Virtual Reality is a hot topic among video game fans yet again. What was originally considered a gimmick in the late 80s and early 90s blossomed into a more quintessential gaming experience, with several developers offering their own take on unique pieces of hardware.
The two most noteworthy are Oculus, whose Rift technology found Kickstarter success and has since become popular with developers, and Sony's Project Morpheus, introduced last week at the Game Developers Conference.
Both offer remarkable experiences, but which is the ultimate product when it comes to gaming? Although it’s too early declare a winner, we took a look at both Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus to see what they have to offer.
When the Oculus was first introduced after meeting its Kickstarter goal, it seemed crude. Since then, Oculus VR created a more consumer-friendly build, available in both black and white. It features a strap that holds the unit firmly to the head, along with a comfortable front end with a square/circle shaped unit, and eyepieces that don't cause long-term strain. Its weight is about medium, not causing much discomfort in the neck area.
As for Project Morpheus, it's a combination of 3D goggles and biker's helmet. This is a neat design, since the helmet helps lift the weight off the goggles, making them easier to use over time compared to fitting around the sides of the head.
The goggles take some adjustment at first, but once they're set, they do a tremendous job in terms of making the user feel welcome in the virtual space, similar to the Oculus' 3D set-up.
When it comes to overall comfort, it's still up in the air, as both systems still aren't finalized for consumers. However, at this stage, Sony's unique design wins by just a hair.
Winner: Project Morpheus
In recreating a virtual experience in a 3D world, both systems work remarkably well.
The Morpheus' 3D layout seems limitless, even if you're within an enclosed environment, such as shooting arrows inside a castle. Likewise, its bigger locations are vast and worth checking out, like one demo where you're flying through space, or another where you're chasing after a shark underwater. Sony may be new to the virtual reality experience, but it’s off to a promising start.
The Oculus' technology is nothing to scoff at, however. The team at Oculus VR did a tremendous job making virtual reality feel just right with their unit. The reactions to head movement are incredibly precise, even when you're looking behind you. Even though some of the experiences may be familiar – with games like Hawken and Mirror's Edge – there's no question the unit is splendid when it comes to expansion into a virtual space; falling off a building in Mirror's Edge still leaves us shaken – especially upon ground impact.
Overall, both headsets perform well when it comes to making a realistic experience. Although Sony's has a bit of a lead in the comfort department, both shine with flying colors.
With the Morpheus, Sony hasn't introduced many games that will work with the headset. For instance, we don't know if Killzone: Shadow Fall operates with it, or if future first-person shooters like the next Call of Duty or Destiny will offer expansive VR support.
That said, the original games that Sony showcased, though mostly glorified tech demos, seem entertaining. The device coincides with PlayStation Move controllers, so that your hands get involved when it comes to shooting a bow and arrow, or using them to guide your way through flight in space.
Meanwhile, the Rift works with a controller, and is meant to immerse gamers into more familiar experiences. While that may seem like a letdown compared to the Morpheus, it works in its own special way. Whether you're shooting your way through Doom 3: BFG Edition, laying waste to robots in Hawken or even shooting marbles at targets in the wonderful Smash Hit (a mobile release configured for Oculus), you can't help but feel involved with the experience. Plus, more developers are on board with the Oculus over the Morpheus – at least for the moment.
Both devices have a lot to offer when it comes to games, but Oculus has a slight edge thanks to its developer support. Hopefully this will pick up over time for Sony.
Finally, we get to pricing. Neither Oculus nor Sony unveiled official release plans for the headsets. Oculus is rumored to come out sometime in 2014, while Sony’s is TBA.
With cost, the Morpheus is likely to be somewhere around $300-$500, considering the quality of the headset and the game experience. There's no question Sony will try to keep it affordable, especially to those who also need to purchase PlayStation Move controllers to get into the action, along with PS4 consoles.
Meanwhile, Oculus may debut at $299. That seems like a fair price for a virtual reality headset, although compatibility with devices has yet to be confirmed. PC and Android are on board, but that's it for now.
So, without official details, this category is a draw. However, come E3, we should have more information that will no doubt keep things interesting.
There's still plenty of testing that needs to be done on these headsets, and each one offers a fantastic experience for what will hopefully be an affordable price. For now, though, Sony appears to have comfort nailed down, while Oculus has larger development support and a gameplay set-up that appeals to more hardcore players.
It's a tie for now, but once these headsets hit the market, get ready for the mother of all virtual wars. Move over, Lawnmower Man.