The virtual reality headset that kicked off modern VR, the Oculus Rift, is finally launching. After a multimillion dollar Kickstarter campaign, mountains of hype, and a $2 billion acquisition by Facebook, the Oculus Rift ships this month to thousands of anxiously waiting early adopters.
Here it is:
If you dropped the requisite six hundred big ones on an Oculus Rift, and were lucky enough to do it early so you get one on March 28, you might be wondering, “What games will I play?” The answer, as it turns out, is “A lot!” A whopping 30 games launch alongside the headset on March 28, with more to follow in April, later this spring, and beyond. New consoles typically launch with fewer than 20 games on the high end, so the fact that the first batch of Oculus games is so huge is a pretty big deal.
But first things first: we’ve got the first 30 launch games below, with prices, so you can start getting ready for high-end virtual reality today!
'Windlands' is a great example of virtual reality enabling you to experience something you're unlikely to ever experience in real life: flying through the air at high speed, using your robot arms to fling yourself from place to place.
Price: Not announced
'BlazeRush' is the video game answer to a the proposition of a mid-'90s Hot Wheels commercial. Watch from above and control the action as tiny, kitted-out race cars go to town on each other in a winner take all race to the finish.
'Vektron Revenge' is a simple arcade-style game where you control a ship using your gaze. Wherever you look, your ship goes (on a 2D plane) -- it was originally created during a 'game jam,' which is an event where a theme or objective is given and game developers have a set amount of time to create a game, either individually or in groups, based on those constraints.
Price: Not Announced
Few games of the 30 announced for the Oculus Rift launch on March 28 are anything like 'The Vanishing of Ethan Carter'. That both owes to the game's developer, a studio named The Astronauts led by acclaimed game director Adrian Chmielarz, and to its origins as a console and PC game before getting moved to VR. In it, you'll solve a mystery from the first-person perspective. If I said too much more, it might ruin the game. Definitely give this one a shot.
Anyone who's ever played a 'Diablo' game will immediately know what they're getting into with 'Smashing the Battle,' a game from a single Korean developer. You play as one of two ladies wearing massive robot armour, smashing hordes of enemies with your massive weapons (as strategically as possible).
Like air hockey? 'Shufflepuck Cantina Deluxe VR' is sure hoping you do, as that's the name of the game. No, seriously, that's what you do in 'Shufflepuck.' It's lacking in depth perhaps, but it's the only way you can almost literally play air hockey with your friend across the planet.
'Rooms' takes the concept of a doll house and repurposes it into a quirky puzzle game. You control a little girl who's doing her best to piece together the mystery of the house she's trapped in, room by room.
If you've ever played a 'Wipeout' game, 'Radial G' is for you. You're a pilot in a futuristic racing league, outclassing your opponents using sharp reaction time and the occasional loving bump.
Few VR games offer a sense of freedom quite like 'Omega Agent'. The game puts you in a jetpack and lets you loose in a large, open world. There are objectives and the occasional enemy to shoot, but it's all about the sense of freedom to explore that makes 'Omega Agent' special.
'Pinball FX' is the gold standard in digital pinball. It's got re-creations of classic tables, totally new ones, and now you can experience the joy of pinball from the luxury of a beachside mansion. That's right: instead of simply choosing tables from a menu, you'll walk up and play them in a virtual home on the water. Try not to let it go to your head too much.
Price: Bundled with every Oculus Rift
If there's a Super Mario of the Oculus Rift, 'Lucky's Tale' may be it. Lucky is a small fox, and you'll guide him through a series of levels while avoiding enemies and collecting shiny stuff. Rather than see the world from the perspective of Lucky, you're floating overhead -- and in the case of VR, that means you can look underneath the worlds and generally in places where Lucky may not be able to see himself.
Additionally, 'Lucky's Tale' comes packaged with every Oculus Rift sold. Free!
'Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes' already found a home with PC gamers, and now it's being released in the form it was always intended for: VR. One player puts on the headset and sees a bomb in front of them. Their job is to defuse the bomb using information provided to a partner, not wearing a headset, who has a binder full of information for defusing different types of bombs. Really! This is 'Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes'!
Looking for something you can show to anyone, that resembles standard video games a bit more than some of the more esotheric stuff? 'Herobound: Spirit Champion' may be right for you. It's a standard isometric action game, meaning you control a little guy who walks around and hits enemies, all from an overhead view.
This one is pretty straightforward: play tennis with computer-controlled players from within the confines of your sweet, new VR headset. I didn't get to try this one out, and I'm not sure how control works without Oculus Touch motion controllers, but I feel pretty confident saying that you can expect a tennis game in 'VR Tennis Online'.
Like shooting at spaceships from the comfort of your very own spaceship? 'EVE Gunjack' is right up your alley. It's not the type of space game that wants you to monitor your engines or worry too much about pitch and yaw -- 'Gunjack' is all about shooting at bad guys and killing them before they kill you.
