Guidemaster: Is Valve Index the best virtual reality system to buy in 2019?

Guidemaster: Is Valve Index the best virtual reality system to buy in 2019?

Enlarge / Front row: PlayStation VR, Oculus Quest, Valve Index, Oculus Rift S. Back row: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive Pro. (Only headsets from the front row made our recommended-in-2019 list.) (credit: Sam Machkovech)

Virtual reality as a consumer-grade tech isn’t going anywhere if the PC gaming titans at Valve Corporation have anything to say about it.

Today marks the company’s launch of its own VR system, the Valve Index, and it’s easily the company’s biggest hardware launch ever. Valve has previously sold $50 controllers and set-top boxes, and they’ve partnered with other hardware makers to launch things like computers. But the Valve Index is another level entirely—it’s priced at $999 for a full kit, built top to bottom at Valve’s Seattle-area headquarters.

What’s more, its launch day allocation sold out even before I’d written my lengthy hands-on impressions article last month. Not bad for a gadget

Read the rest Continue Reading
One week with the Valve Index: A VR game-changer with a few question marks

One week with the Valve Index: A VR game-changer with a few question marks

My introduction to the Index, Valve’s first-ever top-to-bottom PC virtual reality system, was a whirlwind of numbers and demos. Valve’s three-hour hands-on event in April came with a considerable blast of specs, claims, and pre-release software, but while those ranged from puzzling to impressive, none of them stayed with me like one off-hand comment from the day.

During an informal Valve Q&A after my tests, I talked about how impressed I’d already been by the Oculus Quest’s “good enough” performance as a wireless, standalone VR headset. How would the pricier, wired, more demanding Valve Index fit into that kind of marketplace, I asked?

“I don’t use VR for 30 minutes a day,” one Valve engineer said in response. “I use VR hours a day. What’s good enough for 20 minutes, 30

Read the rest Continue Reading
An exhaustive look at Oculus Quest’s first day of great, wireless VR software

An exhaustive look at Oculus Quest’s first day of great, wireless VR software

Enlarge (credit: Oculus / Aurich Lawson)

Three weeks ago, I had many positive things to say in my Oculus Quest VR system review. It’s wireless, it’s simple to use, and it runs on the bleeding edge of just powerful enough for engrossing “six degrees of freedom” (6DOF) virtual reality.

Thankfully, that review was driven by a variety of pre-release software—which means we didn’t have to guess how the hardware’s strengths and weaknesses bore out for retail games and apps. But in the time since that article went live, Oculus has dumped even more software into our devices.

So much software, in fact, that we decided to do something we haven’t done in a while: a launch-day software guide for a game platform’s launch. The last platform to get such an Ars treatment, coincidentally, was Sony’s PlayStation VR in 2016but that was a “buy, try, avoid” breakdown of

Read the rest Continue Reading
Pre-E3 2019: Oculus wants you to paddle a stealth VR kayak—and it’s awesome

Pre-E3 2019: Oculus wants you to paddle a stealth VR kayak—and it’s awesome

Enlarge / Are you telling me you don’t pack remote-detonation explosives, a dozen clips full of bullets, and a silenced pistol on your family kayak trip? Phantom: Covert Ops, a VR stealth game coming later this year to Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift, would like to have a word with your camping-trip organizer. (credit: Oculus Studios / nDreams)

SANTA MONICA, California—I could not stop giggling.

I had just watched a pitch for a new single-player stealth video game from Oculus Studios, titled Phantom: Covert Ops, and was intrigued. The video looked like an interesting game’s opening sequence, in which players slip into a defended terrorist compound by paddling beneath its steel belly in a very quiet kayak. That’s a cool, REI-style way to begin a VR version of Metal Gear Solid, I thought. I was sure we’d soon see a hero hop onto land and get down

Read the rest Continue Reading
Vader Immortal world premiere: Star Wars comes to VR with story, humor, stakes

Vader Immortal world premiere: Star Wars comes to VR with story, humor, stakes

Enlarge / This dramatic staredown moment from Vader Immortal, as captured from live Oculus Quest hardware. While this captured image is a bit fuzzy, Vader’s animation and presentation within the VR experience is quite satisfying. (credit: Lucasfilm)

I could start my review of Vader Immortal: Episode One, the first lengthy Star Wars experience for consumer-grade VR headsets, in a number of ways. Controls? Comfort? Visuals? Story? Droids?

But after I finished my first run of the 45-minute experience, premiering exclusively on Oculus Quest on May 21 for $9.99, I knew where to begin: the moment Darth Vader became my life-sized lightsaber combat ally.

There I was, my eyes locked onto the tall Star Wars icon’s mask as it loomed above me. He ordered me to turn a key. (I wasn’t in a position to argue.) Doing so loosed a mystic energy, along with a slew of mysterious, sword-wielding

Read the rest Continue Reading
Oculus Quest review: 2019’s best new gaming system is wireless, affordable VR

Oculus Quest review: 2019’s best new gaming system is wireless, affordable VR

Enlarge / The Oculus Quest, as enjoyed by an invisible model. (credit: Oculus)

I can take the Oculus Quest with me practically anywhere, pull it over my eyes, map out a VR space with my hands, and quickly start playing some of the best VR games currently on the market. That “anywhere” includes, for instance, the bathroom in the food court beneath Valve Software’s headquarters.

Today is a big news day for Oculus, the Facebook-owned virtual reality headset manufacturer. The company’s two recently announced VR headsets, the $400 Oculus Quest and the $400 Oculus Rift S, now have release dates (May 21), pre-order announcements (right meowright here), and a review embargo lifted after nearly two weeks of hands-on time.

But as you may have seen, there’s other VR news today: preview embargoes for the Valve Index, which you can also read about on Ars today,

Read the rest Continue Reading