A Virtual Reality Awaits Vol. 4

I’ve been looking into doing another of these for a while now. Several weeks back I upgraded the headset, the cheap and cheerful Lenovo Explorer has gone, replaced by a HP Reverb G2. Outside of being a WMR headset still, better tracking, integrated speakers etc the main reason I picked out the HP was the 2160×2160 resolution per eye that tops most and makes for a crisper and smoother view. Now I can read the data pads on Battle Sister without squinting through the screen-door effect! A new headset also means new games to play as the VR collection in my steam library continues to grow at a steady pace. For a little change I’ve added some software to this one, so lets get to it.

Rez Infinite

What better place to start than a game that’s been with me through the ages. Played on Dreamcast, PS2, X360, PSVR, and now on PCVR. To be fair its a game that needs little introduction as you’re tasked with blasting your way through virtual worlds to defeat a rogue virus trying to take over the system. Back on PSVR I was stuck with controller input, which is also possible here but then the game also wants to track head movement, but with PCVR I can sample the game with motion controls.

To be fair it doesn’t really transform the game, but the increased accuracy and ability to sweep your aim across the area quickly certainly helps – the game does balance this out by increasing difficulty depending on the mode you have selected. I noticed this on the 3rd stage boss battle as the swarm seemed to engulf you much quicker than before. Can’t really talk about Rez and not mention the visuals, timeless as they are and perfect for VR. The virtual worlds look great and the transitions as you speed between levels looks great without any nausea. There’s an added sense of scale to go along with it too, your foes can look huge as they pass you by, or a tiny speck at a fair distance away – the sense of 3D space is great here. Audio is another key component of the game, but I guess this will mainly come down to how your VR audio setup is. Lucky for me the integrated speakers on the HP Reverb are surprisingly great so no problems there.

To be honest I had no idea this even had a PC release until I happened upon it when browsing VR games on Kinguin. Set me back around £18, but was certainly worth the money for an immersive virtual experience.

Half Life 2 VR

Another that needs no introduction given everyone and there mums probably played it, or at least heard about it through anonymous Episode 3 support groups, with a VR mod that started out as a project becoming somewhat official later down the line. The mod is a full VR rework of the original game, yes you now have actually pick up the can and put it in the bin, As someone who hasn’t played the game in quite a while it was great to return in a new way and fully explore every corner of the world for little details missed before.

Combat was really satisfying once you get the hang of aiming in VR, with the manual reloads and optional gripping of weapon foregrips with your spare hand adding to the immersion. While VR does add to the sense of scale, it’s still only Half Life 2 so the graphical quality isn’t too high, which is great for performance if nothing else. Luckily mods are supported from the base game to boost graphics if needed, just be careful as some aren’t compatible and can break the game. One last thing. Be wary of Ravenholme. It was a struggle to get through as even when not in VR its a bit much for me. There’s something about the poison headcrabs , maybe the screech or clicking noises and design of them, but they make me squirm. Having them jump towards me in VR was genuinely terrifying. You may be ok though. Maybe..

The best thing of all though is the price. Its free. All you need is Half Life 2 in your steam library and you can download this official mod. You could probably find a Half Life steam key on numerous sites for only a few quid if you don’t have it for some reason.

Virtual Home Theatre

I used to be quite the 3D aficionado. Back when I first jumped on the 4K train though I had to give up 3D Bluray, but luckily still had the PSVR for playback, before ditching the bobbins LG for a swanky Panasonic to return 3D viewing. Now I’ve upgraded the TV again to a Philips OLED, no longer have a 3D display nor a PSVR these days. That’s where this software comes in, as not only does it do the usual video files and 360 VR videos too, but also has support for stereoscopic movies.

What you end up with is a huge cinema like screen with passive 3D comfort as there’s no shutter glasses needed. Sound isn’t forgotten about either, you can just pipe stereo audio to the headsets out if you want, but the software does offer a way for you to have some surround sound. It’s actually a little difficult to setup, or at least seems so from what I tried, as you have to place the individual speakers within the virtual 3D space. Get it right and you have a convincing 3D soundstage for any video files that contain a Dolby etc audio mix, get it wrong and it can sound a little wonky.

At around the £24 price I paid for it on Steam, its certainly worth that for my use case in particular. There’s possibly other options out there, but this just seemed to work fine, and outside of the audio setup, haven’t had any quibbles. If your headset has a high enough resolution and you wanna sample movies on a big screen, this should be worth a try – especially if the 3D cinema experience sounds appealing.

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Geoffrey Wright

Rocking the world of gaming since the Atari 2600, has now settled down to bask in the warmth of moe. Moe is life for a moe connoisseur.