As a hardcore gamer, I could not have lived without giving virtual reality (VR) gaming a try but prohibitive pricing had kept me away. Then I came across Oculus Rift S – a $399 VR headset that made virtual reality gaming a more concrete reality, especially for those searching for a gateway VR headset.
I say that because compared to HTC Vive and Oculus Quest, that come with all bells and whistles, Rift S has a much lower price ceiling that allows gamers to get their feet wet in virtual reality before they can make their mind if VR gaming is their cup of tea or not. There are other cheaper options, of course, but personally, I think Rift S hits the sweet spot.
Taking it out of the box, I wasn’t a big fan of its to-the-point utilitarian design but at that affordable price, I don’t think I have a right to complain. That said, the headset felt exceptionally balanced on my head while gaming and didn’t leave me with any fatigue. Touch controllers felt intuitive and let you navigate and maneuver through the games with ease. There is a learning curve but it is not steep.
Setting up the device is quite easy as all you need to do is plug and play. If you are interested in multiplayer, you can also invite your friends and family to join in using their own Oculus headsets which I think is pretty cool.
Now the manufacturer says that the Rift S is designed to extend the range of your hands compared to the Quest variant, however, during my trial experience with both the Quest and the Rift S, I did not feel much of a difference. You have to keep in mind that since Quest is the flagship VR device by Oculus, most games have been specially optimized for the device which makes gaming mechanics more fluid.
One of the best features of Oculus Rift S is its support for exclusive Oculus games including Beat Saber, Superhot VR, Down the Rabbit Hole, Lone Echo, and The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners. Since it’s powered by a PC, you can play as long as you want without having to worry about battery life.
One of the bittersweet features of Oculus Rift S is that it’s tethered to your computer all the time and is not completely wireless. On one hand, you don’t really have to worry about the juice left in the battery, on the other you will need a backpack computer if you want the arena-like VR experience.
You can specify the playing boundaries by wearing your Rift S and tracing lines on a video of the real surroundings around you using the two hand controllers. You don’t need to maneuver the camera stands or worry about the wires at all which creates a more versatile gaming experience.
Playing games was quite enjoyable on its 1280 x 1440 pixels per eye screen which I know isn’t as dense as Oculus Quest but we have to keep the price difference in mind. Delivering 80 Hertz of refresh rate, the movement felt fluid and effortless allowing me to enjoy the game as I was actually in the gaming world and not my own.
Oculus claims that the headset features ‘next-gen’ lenses and a sharper display, however, I found that original Rift did have a much more fluid screen owing to a higher refresh rate. The ‘screen door’ effect was there and the colors seemed punchy and appealing. It’s not the best VR screen out there but you can get used to it.
When it comes to sound, there are no over-the-ear headphones in the device. Instead, you are entertained with directional speakers that throw sound directly into your ears. However, my brother told me that the setup does leak sound and if you want to keep it quiet for others, you may want to use your own headphones.
Another feature that I fell in love with was insight tracking which is fundamentally a combination of 5 cameras which track your movement and allow you to play the game within a limited physical space. I never felt like I was out of range. If you are not willing to shell out a lot of money on a VR headset and simply want to enjoy a good VR gaming experience, Oculus Rift S deserves your consideration.
The last thing I would say about Oculus Rift S is that it isn’t perfect but it’s good at what it’s supposed to be – the entry-level VR gaming experience for those who are not fully committed or haven’t bought into the hype of VR just yet. It is going to convince you that VR gaming is just about worth it.