I have to start by saying that the HTC VIVE – Virtual Reality System is so far ahead of what much of the competition is offering that it can be difficult to describe the experience of using it to someone who hasn’t yet tried VR themselves.
At times it can even be difficult describing the Vive to someone who’s only ever used cheaper mobile VR hardware like the Gear VR or Google Cardboard. But the highest compliment we can give to the HTC Vive is just how right it immediately feels, and how easily all your reservations about VR fall away as soon as you start using it.
Video – Virtual Reality System by Vive
HTC VIVE – Virtual Reality System Features
– Flexible Play Area – Use VIVE seated, standing or in a space up to 15 feet x 15 feet. SteamVR Tracking provides the best experience possible, so play the way that works for you.
– Fully Immersive – Realistic movement and actions from precise, 360-degree controller and headset tracking with realistic graphics, directional audio and HD haptic feedback in the virtual world.
– Powered By Steam VR – Enjoy over 1500 games for SteamVR, plus everything you love about Steam, including new releases, automatic game updates and millions of your closest friends.
– Free Content With Purchase – On Viveport, HTC’s global VR app store, get a free trial for Viveport Subscription plus Google’s Tilt Brush, Everest VR, and Richie’s Plank with your purchase.
– Play Safer – The Chaperone system warns you when you reach the boundaries of your play area and the headset’s front-facing camera gives you a glimpse of the real-world when you need it.
Our HTC VIVE – Virtual Reality System Review
Virtual reality is an entirely new medium and, to that end, has some of the problems all new mediums face when they first start out. The naysayers will claim that there isn’t a great library of games out yet – technically not a true statement, but one we hear all the time nonetheless.
They’ll say that it’s too expensive and the hardware just isn’t that good yet, but while it’s a somewhat pricey setup, the experience you’ll get on the HTC Vive is unrivaled. It’s lightyears ahead of Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR, miles ahead of PlayStation VR and, until very recently, the Oculus Rift, too.
And, as it turns out, we’re not the only ones who think so – developers agree. A recent study on Gamasutra reported that 49% of the companies they surveyed were currently developing games for the Vive while only about 43% said they were working on a game for Oculus Rift.
When paired with the proper hardware – a PC with an Intel Core i5-4590K and either a Nvidia GTX 970 or AMD R9 390 GPU – the HTC Vive is an incredible gateway into a new medium, one that is currently dominated by short demos and rough-around-the-edges games, but should one day play host to full-length films, television shows and contemporary art.
The positives, in condensed form, include: one-to-one movement tracking; a perfectly natural 110-degree field of view; there’s nary a screen tear or dropped frame when you’re using the right equipment; movement feels natural; it has best-in-class controllers; and the experiences, the demos and the games available through SteamVR, simply blow the competitors away.
The HTC Vive has gotten more polished since it was first announced last year, but it’s not a pretty piece of hardware. The new headset is almost identical to the Vive Pre, which is to say, it’s big, front-heavy, and sort of industrial-looking. The Pre had a couple of issues that seemed totally fixable, like the fact that its foam face mask soaks up sweat like a sponge. But don’t expect that to change on the Vive.
Of course, the good things about the Pre are still here too. The Vive blocks out most light unless you’re looking straight down your nose, and it’s not too uncomfortable once you get used to its size — although it’s significantly less comfortable than the Oculus Rift. Unlike Oculus, the Vive doesn’t come with built-in headphones. It includes a pair of earbuds to plug in, but you’ll probably want to use your own.
Setting up the Vive involves a lot more than just plugging it in. The Vive uses your computer’s HDMI and USB ports, just like the Oculus Rift. But in between your PC and your headset, there’s a link box that needs to be plugged into a power outlet. And then there are the lighthouses — two laser towers the Vive uses to detect its position. The lighthouses are set up diagonally across the space you want to use — anywhere from a box that’s big enough to stand up in to a 15×15-foot room.
