HTC Vive

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At the PC Gamer Weekender I managed to have a go with the HTC Vive and oh my god it was amazing, I have played with an Oculus before and I have a leap motion controller and have used various budget versions of VR but I have never experienced anything like the HTC Vive.

The headset felt a bit weighty in my hands but once it was on my head I barely noticed the weight and was amazed by the vast expanse presented to me, as if I was somehow teleported to a white empty land in an instant, I was then given the controllers which weighed next to nothing and were attached to my wrists by a couple of straps. Looking around the response of the world around me to my movements was very quick and I noticed little to no lag at this point as the sensors easily kept up, and looking down I could see the VR versions of the controllers making it very easy to find buttons on controllers that I had never held before.

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After having these put on I had some headphones put on and heard the voice of the instructor in my ears as they sat at the controlling PC and she walked me through a few programs, I would assume there was an initial calibration for the two sensors in the corners of the room I was in but I simply put the kit on and was away on an adventure. My first glimpse into the power behind this system was being suddenly submerged and appearing as if by magic on the bow of a sunken ship surrounded by small fish that reacted to my movements in the water, I then heard the voice of my instructor (who I had completely forgot was there as I was lost in this new world) who told me to look to my left, before I could ask why or what I was looking for a blue whale appeared from the deep and swam towards me coming within feet of my face and giving me a very real feeling of being a very small, insignificant beast next to this majestic creature, it made me feel so uneasy that I had to turn away, in the back of my mind I knew perfectly well that this was not real but I could not convince my body or the rest of my brain of that fact as the graphics were so clear.

After the whale had passed I was pulled out of the ocean and put back into the loading world that I started in and given a second to compose myself before I was thrown into an office simulator. Compared to the ocean scene I had just come from, the office was very low res but no less pretty, I was presented with a black board with instructions on it of what to do on one side of me whilst I was standing in a cubicle of a generic office. I had a desk with a computer, a printer, some photos and a coffee machine along with various office supplies, all of which were fully interactable including, to my delight, a paper aeroplane that I kept picking up and throwing.

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I was once again brought back to the loading room for a moment only to be thrown into a space pirate game. Where previously I had two controllers in my hands I now had a couple of guns and I had enemy’s in front of me firing at me. After a few rounds of shooting and being shot my instructor told me to put my left arm over my right shoulder and then to put it back in front of me, I was confused but followed the instructions as I was curious as to what this would do, to my surprise the gun in my left hand had been replaced with a shield. Now I could fire and defend myself with the shield and the ability to move around the space I was in.

Whilst inside the VR world I was very oblivious to what was going on around me and as such had no idea if at any point I was near to the edges of the room, what I was told is that at no point did I get near enough to hit the walls as the barriers in the games are created such as to keep you in place, for the games that I played they were very obvious, on the sunken ship I had the wheel house to one side of me and a railing on all other sides around me, in the office I was in a cubicle with a blackboard blocking the only exit and finally on the space pirate games I was on a space station with shear drops on three sides and burnt out ship behind me. The amount of space given at the event was fairly large and not the sort of space that everyone would have access as a 4.6m x 4.6m space is rare in most houses and even where there are rooms of that size they will more than likely have objects in them making the space not suitable.

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At £746.60 inc rough P+P to the UK it is fairly priced for the VR market seeing as the price includes the headset, two 360 room trackers and 2 wireless remotes. But this may not be your only cost as you will also need a PC capable of running the equipment and software and seeing as a GeForce® GTX 970 or AMD Radeon™ R9 290 equivalent or higher is recommended along with an Intel® i5-4590 or AMD FX 8350 equivalent or greater and HDMI 1.4 or DisplayPort 1.2 or newer connections many people may find that they don’t have the required hardware and so buying a new pc with these specs may not be cheap and bare in mind that these are only the minimum recommended specs for your PC so it may server you better to have higher than those stated and with an Invidia GTX 970 currently running at around £280 your looking at maybe another £500-£600 for a full system powerful enough if you shop around for some of the components. And even those with powerful enough systems to run the software and equipment are going to have to have them in a room with the space needed, if I had a HTC Vive I would only be able to use it in my living room downstairs and my system is in my office upstairs and I have a fair few peripherals connected up to my tower meaning a lot of work to dismantle everything and then rebuild it downstairs and reverse everything when I am done playing with the Vive.

It is an amazing experience that I would encourage anyone to try but I would say think about how you would set everything up before buying one yourself making sure you have the space and checking to see if you can run everything, there is a free checker on Steam that will tell you if you can run everything required