Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Oculus Touch Review: the Wait Is Over
Ever since virtual reality headsets were launched, one common criticism has been that the technology is impressive, but there's not enough good content for it. The release of the Oculus Touch has long been awaited by Oculus Rift users, but it also answers the industry's need for a VR system with compelling software.
A couple of months ago, I got to try the Oculus Touch at a demo (here are my first impressions). I was sufficiently impressed with the demo that it caused me to reconsider the Oculus Rift. Shortly thereafter, I sold my HTC Vive, got an Oculus Rift, and ordered the Oculus Touch. I finally received the Touch last week after several delays.
WHAT'S IN THE BOX
The Oculus Touch comes in a black box with a sleeve, similar to that of the Oculus Rift.
The package includes two Oculus Touch controllers, one sensor, and one adapter intended for use with a future Rock Band game.
The Oculus Touch controllers are very well made, and have a sleek design with beautiful details such as a subtle polished logo on its half-crescent ring, and a magnetic battery cover. You can tell it was designed by a perfectionist, just like the Oculus Rift.
Each Touch runs on an AA battery, unlike the rechargeable controllers in most other first-party controllers. This is a minor inconvenience, but it assures users that should they ever run out of power during a session, they can easily replace the battery instead of having to wait for the controller to recharge.
Setting up the Oculus Touch is more involved than when using the Rift with one sensor, but it's about as simple as setting up with the HTC Vive.
1. Position your sensors. There are two possible setups:
Front-facing stereo setup: this is easier, but will lose track of the controllers if you turn your back. To use this setup, position the sensors on either sound of you, between 3 to 6 feet apart.
Experimental 360 setup: this requires a little more work, but will enable you to walk around a play area. To use this setup, the sensors have to mounted around 7 feet high on opposite corners of your playing area. Check out this post for details.
2. Attach the sensors to your USB ports. Oculus says to use USB 3.0 ports, although in my case (and for older PCs), it works better with USB 2.0 ports.
3. Run the Oculus Touch setup from the Oculus Home app on your PC. Follow the instructions, which will include drawing the boundary of your play area.
The Touch has several buttons. Both controllers have a trigger button, a grip button, and a joystick that can be pressed as well. In addition, the left controller has X, Y, and a menu button. The right controller has A, B and an Oculus / system button.
In addition to its joystick and buttons, the Touch has capacitive sensors that can sense when your fingers are resting on any of the buttons on the top surface, or on the trigger button. In addition, the trigger button and grip button are analog triggers that can sense the extent to which they are being pressed.
In actual use, the buttons and controls are responsive, and allow a fine degree of control, which enhances hand presence (the illusion that the virtual hands are your hands).
The grip is also ergonomically designed. However, users with large hands might find the controls a little too small. On the other hand, they are also small enough for children to use comfortably (yes I know some people warn against letting kids use VR).
Because Oculus emphasizes the close relationship between your hands and the Touch controllers, games designed for the Touch tend to use a virtual representation of your hands. By contrast, HTC Vive games tend to use a virtual representation of the controllers themselves.
This difference in design has a subtle impact on how many of their games are controlled. Controls in most HTC Vive games are designed for its controllers and its buttons, while controls in Touch games try to simulate hand and finger gestures. For example, Raw Data is an HTC Vive game where you reload your gun by pulling the trigger button to grab a new clip from your hip even though in the real world you wouldn't 'pull a trigger' to hold a clip. In Dead and Buried, a shooting game for the Oculus Touch, you reload your ghostly revolver by tilting it sideways so that the cylinder opens, then you tilt it back for the cylinder to return to the revolver.
Tracking works very well with two sensors as long as you set it up properly. If you're only playing front-facing games such as Dead and Buried, or the Unspoken, a front-facing stereo setup is more than adequate and tracks the Rift headset and Touch controllers very well as long as you don't block the sensors' view of the controllers (such as by turning your back to the sensors).
However, even with two sensors, you can also get roomscale VR with careful positioning of the sensors. I've made it work with a space 10 ft x 5 ft, with minimal occlusion, and other users have reportedly been able to use it for up to 10 ft x 10 ft. With this roomscale setup, the tracking is not as perfect as the Vive, in the sense that there are occasionally some subtle shifts in the VR view when I turn around at certain angles, but it still works very well. And to be fair, Oculus recommends having three sensors for roomscale VR. (I've ordered a third sensor and will post a comparison when I receive it.)
