Should you buy an HTC Vive right now?

The HTC Vive is now officially the first high-end virtual reality headset that you can buy like a normal tech product, instead of preordering and then waiting a month or two. HTC is promising that any new Vive order will ship within 72 hours, and it's also slightly expanding its offline retail presence, so there's a better chance of just picking one up at a store. A $799 product isn't exactly an impulse purchase, but this still makes the Vive more attractive to people who weren't totally committed to the platform already. So, obviously, this raises a question: now that the Vive has had two months to mature, should you buy it?

And just like two months ago, there's still a simple answer: do you have a lot of money, patience, and tolerance for unfinished games and software? Conversely, do you want to be the first to try almost every cool, experimental indie VR game? If so, the Vive might be for you.

I elaborated on the Vive's strengths and weaknesses back at launch, but basically, you'll get an amazing core experience that's kind of a hassle to use. I'm still encountering bugs in its SteamVR software, and the hardware is going to be just as onerous to set up as it was at launch. You'll want a gaming PC that matches HTC's recommended specs, which start at around $1,000 for a prebuilt model. But until PlayStation VR comes out this fall, and Oculus releases its Touch controllers (supposedly) some time this year, it's the closest you can get to really, physically interacting with objects in virtual reality.

The Vive is going to be more fun for people who like trying lots of different small games than ones who want to dive deep in something huge and polished. So far, big publishers have paid more attention to the Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR headsets, although that may change in the future. You'll find a lot of Vive prototypes and a lot of Early Access games, where you're paying for an unfinished product that could (but won't necessarily) be expanded down the line. Getting the most out of a Vive means actively searching through Steam's list of VR games or checking out the "virtual reality" tag on the Itch.io market, and being willing to pay a few dollars for something you might be disappointed by.

That said, some of the best things to do on the Vive are free. So if you're going to buy a Vive, here are a few of the experiences you have to look forward to:

The Lab

The Lab is essentially Valve's way of introducing people to the Vive. But a few of its sections, like an adorable archery mini-game and a simple schmup called Xortex, have great replay value. It's so popular that Valve recently expanded both these elements and added global leaderboards.

Budget Cuts demo

Vive demos are always a little scary, because you have no idea if the actual game will ever come out. But Budget Cuts' short demo — a stealth / teleportation game about throwing knives at robots in order to get your job application approved in a corporate dystopia — is great in its own right.

The Brookhaven Experiment demo

The Brookhaven Experiment actually does seem pretty set for a full release on June 28th. For now, the demo is one of the most intense survival experiences in VR, putting you up against waves of increasingly difficult monsters with a gun and limited ammunition.

Ikea VR Experience

Yes, it's basically just a virtual Ikea showroom where you can cook virtual meatballs, but do you really need any more? It's a weird, charming, and unique little experience.

Rescuties demo

Remember Bouncing Babies? Now imagine that you can physically catch those babies (and other cute, blocky creatures) with your hands and save them from increasingly bizarre disasters. Rescuties is another game that may not actually come out, but the demo, again, is worth a look.

Tilt Brush

The Tilt Brush virtual painting app isn't technically free, but right now, it comes bundled with the Vive. It is, hands down, one of the single best virtual reality experiences available on any platform, ever. Go look at some of the terrible art I made with it, then try it out.

Comments

Yes, it’s awesome

Yes,.because it’s the closest thing to a holodeck.

Is it worth it? Yes.

I would definitely try it at GameStop or Microsoft store if you haven’t already.

That said, it might be better off to wait till end of the year. For multiple reasons.

1) Headset will probably be cheaper at end of the year holiday sales.

2) You can custom build a min VR spec pc for about 500$, a bit under 900$ for prebuilt. But those prices will be lower at end of the year as well due to holiday sales.

3) There will be more long term reviews and more games

As someone who bought an Oculus rift, I really crave some of the features on the vive.

This writer suggests the Vive is still needing polish, but it has touch controllers right now and also a video camera on the face so you can see where the keys are on your keyboard without having to take off the headset. That’s huge!

