We headed down to Meltdown in London to check out the HTC Vive and the first ever UK showing of Raw Data!
After much skepticism it's looking as though VR is beginning to come into its own, not only in the gaming space, but also the corporate industry, allowing you to experience places you wouldn't have otherwise been able to reach, or through its use in hospitals, helping to train surgeons.
As it happened, just last week, myself, Chapman and Nik headed down to Meltdown to get a hands-on with the HTC Vive ourselves and believe me when I say we were pretty much blown away. Each of us had different views, thoughts and opinions of our time spent with the Vive, so below we've decided to add a section for each of us to air our thoughts, hopefully giving you guys a much better idea of what this tech is capable of and perhaps more importantly, just how fun it is to play with.
So as you know, last week we had the chance to check out the new co-op mode for Raw Data - A Virtual Reality Action Survival game that pits you against waves of enemy Robots and Drones. Whether you like to shoot'em up or cut'em down, this is a game suited for every style. The event was hosted at Meltdown, one of London's unique gaming bars, featuring a themed gaming night with multiple PC towers for people to play on, plus two HTC Vives and a multitude of gaming themed cocktails and drinks.
As for Raw Data, I bet you're wondering what makes it stand out compared to other games on the VR headset? Well, firstly the HTC Vive is a really brilliant piece of kit from a technological standpoint. The device gives a fully immersive experience, tracking your movements with two infrared sensors set within a 2x2m space, with each sensor positioned diagonally opposite each other from corner to corner. Using the infrared, the headset's camera can detect your height and position (which you can calibrate before play) and moves you virtually within the digital world, as you move within the 2x2m area. The sensor's latency/lag is approximately 0.2 seconds, which is both impressive and barely detectable, highly reducing the chance of motion sickness in comparison to other VR machines that are currently on the market.
Raw Data presents itself as a uniquely different game to most Action Survival titles, as the fully immersive experience presented to you will have you strategising every move as you fight through the rounds, while the enemies featured grow progressively harder. Enemies range from generic melee-focused humanoid Robots to weaponized Drones that shoot lasers and armoured or invisible machines with rockets. The two playable character types featured are the Gunslinger and Robot Ninja. The Gunslinger can dual wield pistols, use single shots, charged shots and even switch to rapid fire mode, while the Ninja has a laser Katana that can slash, be thrown and deflect incoming projectiles, with the additional powers to perform a slam attack, fire shurikens or telekinetically blast your enemies away, giving you the option to be deadly from both close combat and range.
Additionally, although you're playing in the same level/combat arena for all three roungs of the demo, each round gets increasingly more frantic as it tests your ability to remember the level layout, urging you to use the HTC Vive to its fullest potential. Plus, with the inclusion of co-op mode, not only do the levels become more fun, the teamwork elements and friendly competition battling for the high score only serves to add to the experience.
Fun aside, the HTC Vive isn't without its fair share of glitches. For example, while playing there have been a few cases where others have walked in front of the sensors, causing a slight interference which throws you into a grey screen momentarily, before teleporting you back to the starting area of the arena. Plus, the setup can be quite costly, considering the physical space needed and the actual PC specifications required to run the hardware.
Taking all of that into account I would have to say that Raw Data is definitely a fun game to purchase if you're ever lucky enough to afford a HTC Vive. Raw Data will leave you feeling as if you were in the game itself, as you destroy all kinds of robots whether in single player or with a friend, at the same time giving your body plenty of exercise.
My time spent with any kind of Virtual Reality device has been very limited. I once had the chance to try out the Oculus Rift, oddly in Hastings several Halloween's back. The demo I played back then was an on-rails horror title, but it was impressive enough and in all honesty felt incredibly interesting, yet at the same time so alien and disorientating. Your legs were where your characters legs were, so when you looked down you're looking at an entirely different person, one that's digital and in this case the opposite gender. My experience with the HTC Vive wasn't too dis-similar either.
Putting the Vive on for the first time ever, I had no idea what the controls were or that you could move around in reality/physically and the digital world simultaneously. I knew you could point and teleport to get around, but had no idea you could move your whole body, so this was a cool experience for me.
At first, I was pretty bad. It's an odd thing to adjust to because when you have the headpiece on you lose all of your surroundings and can only see the virtual reality world. However, this worked well because you position yourself in the centre and have a 2x2m space to move around in. It might not sound like much, but when you're aware of your space beforehand it's surprisingly quite a lot of space to move around in.
I had quite a few goes and got significantly better with each attempt, until I was so confident and comfortable in it that I was able to fire my two guns in two different directions, killing things all around me on screen. I coin the term "Dante'ing" and fans of Devil May Cry will get that reference, but yea, you can cross your arms over and fire, fire behind your back, one gun over the top of the other etc. You can really express yourself through this and when I put my guns away in-game, I moved the two controllers together to give the illusion of a sarcastic clap, though if you want to be even more annoying, you can actually wave your gun/hand in front of your partners face, blocking them from seeing anything but your gun/hand. If you sit down, crouch or strafe in the real world, it does the same in-game and when you need to travel further than your permitted walking space, just hold up on the off-hand controller, aim and release to instantly teleport to that spot.
It's certainly impressive tech and when HTC are able to release a lighter, wireless headset, it'll be even better. The headset itself isn't majorly heavy, but it's heavy enough to worry about it falling off, regardless of how tight the straps holding it on are. Additionally, when you're moving around, if you're not careful you could end up twisting and tripping over your own cable, so not having that to worry about would empower the immersion. Overall though, I'm very much impressed and putting your hand behind your head, flicking down and pressing a button to draw your katana was a really great touch, so I'm looking forward to seeing how the VR industry evolves and expands over the years!
I myself have had the chance to try out quite a few different VR products over the last couple of months such as the Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR, however I can honestly say that the experience with the HTC Vive went far beyond those offerings and so at Meltdown I got to try out the new Raw Data demo along with the HTC Vive itself. This gave me a good idea of what the tech itself will bring to the virtual space.
Raw Data is a Survival Action game that pits you against enemy Robots that you must defeat. The enemies come in waves and at the beginning you're able to pick up your weapon and prepare for battle. The cool thing about this particular demo was that it could be played in co-op for the first time ever in the UK and so you had your pal alongside you, as they wore their own headset and appeared in the game with you.
The HTC Vive proved to be much closer to the VR experience I had expected back when the tech was first announced for the public. Having the ability to literally walk around your own space and interact with objects as if they were really there only further enhanced the experience. This was possible through the use of two infrared sensors that were placed within a 2x2m square (as mentioned above).
The headset itself felt a little bulky and the wires can get in the way at times, however that's more related to the progressive nature of the tech and so like Nik mentioned, will we one day see a wireless VR headset? Possibly so, however for now it'll be a limitation we're forced to live with. Along with the headset were two controllers that included a number of buttons and a functional touch surface, which I thought was really cool. If you found the experience too odd moving around yourself, the controllers were a good backup as they're also used to shoot in the game.
In a nutshell, the HTC Vive has provided me with the best VR experience so far and the additional sensors only serve to enhance that. We all had a great experience with the tech, felt there were some things that were really good while other areas could be largely improved upon, but for now and for what it is, it's a really impressive piece of kit and a greatly enjoyable product to play around with.
Had a chance to go hands on with the HTC Vive? Let us know what you thought in the comments just below or catch us on twitter:
Liban - @TheLibanAli
Nik - @CaptainCortez
Chapman - @LPCPhotography
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