They don’t need to be connected to your computer, but they do need their own power supply, so hopefully you’ve got either lots of outlets or lots of extension cords. Once you’ve got all this done, you’re ready to set up SteamVR, a tool in Valve’s Steam gaming platform. Given how complicated the Vive is, SteamVR is good at giving you feedback about what’s working, you can always see what’s connected right on the dashboard, and there’s a simple calibration process that’s even sort of fun.
For room-scale experiences, you trace around the entire play space with a motion controller, and SteamVR sets up chaperone lines to match it. This all takes some time, but it’s worth it – as long as you’re also fine paying for the Vive plus the cost of a gaming PC. When everything works, the Vive is the best experience you can have in VR right this minute. The screen is a little grainy, but that’s true of every headset. The field of view feels shaped a little different from Oculus’, but different doesn’t mean worse here. And the laser towers are incredibly forgiving, as long as they’re above you and pointed toward you, they track almost perfectly.
A front-facing camera can show you a rough outline of the outside world at the press of a button, or whenever you move outside the Vive’s boundaries. That’s all great, but there’s one thing that really sets the Vive apart right now, it’s just about the only headset that lets you move around in VR. You can use normal gamepads or a mouse and keyboard with the Vive, but most experiences are based around a pair of motion controllers that fit in your hands like remote controls.
I’ve got a few issues with them, like the fact that it’s way too easy to hit the home button under their trackpad. But these fade away after you’ve used them a while. They’re also incredibly solid – which is good, because even if you never accidentally throw them across the room in a game of VR tennis, you’ll probably whack the wall or some furniture at least a couple of times. Inside VR, Valve has set up lot of features. You’ve got a full version of Steam, plus the ability to see your computer desktop and set a custom environment all around you.
The fact that Valve already has a ready-made platform is a huge benefit here – there are already tons of people playing, modding, and selling a wide variety of games on Steam. The downside is that this can make everything sort of complicated. Your settings are spread out over lots of different menus, and SteamVR itself still has plenty of glitches.
If you’re already used to Steam, it’s not too hard to figure things out, but it’s not a friendly system for newcomers. Which is too bad, because the Vive shakes up all the usual stereotypes about PC gaming. It features creative non-gaming tools like Tilt Brush and Virtual Desktop, plus non-traditional games like Audio Shield, where you defend yourself against the notes of your favorite songs.
Motion controls can feel incredibly fresh and intuitive, and they support a huge number of different experiences. You can shoot guns at zombies, or you can solve plumbing puzzles to make tiny alien bears happy. There’s something for almost everyone, it can just be hard to find. It can also be hard to find games and tools that aren’t rough, experimental, or very short.
This is okay at first, especially because you’ll probably want to take breaks every hour or so — standing up and walking around is more tiring than sitting in a chair. But after a while, I wanted something more substantial, and my favorite experiences were clearly unfinished ones. The Vive is where you go for cutting-edge virtual reality, at least for the next few months.
But that also means nobody has quite figured out what to do with it, whether you’re talking about specific games and apps or its whole user experience. By the time it’s polished, the Vive’s going to be competing with Oculus, which will support a lot of the same titles later this year. But for an early adopter’s headset, the Vive does everything it ought to, it’s flexible, functional, available and often incredible.
Video – HTC Vive VR review
What’s HTC Vive like to play?
We spent some time playing the top-rated HTC Vive games/experiences/whatever you want to call them, and here’s what we found:
Space Pirate Trainer
Space Pirate Trainer has to be our favourite wave-based shooter available for the HTC Vive at the moment and will take something special to knock it off the top spot. The idea of the game is fairly simple – armed with a combination of guns and shields, you have to take down increasingly difficult waves of flying robotic enemies.
We put the headset on and found ourselves on a huge open platform with a spaceship parked behind us – a pretty cool backdrop for a futuristic shooter. The graphics are impressive in Space Pirate Trainer and although it’s not quite life like, once the action starts you won’t even notice.
