If you’ve been willing to buy expensive VR hardware, and the powerful PC to match, fully immersive, high-performing VR experiences have been available for a few years now. But unless you’ve got an endless entertainment budget and lots of space, that VR dream has been out of reach for most of us.
Luckily, Oculus is on a mission to bring VR to more people, which means the Quest sits in a highly-coveted sweet spot. That’s because it’s got performance to rival PC-powered virtual reality, but it’s a standalone device. There are no wires and no pricey additional equipment requirements – the Quest could become a VR game-changer.
The Oculus Quest starts from £399, which is a complete package including headset, controllers and charging cables. That model comes with 64GB of storage.
There’s also a 128GB version, available for £499. That’s a pretty steep price difference, but you can’t expand the storage in any way, so if you expect to be a heavy user, it might be worth future-proofing with the bigger size.
The Oculus Quest headset feels confidently futuristic in the hand. A mix of fabric and plastic on the outside removes the clunky but very expensive toy aspect of so many other VR headsets, and the soft foam interior makes for a snugly, comfortable face hug.
Mercifully, and despite its all-in-one nature, the weight of the Quest is never exhausting. Lie back on a sofa to watch Netflix and you might notice some increased pressure on your cheekbones, but for standing up play, there’s no more weight here than with any of the existing VR headsets.
Donning the Quest and finding the right fit comes down to two rubber straps on each side and one overhead, all of which fasten with velcro. These are intuitive enough and once comfortable, a focus slider on the underside means it’s easy to bring everything perfectly into focus.
Once it’s on, VR’s eternal bugbear, light leakage, slightly raises its ugly head via a small gap around the nose, but chances are you’ll only ever notice it when the screen is dark. It also serves as a great reminder that there is a real world around you that isn’t just your Ready Player One fantasy.
Controls on the headset are minimal with just a power button and volume rocker, but you won’t find yourself using the power button much. Why? Because the Oculus Quest smartly recognises when you’re wearing it and turns on and off accordingly. The included Touch controllers are a tweaked version of Oculus’ existing in-game hand replacements.
The main difference here is that a plastic tracking loop goes around the front of the controller instead of the back. The rest is largely unchanged, with a satisfying weight, an analogue stick for each thumb, and both trigger and grip buttons for intuitive interactions. These are still the VR controllers to beat, and it’s their inclusion that makes the Quest such a thrilling package.
Each taking a single AA battery and complete with (a very necessary) wrist strap, the Oculus Touch controllers feel like an extension of you almost dangerously quickly. Whether you’re picking up paper planes to throw or dual wielding pistols like John Wick, it feels like you are constantly and effortlessly connected to the Quest’s world.
Keep it disconnected as intended and the headset itself lasts for between two and three hours before it needs more juice, and there’s a useful display in the menu screen that lets you know how it’s doing. Two hours of charge fills it up from empty, so taking a natural break between Beat Saber sessions actually doesn’t feel like too much of a chore.
Anyone who has set up any form of room-scale VR will know that even the thought of it is sometimes exhausting. Like the gym, it’s worth it when you get there, but endless sensors and trying not to create a Saw-like trap of wires is a challenge.
The Quest makes this process smugly simple. You’ll only need to pair with the Oculus smartphone app the very first time you set it up. Every time after that is just a case of donning the headset, picking up your controllers – helpfully shown via a camera that enables you to see the room around you when necessary – and mapping out what Oculus calls its Guardian system.
Veer into boundary territory mid-game and a red mesh wall appears in front of you as a reminder of your safe space. Go further and the Quest will stop the game and show you the real world. This is VR with no waiting, no mess, and no dust-gathering accessories.
Oculus Insight tracking isn’t all that’s arrived from the Quest’s bigger, more expensive brother. Just as you would find with the Rift S headset, the Quest has positional audio built into the headband itself.
VR, by its nature, simultaneously makes you somewhat blind and deaf, closing you off from the outside world. In contrast, this headphone-free, crisp audio experience means that whether you’re listening to bullets whizz by in Superhot or the crunchy bass of Beat Saber, you’re still part of the real world.
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