We still had some seating glitches and the occasional odd behaviour, but the Vive was really working well with Project Cars and our Z170 setup. Head tracking when sitting is flawless, as you would expect. The controllers can be switched off and charged for use at some other time.
Lastly we tried some karting around Monaco in the dry this time. We got a little screen door effect back but generally the sensation of speed meant we didn’t really have the time to pay attention to it. We really did get a sensation of speed and the seating position of the kart, it gave us a good VR experience.
We’ll start with the good, and when it’s working, it’s an excellent and immersive experience. The headset is not heavy, the cables do not really get in your way and once the tracking units are set up, you can forget about them. The SteamVR is an excellent VR implementation, and that includes titles starting with The Lab and even the room setup guide and concluding VR room. There is no doubt in our minds that a HTC Vive and the right game or application and you will be having a really good time. We haven’t mentioned the built-in camera, which works well, when it works, sometimes it didn’t enable whether the option was selected. Audioshield is another excellent experience, and we think it’s only workable in VR. Project Cars had some very good moments, Hockenheimring in the rain and karting through the streets of Monaco.
Now the bad, and it’s a deal breaker for Hardwareslave. The HTC Vive is very expensive and with a recent price increase, some excited VR fans will be saving for a bit longer while some will just be outside of its price range. Though it was always going to be expensive, most expected a price range of around 20% lower. That seems like a lot when you say it out loud, but that’s how overpriced the Vive is. Though the SteamVR experience is excellent, it’s not without its flaws. The longer we configured and reconfigured the Vive the more it started to play up. By “play up” we really mean “not work”.
Whatever you do, do not select the “Enable Direct Mode”, we couldn’t deactivate it and had to reinstalled the Vive, the USB drivers and the graphics drivers. Even after this, we found the VR experience spoiled by glitching and flashing visuals. The controllers can lose synchronization and need to be paired again every so often, the list goes on.
From a hardware point of view, the Vive is an excellent technology exercise, but it’s also not without issue. We could still experience screen door effects on all but nicely “VR” rendered titles such as Audioshield. The lens will fog from time to time, especially when you are trying to figure out if the controllers are paired or if the game has errorred in some way several times in a row.
You can see the Fresnel lens stepping, and though there is an adjuster, we could not resolve this entirely adding to the overall frustration. If you are not using bespoke titles we would describe this as an hour of setup followed by hours of frustration for any VR fan.
As diehard VR fans we were left as disappointed with the HTC Vive as we were the Oculus DK2. Though these should be a generation apart in development, and we appreciate they are from different companies, using the Vive hardware with the types of games we like, and not bespoke to the Vive, it still felt like a beta product.
There is a flip side to all of this. The HTC Vive reminded us of the Nintendo Wii. While Sony and Microsoft battled away trying to make the best gaming console ever, Nintendo slid in under the radar with the Wii, a superb living room and family console, if you are using titles designed for the Wii. The Vive certainly has a lot of wow and fun when it’s working, but venture outside of the specially designed Vive titles, and things get a little more desperate. If you are the former, the HTC Vive is worth consideration, if you are the latter, avoid or try before you buy.