Looking down at our hands, we noticed that our controllers had been transformed into guns complete with five firing modes for different play styles. We had a shield too, but we had to physically reach behind our back (where we imagine it’d be stored) to grab it and activate it, and we had to perform the same action to put it back. Though it’s a relatively small detail, it’s the little ways that developers make you interact with the game that makes you believe that it’s ‘real’.
Once the game started, we completely forgot that we were in a room in an office in London – in our mind, we were on a different planet shooting floating robots, and it was amazing. The aiming took a little bit of getting used to but seeing the robots explode as we unleashed a barrage of bullets was exciting, and the fact that the robots can attack from all angles (including above you!) kept us on our toes and moving around the virtual space.
When the aliens returned fire time slowed down, allowing us to perform moves (in our mind) similar to Neo in that famous scene in The Matrix. It’s exhilarating, exciting and the increasing difficulty means you’ll keep coming back for another try.
Video – Space Pirate Trainer – VIVE
Tiltbrush is a Google creation and offers something slightly different to the typical VR experience but is exciting and fun nonetheless. There aren’t any enemies to battle or puzzles to solve in Tiltbrush – the only thing to do is draw.
However, it’s not just drawing on a piece of paper, it’s drawing in a three-dimensional space, allowing us to look around or even walk through our creations. The Vive controllers are transformed into a futuristic paintbrush and pallet, and we could browse the different menus, brushes and colours by swiping the touch-sensitive panel of the controller.
Drawing in 3D is an amazingly cool experience only improved by the selection of amazing brushes on offer, from Neon (or ‘Light’ as it’s called in-app) to Hypercolour and even fire. Many of the brushes on offer are animated which meant that once our drawing was complete, it looked ‘alive’ with pulsing electricity and mini fireworks firing into the virtual sky above us (or whatever else you can draw!). Even for those that can’t draw, it’s an amazingly fun experience and that reinvents something we all love deep down and brings back some of the joy of drawing and colouring.
Video – Painting THE HULK in VR! – #TiltBrush + HTC Vive
The Blu is without a doubt one of the most breath-taking and frankly beautiful VR experiences we’ve come across using the HTC Vive, and is one that we imagine won’t be beaten for quite some time. There are three different experiences within The Blu; Whale encounter, Reef Migration and Luminous Abyss.
In terms of sheer beauty, the Reef Migration experience is the best – we found ourselves at what looked like the Great Barrier Reef in clear water with the sun shining high above us. A variety of tropical fish swam past us and when we reached out with the controller to touch them, they swam away – as any fish would.
The fish were soon replaced by a bloom of Jellyfish (yes, that’s the right term to use!) that looked both detailed and vibrant, along with two or three frankly huge jellyfish that swam above our heads. While the detail was incredible, what’s more incredible is the sheer sense of scale that the game achieves – we felt anxious as the jellyfish, which was easily 10 times our size, swam above our heads even though we knew that it wasn’t real. It’s an incredible experience and is one that is very hard to put into words.
We won’t spoil the other two experiences, but Whale Encounter transports you to a shipwreck on the edge of an underwater cliff and Luminous Abyss places you at the bottom of the ocean in the dark armed only with a torch for light. Both are equally as enjoyable as Reef Migration, but for different reasons. The Blu is in our opinion the greatest VR experience available right now, and we’d recommend trying it if you get the chance.
Video – SEARCHING FOR A GREAT WHITE SHARK IN VIRTUAL REALITY | TheBlu Gameplay (VR HTC Vive)
How Does The HTC VIVE – Virtual Reality System Compare?
Below is a video that I found at Youtube that covers PlayStation VR vs Oculus Rift vs HTC Vive. As this review is starting to get long I decided to let the video explain rather than add more words to the page.
Video – PlayStation VR vs Oculus Rift vs HTC Vive – Which One is Best?
Should I Buy HTC VIVE?