I enjoy my Vive, but the games and overall experience definitely makes me feel like a beta tester. The most fun games are still largely incomplete or simply POCs, and the completed games lack any depth, just barely dangle their feet in room scale interaction. Even SteamVR itself feels like a finicky piece of software, I have to spend 5-10 minutes every now and then fiddling with Steam / Desktop settings before the headset and controllers connect properly. That said I thoroughly enjoy games that have tested the limits of room scale, namely holopoint and hotdogs horsehoes & grenades. But before I recommend a friend to get one I want to see a proper AAA title that goes just as far in room scale and controller interaction.

Yeah, I don’t recommend to someone who can’t handle fiddling. I’m always have to reset the floor when I first hook it up for the day (floor is off by 2 – 16 inches). Sometimes the mirrored audio (audio to headset, and audio sent to my TV) stops working, so others can’t hear what I’m hearing.
But then I have experiences where I try to lean over a railing or lean against some furniture while I think…and nearly fall over since it doesn’t exist…and it makes it worth it.

One thing about the display though, the Vive (and Oculus) both use Pentile displays. Although those are great for environments and movies, they’re terrible for text. Thin vertical and horizontal lines look bad, which letters are full of. So there are a lot of games where I find myself squinting or leaning into to read. I get the same bad-reading experience when I use my TV as a monitor, since it is pentile. Sony VR will use striped rgb display, so won’t have these issues. Game designers will have to work around it a bit by increasing font so vertical lines are more than 1 pixel wide.

Absolutely! It’s easily the most fun I’ve had gaming in about a decade. All the people who have come over to try it are always blown away as well. A few even ordered their own only a couple days after.

Saying it’s "kind of a hassle to use" is simply not true at all. The Vive is an amazing experience. It’s got lighthouses that have to be setup. Does that make it a "hassle"? No. It’s a product that actually places you inside of a game, and lets you interact with it. There is nothing else even close on any market. If you’re even curious at all about what it’s like to be inside of a game, actually dodge enemy fire, and actually pick up swords and other objects, this is the only way to experience that. All other "VR" headsets, simply let you look around inside of a game. That’s it. The Vive and the Rift are really not even in the same product category.

Could the Vive be wireless? I guess, but I definitely don’t consider it a "hassle" to use. Also, why would anyone care about how easy or difficult it is to setup? Why would someone choose a completely different type of product, simply because the setup takes about 30 minutes less? If setting up 2 lighthouses, and plugging in 2 cables to your computer is so much "hassle" that you would not even purchase at all, then why are you even reading about it?

Instead of focusing on how much "hassle" the setup process is, this reviewer should let people know it’s an amazing, unparalleled experience you cannot have any other way. It’s also not difficult in the least, to find extremely enjoyable, polished experiences to play on Steam. Oh, and none of the room-scale games ever make anyone sick, which is way more than any other headset can say.

Agreed. It’s a one time setup. You had to plug in your console to your TV once. You had to set up your desktop PC once. It’s not this crazy process you have to go through every time you want to play.

The author points out the downsides in some detail, and hand-waves over the upsides. It comes off biased in kind of a weird way – why even mention the games on itch when the steam vr category is 200 long? Yes there is a lot of shovelware in there, just like there is a lot of shovelware on steam. They didn’t even bring up Pool Nation, which is almost universally liked, came out recently, and managed to crack the steam top 10. I find it weird to only list the free games and a couple demos on an article with this title. It gives a very skewed impression.

Also, there is no conclusion, the article just ends after the list of 4 demos of games that aren’t even out yet? This seems like a hasty write-up to get hits.

My opinion – if you have a lot of friends who can come over and give VR a shot, and you can afford it, the vive is definitely worth it. Everyone loves having a go, and there is enough content to last quite a while, especially when passing it around between different people at different times. Setup is pretty quick if you have enough space and the right pc (getting something "vr ready" or "oculus approved" is a pretty safe bet). It does help to have the early adopter mindset and know that things will improve down the line content-wise and future generations will improve the hardware.

Out of Ammo, Space Pirate Trainer, Holoball, Pool Nation VR, The Gallery (short but sweet), Audioshield, Hover Junkers all make for a great time. Pack-in content Job Simulator, Fantastic Contraption, and Tiltbrush can be engaging. And The Lab deserves a second mention as a collection of titles you will keep coming back to again and again, especially now that you can compare your scores with your friends on Xortex, Longbow, and Slingshot.

Does anyone knows when it will be available in other countries? The shipping is faster but still only to the 24 countries they selected when HTC started the pre order process…

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