Oculus Rift (consumer version): Hands-on

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Gizmag takes the Oculus Rift for a spin(Credit: Will Shanklin/Gizmag)

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Though we were part of a lengthy interview session with Oculus VR last week, one thing we didn't get to do then was actually use the headset. Today at E3 2015, we got our first hands-on with the consumer Oculus Rift.

Update: We've now spent much more time with the Rift – check out our most recent hands-on impressions.

A couple times last week Oculus' execs referred to the consumer Rift and Crescent Bay prototype almost as if they were the same thing – and after using it, it's clear why. The new headset itself appears to be (more or less) Crescent Bay with a more consumer-ready design. The resolution appears to be the same, and if there's a difference in field of view, it's imperceptible (we'd guess it's the same too).

It felt light and comfortable on my head. I wore glasses when I used it to test Oculus' claims that it's better for glasses than any previous version of the Rift, and my specs fit fairly comfortably inside (it was noticeably better in this respect than the Rift DK2). It did still take some adjusting, though, to get my glasses positioned just right, so it appears that it will still be a more seamless process if you either wear contacts or have no lenses.

And, as we told you last week, there's no focus adjustment like there is on the Gear VR, so vision correction is entirely up to you.

It may have been due to the glasses, but there wasn't a completely closed-off seal around my eyes, as lots of light seeped in from the bottom, somewhat detracting from the sense of presence in the virtual worlds. But if you play in a dark room (our demo was in a well-lit one) then this shouldn't be an issue.

We also didn't notice any lens fog whatsoever, which could be related to that same gap that was letting in light (the Gear VR, for example, is a snugger fit but has some serious lens fog issues if you don't use a defogging agent).

Already being familiar with Crescent Bay, the highlight today was seeing the games Oculus and its third-party partners have been cooking up. The experience and degree of presence were familiar. It's the graphical fidelity of the Rift games that blows away everything we've seen in VR so far – with the one possible exception being Elite Dangerous, which you can play today with the DK2.

Chronos is a room-to-room third-person action game. It's from the same developer as Herobound, one of our favorite Gear VR Games, and it plays a lot like a more graphically advanced, realistically-drawn version of that title.

It's hard to pick a "best" based on brief demos, but Edge of Nowhere (above) may have been our favorite of the bunch, as we traversed narrow cliffs, relying on a path of breaking beams to make our way across a frozen tundra. It was a bit like Uncharted in VR, which is a very, very cool thing. As the character moved, the world moved just enough to create a tingly roller-coaster feeling, but not enough to induce nausea.

If you've seen the trailer for Eve Valkyrie in the Oculus Rift, well, our demo was a playable version of that same intro. It's like a more arcade-like, less sim-like version of Elite Dangerous. Cockpits can serve as stabilizing agents for motion sickness, so we'll likely see lots of space fighting games and sims in the first generation of consumer VR.

And Lucky's Tale (above) was a blast. It's a Super Mario 64 style 3D platformer, and this genre works surprisingly well in VR. The game appears to have a Nintendo-like level of polish and charm as well – we'll be looking forward to playing the full version next year.

Assuming these four games are ready to roll when the Rift launches, that's looking like a very promising start. Once you get to a certain level of quality, virtual reality headsets provide very similar experiences, so content is going to be a big differentiator (along with required equipment and pricing). If you don't already have a gaming PC, then the Oculus Rift is going to require a big investment in the latter two, but at least it has a great chance of returning your investment with some of the first polished, AAA-like content we've seen in VR .

For more, you can hit up our lengthy interview transcript with Oculus' execs from last week's press event.

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