably less than its main portable competitor, the Nintendo Switch. While this can be boosted with the use of an external battery pack, if you are looking to use the system for a social setting then you may come into some difficulty. The charge time to fully charged is around an hour. For me this is the main drawback of the system and something that I pray is addressed in future iterations of the system. The AA battery run controllers however will easily run for around 12 hours.
The worth of a console lies very heavily in the choice of titles available, to which the Quest delivers in heaps, boasting a launch line up of 50+ titles there will be enough to keep even the most dedicated of players occupied for a while to come. Standouts include the tried and tested Robo-Recall, Beat Sabre and Super-Hot, the latter I can only describe my experience of playing it on the Quest as INCREDIBLE! The wireless nature if the device allows for a more deep and in depth view into the virtual world than I have experienced prior. Other offerings, like the ultra-immersive ‘Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series – Episode 1’, left me aching for more sabre-swinging, force wielding action, truly a must play for fans of Star Wars and story driven games alike. The Quest is littered with so many gems that it started to feel like the console is worth its weight in precious stones. I found the system to have more than enough memory for my needs, using the 64GB model, with every application owned being installed (around 18), the system was not full and had more than enough space for many more games. This is fantastic as consumers will have a variety of applications available at any one time.
As well as this you are more than welcome to take advantage of the video streaming capabilities, with streaming available to Facebook direct from the headset. If you wish to see gameplay on a TV however, you will require some extra equipment, either a Chromecast to a TV or using a mobile device and the oculus app. Both are easy to set up and with minimal visual lag it’s a great way to share screens.
Overall the console offers a big step in the right direction, while still being essentially a first generation VR console, the freedom on offer greatly surpasses any limitations to graphical fidelity or play time due to battery size. The wide array of applications will give even the pickiest of gamers something to enjoy. I can wholeheartedly recommend the Oculus Quest to anyone looking for an easy and relatively cheap VR experience, no strings attached.