Contrary to 'Gunjack,' 'EVE: Valkyrie' is a multiplayer-focused, long-in-development space shooter from the same folks. Both games are set in the 'EVE Online' universe -- a world popularised in the PC game of the same name -- and both games feature shooting at spacecrafts from other spacecrafts. That's where the similarities end: 'Valkyrie' is a far prettier, more nuanced shooter.
The first 'Esper' launched on the Gear VR headset from Samsung and Oculus VR. It's a delightful puzzle game that's dripping with character and style. It smartly uses the limitations of current VR -- that you're likely sitting at a desk in front of a computer -- by sitting you at a desk in-game. It's a clever and delightful VR experience with a cerebral bent, and it's got a low price tag to boot.
Space is infinite, right? Well so is 'Elite: Dangerous', a game with a notoriously steep learning curve that puts you at the helm of your very own spaceship. That means ultimate freedom, but it also means running out of gas, alone, in the actual middle of nowhere. If you're looking to get lost in infinite space with a crew of very dedicated space friends, 'Elite: Dangerous' is right up your alley. But don't come to this thinking it's another 'EVE Valkyrie' or some such -- this is a beast of a very different stripe, regardless of shared themes.
True story: I put my buddy in an Oculus Rift development kit, gave him a gamepad, and had him play 'Dreadhalls'. It was a really early version of the first-person horror game, and he's a big horror fan, but he got so freaked out by 'Dreadhalls' that he quite literally ripped the headset from his head and had to stop playing. In 'Dreadhalls' you've got a candle, a limited supply of oil for that candle, and a map in your other hand. Looking at the map requires looking down, physically, which can result in some crazy changes happening in front of you while you're looking away. Good luck!
One of the major benefits of using a VR headset is the different perspectives it's able to offer. In the case of a classic tower defence-style game, like 'Defence Grid 2,' that means you can look down on a board full of your units defending a base and the incoming usurpers trying to overthrow your rule.
Do you yearn to live the life of the gumshoe? To solve the world's mysteries, however spooky they may be? 'Dead Secret' is the game for you. You're solving the mystery of a dead man's bizarre life, which may or may not be perilous to your own life.
Far from the hilarious and ridiculous visualisation of computer hacking depicted in films like 'Hackers' is the game 'Darknet'. Instead, the game poses puzzles to players in systems that resemble networks of interconnected nodes... kind ov like actual computer networks! It's still a tremendous abstraction, but it's a lot more logical than flying through giant glowing stacks of virtual files.
Of all the games I played during Oculus' recent media day in San Francisco, 'Chronos' stuck out as an especially interesting, fully developed game from experienced developers. It's a third-person action game set in a fascinating fantasy world with roots in our own world; it's a game made by 40 or so veterans, largely from the great Vigil Games (makers of the excellent 'Darksiders' series). It's got a gorgeous art style and an immediately intriguing story. 'Chronos' is one to keep an eye on.
'Project CARS' is one of very few games featured in the launch of Oculus Rift that come from game consoles and PC originally. It's a traditional driving game, and the use of VR here puts you in the driver's seat directly. Pair the Rift with a racing wheel and you've got yourself a hell of a Saturday afternoon.
In 'Audio Arena,' you control a ship of sorts on a 2D plane that flies through weapons, thus killing enemies, when the music hits the beat. The whole game is controlled through your gaze; it feels a bit limited from what we've seen, but we'll wait to play more in a few weeks when it's officially available.
'Audio Arena' is part of a class of games showing up at launch on the Oculus Rift that I'm gonna call 'arcade' games. These are smaller, less expensive games intended for short bursts of gameplay rather than bigger, longer experiences.
If you like being scared, virtual reality is the entertainment platform for you. Between games like 'Dreadhalls' and 'Albina Lullaby,' any glutton for tension and terror will have plenty to endure when the Oculus Rift launches on March 28. In 'Albino Lullaby,' you'll explore a twisted world where humour is used just as incisively as surrealist madness.
'AirMech: Command', like 'Defence Grid 2' and 'BlazeRush', features a top down view on a traditional game format. In 'AirMech: Command', you're a commander overlooking a massive tabletop game of war. Build units, take over bases, and conquer your enemies. Fans of stuff like 'Command & Conquer' will want to keep an eye on this one.
The 'Adventure Time' game is $5 for good reason: it's a light dalliance into the world of Finn and Jake in the form of a basic action game. It looks cartoony and delightful, just like the show itself, but maybe not the deepest experience you could have in your brand new Oculus Rift headset.
In 'Adrfit,' you've got one goal: survive. The space station you were on, tasked with creating a settlement on the moon, has blown apart. What happened? How do you get back to Earth? Is it even possible? These are the questions you'll answer in 'Adrift', all while trying desperately to reach the next oxygen container. If it sounds suspenseful, that's because it's really suspenseful.
Who doesn't like hurting stuffed animals? OK, fine, most people probably don't like hurting stuffed animals, but at least it doesn't make you feel too guilty. And that's the main component of 'Fly to KUMA,' a game where thousands (millions?) of pink, well-dressed teddy bears will die at your hands. The game was described to me as 'Like 'Lemmings,' but with well-dressed teddy bears.' So there you go!
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