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HTC Vive hands on review aka: Adventures through the 3rd Dimension

by on May 18, 2016

Recently a friend of mine received her HTC Vive and we decided to have a Vive party to try it out. On the physical side of things the Vive sits pretty well on ones face and can easily be adjusted for better comfort. It was lighter than I expected, from what Ive heard its lighter than the Oculus but will compare once said friend gets one of those as well in a week. Most adjustments are made via Velcro straps on the sides and top of your head to secure it. Then there is two knobs near your temples to adjust the screen if you need room for glasses or have a big nose, though the knobs were a little difficult to pop in and out and didn’t want to turn easily. And then there is the “focus” nub near the front, which my friend even went a little overboard and got a Optical tool to measure our eyes for number to set for the focus, I’m a 64 apparently but she was correct, I set the nub to “64” and it was pretty clear for the rest of the test. Minor different between Vive and Oculus/PSVR is lack of built in head phones, which was curious at first but we figured they made it this way so that you can use whatever feels more comfortable with you. The Vive does come with some “cheap” ear buds to use, though with our set up we had blue tooth headphones synced up to the PC running the Vive. It worked very well to be able to adjust those separately from the Vive, I could move it to uncover an ear to communicate with my “spotter” (Our nick name given to the person who is watching the monitor and making sure we did not bump into the room sensors or trip on the cable). The Vive uses 2 room sensors to map out your play area, according to the party host it took just a few minutes to get them set up in place and to calibrate them. She was even able to prop one up on a tri pod from her projector on one side. A bit of a health/sanitary warning, some of the games which I will describe later will require you to move around a bit and if your slightly out of shape like I am, you are gonna start sweating. This is gonna be a draw back to most VR sets, but if several people are using one head set, eventually some one is gonna be putting their face in some one else’s sweat. Even drying it off with a towel doesn’t get all the sweat out, so we are currently trying to come up with a work out for all that. The controllers are what really set the Vive apart from other VR machines right now as they give you more “immersive” feel and expand what a typical game can do in terms of controls. They controllers reminded me of Play Station Move controllers in terms of how they felt at first but significantly more detailed. They have a trigger, three buttons on top including a “touch pad” and two buttons down the side that you can squeeze. They are wireless, pretty light weight, and have a pretty good battery life, over all the Vive was played for around 8-10 hours and the controllers did not need recharging. They are also very accurate in movement. I did not experience any sort of delay in anything I did. In Steam VR with the head set on, the controllers act as a laser pointer to select what software you want to load. I almost had just as much fun selecting the titles as the titles themselves by pointing the laser at them and pulling the trigger. Speaking of software……

On the Software side I was able to see what other people were playing as well as check out a few interesting demos that gave me a greater insight to what VR could be cable of other than just “head tracking” and what not. First up I walked in on my friends wife playing a hoard mode castle defense game where she was shooting a bow and arrows at enemies. The game required her to reach behind her with one controller to “grab” an arrow out of the quiver and then knock it into the bow shes holding in her other hand, pull the string back and then let go the trigger to fire. After a few minutes she started pumping arrows out Green Arrow/Hawkeye style, back, arrow, pull and fire really fast as more and more enemies started to swarm her. One game was similar to “Bad Piggies” where in you have to build weird vehicles to get to a goal, combining wheels and a frame build out of various material like sticks and then watch it go. The guy playing it would walk around it like it was a real object, kneel down and lean over to look around it and under it to see where he could design it better. That seemed to be a common thread in VR, it plays with your mind, as I pointed out in the above scenario the guy would walk around something that wasn’t really there, he would even point that out while doing it and still do it. In one game I played, I have to squat down to look under a desk and I stumbled a little and reached out to steady myself with a chair that was next to me….and I fell cause that chair did not exist, the whole “there is no spoon” dichotomy is real! Speaking of my experiences, the game I was playing when I fell through the chair had me wondering through the hall ways of an office building trying to get to the main office while avoiding robot. You have a portal gun to get to other areas and to “expand” out the play are bigger than the small room we were in. At some point you find throwing knives and would have to hold the controller trigger to pick one up, and then you would have to make a throwing motion and release the trigger just as if you were holding a knife between your thumb and pointer finger and trying to throw it. I had to unlock a safe and have to walk around the room I was in opening up drawers looking for a key. At one point I had to squat down cause I was in an air duct, I crawled across my friends floor so I get to a loose roof tile in the floor and peer into the room “below me”. There were two robot guards so I leaned forward to try to get a better angle, at this point I had found a dart gun, so Tom Cruise or Jean Reno style it was like I was leaning down into a room from the air duct and assassinate these robot guards from above. It felt REALLY cool but Im sure I looked like a complete fool face touching the floor, one leg way out, leaning on one hip, arm out to balance and aiming a remote control at the floor. Up next I tried what was probably my favorite title of the night: Space Pirate Trainer where you just stand on a docking platform on a space station and shoot eye bot drones and they fly in at you trying to shoot you. You can press the touch pads to select different modes of fire; single, burst, full auto, and rail gun and beam. You also make a motion with the controller to reach behind your back and you will equip a shield to reflect incoming shot. The coolest part of this game takes advantage of the Vives room capabilities where if a laser shot is coming at you, you can actually move, duck dodge, dip, dive and dodge the incoming shots. I did not do that enough and so I died, a lot. But by far it was the most entertaining game of the night for me, going akimbo with full auto blaster pistols or two beam guns that when you “cross the streams” they focus into one and become stronger was just too fun. The last demo I tried was a Zombie survival game, you are armed with a flash light and at start a 9mm pistol. The sights were a little off on the 9mm but it felt pretty good control wise. Best part is you can pistol whip the zombies when they get too close, there was a big berserk zombie that charged me as I shot him, I ran out of ammo and had to reload, by hitting the button on the side of the controller like you would for a magazine release on a real gun and while I waited for the reload to happen I smacked him with a pistol whip to stun him for a second, then I angled the gun upward and fired a few shots into his head John Wick style. The game was a 360 shooter so you had zombies coming in from every direction, so you had to constantly turn around and look behind you. Was just a demo but has tons of promise.

Over all I really enjoyed every experience I had with the Vive, the open room experience adds to the immersion for the most part, I can see it as being the new tool to get gamers to exercise. Being able to duck down and hide behind a stack of boxes to evade killer robot only to lean over and toss a knives into the back of their heads, or go twin guns blazing into a group of…killer robots…wow there are a lot of games with killer robots…but in any cause I am excited for VR, I have been excited for VR and the Vive is an excellent entry into the field.

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