The HTC Vive is an amazingly capable virtual reality headset that provides an experience unrivalled by its competitors with room-scale tracking and bespoke handheld controllers. Tracking is instant and when combined with a high-resolution 90Hz display provides a smooth experience that’s easy on the eye and looks ‘real’. Now, while the HTC Vive is no doubt an amazing virtual reality headset, we couldn’t quite decide on a verdict. With that being said, we’ve decided to split it into three different verdicts for different kinds of people:
For PC gamers: If you’ve already got a fairly capable PC, an interest in gaming and the money to afford the HTC Vive, we’d recommend investing. It’s exciting, new and provides something unmatched by the likes of standard gaming and watching TV. Being able to walk around and directly interact the virtual environment around you is amazing, and beats the experience provided by many of its competitors. It’s worth having a little think about where you’d play before purchasing though, as the Vive is best used in large, clutter-free spaces.
For casual users: If you’re a casual Virtual Reality user or gamer, it’s a little more difficult. Yes, the experience is amazing, but you need to consider whether you’ll be using it often enough to justify the price tag and the (possible) required computer hardware upgrades. If time isn’t an issue, we’d recommend the PlayStation VR headset – the headset and console are all you need to get started, which is cheaper than the HTC Vive system itself.
For first-time users: If you’re a person that has never used VR before and doesn’t already have a decent PC, you may want to hold fire – at least until you’ve tried it. While VR is exciting, it’s not for everybody so we’d recommend going to a store and try it out for yourself before you buy. It’s such a personal experience that no amount of reading will give you a fully accurate idea of what it’s like to use.
What HTC VIVE – Virtual Reality System Customers Say
“This device is life changing. I’m a huge gamer. I’ll admit, an unhealthy addict. Sitting in front of a desktop PC doesn’t do my body any good at all. It’s been causing me anxiety, loss of sleep and disappointment in myself. I was assuming the Vive would just add to it, but I had to have it anyway. The results were entirely unexpected. In less than a week I’ve exercised more than I have in years and had a BLAST doing so. I actually WANT to exercise more than my body can handle. My entire body is sore and I’m loving it.
I feared that I would use the Vive as a form of escape and ignore my real-world responsibilities and kill my social life. The exact opposite has happened. This is not a casual toy. If you intend to use it room scale, it takes a lot of planning. There are sensors to set up, a good amount of space needed, a LOT of cable management. It works best if you have an entire room dedicated to VR, but not all of us are fortunate enough to have that kind of space.” …. Read More
Video – HTC VIVE – Virtual Reality System Test & Review
HTC VIVE – Virtual Reality System Review Verdict
If you have the space to dedicate to it and a PC good enough to power it, the Vive is a must-have gadget for every tech head. The cost of the Vive and a compatible PC for your living room will be prohibitive for most, as will dedicating a whole room to it. Still, if you can afford it, nothing else compares.
The HTC Vive’s far more immersive than the Oculus Rift – so much so that you forgive the pixelated screen and irritating software foibles. But if you plan to immerse yourself in a virtual world while sitting down, the Rift makes a lot more sense. It’s not as impressive, but it still offers a fantastic experience, if you can avoid the games that might make you reach for a bucket.
If you can afford it and have the room for it, the HTC Vive offers, quite simply, the best virtual-reality experience you can get.
HTC VIVE - Virtual Reality System
2 used from $ 739.99
- FLEXIBLE PLAY AREA - Use VIVE seated, standing or in a space up to 15 feet x 15 feet. SteamVR Tracking provides the best experience possible, so play the way that works for you.
- FULLY IMMERSIVE - Realistic movement and actions from precise, 360-degree controller and headset tracking with realistic graphics, directional audio and HD haptic feedback in the virtual world.
- POWERED BY STEAM VR - Enjoy over 1500 games for SteamVR, plus everything you love about Steam, including new releases, automatic game updates and millions of your closest friends.
- FREE CONTENT WITH PURCHASE - On Viveport, HTC's global VR app store, get a free trial for Viveport Subscription plus Google's Tilt Brush, Everest VR, and Richie's Plank with your purchase.
- PLAY SAFER - The Chaperone system warns you when you reach the boundaries of your play area and the headset's front-facing camera gives you a glimpse of the real-world when you need it.