The Touch controllers have haptic feedback through precisely controlled vibrations that can simulate a variety of sensations such as the pulling of a bowstring, the shaking of jingle bells, or the spinning of a noisemaker. My only criticism is that the motor is not as powerful as that of the Vive controllers, so the feeling is not as strong. The vibration is also noisier to an observer watching someone use the Rift. But I'm nitpicking. The haptic feedback works quite well and adds to the immersive experience.
Unquestionably, the most significant benefit of the Oculus Touch is its software library. There are over 50 titles on the Oculus Store for the Oculus Touch, with several more down the pipeline. Most of these titles aren't just tech demos but are very polished and are among the best games available for the Oculus Rift. Here are some of them:
Bullet Train: fight dozens of enemy soldiers using a variety of weapons in this sci-fi shooter. As they fire a hail of bullets at you, time slows down so you can grab the bullets and throw them back at your enemies! Bullet Train is not a full game (it's only a few minutes long) but it's a preview of the upcoming Oculus Touch exclusive title Robo Recall, coming in 2017 (to be free for Oculus Touch), which I believe could be the killer app for VR.
The Unspoken: engage in epic spellcasting PvP battles in urban environments in the Unspoken, using magical gestures to launch fireballs, forge mystic weapons, create crystal shields, or even summon golems. Easily one of the best VR games I've played.
Superhot VR: In this stylized shooter, time moves only when you move, giving you the chance to dodge attacks and pull off impossible moves like in a John Woo movie.
Dead and Buried: This is a western-themed multiplayer shooting game with a supernatural twist. In some modes you battle other players while in other modes you team up with other players against hordes of undead monsters. It's also a social game, and you can talk with other players using the Rift's built-in microphone (or mute the microphone, if you prefer). This game is free with the Oculus Touch (if you're using Revive, it will cost $39).
Medium: Bring your imagination to life by sculpting them in virtual reality. You can use a variety of tools to make whimsical or detailed sculptures. This game is free with the Oculus Touch (if you're using Revive, it will cost $29).
Quill: paint on an infinite canvas in 3D space with Quill. The tools accommodate a variety of styles from cartoon-like to nearly photorealistic. This game is free with the Oculus Touch (if you're using Revive, it will cost $29).
Besides these Oculus exclusive titles, Oculus Touch also allows you to play literally hundreds of HTC Vive games on Steam. Some games are harder to play with the Touch because of the difference in button layout or the way the grip is held, but among the games I tried, a majority worked with the Touch with only minor adjustments. See here. Meanwhile, developers are adapting more HTC Vive games on Steam for the Oculus Touch, or releasing native Oculus Rift versions on Oculus Home.
For many people, the incredible software library available for the Oculus Touch is sufficient to justify its price. However, some people are still shocked by the price of these controllers ($199), especially if they're accustomed to gamepads and controllers usually priced around $59. However, if you take a look at what's included, it actually offers pretty good value. First of all, the Oculus Touch includes two controllers, so it's more fair to compare it against the cost of two conventional gamepads. Moreover, by comparison, if you purchase one HTC Vive controller, it will cost $129.99 per controller.
Second, the Oculus Touch includes an extra sensor. If purchased separately, the sensor costs $79. Again, for reference, one HTC Vive base station costs $134.99.
Third, the Touch includes these software for free: Dead and Buried ($39), Medium ($29), and Quill ($29). In addition, in 2017, Oculus Touch users will get Robo Recall for free. (These software are in addition to other free software.)
All in all, when you consider that there are two controllers, one sensor, and free software, the $199 price for Oculus Touch is reasonable.
Unless you only play ONLY cockpit games (e.g. Eve Valkyrie) or 3rd person platformers (e.g. Chronos), the Oculus Touch is a must-buy for every Oculus Rift owner because of the amazing games available for it.
But the Oculus Touch has an even broader impact than that. Its games are some of the best software available for VR, and it appears that many (or most?) of them can also be used with the HTC Vive. And for those who have been waiting for a VR system with a compelling software library, the wait is over.
If you found this review helpful and would like to buy an Oculus Rift and/or Oculus Touch, I would greatly appreciate it if you would consider purchasing through these affiliate links, which would be a huge help for 360 Rumors, so I can do more tests and reviews. Thank you very much!
- Oculus Rift on Amazon
- Oculus Touch on Amazon
- HTC Vive on Amazon
Oculus Touch Impressions
A safer and more convenient way to store your Oculus Rift and Oculus Touch
How to use Oculus Rift and Touch for roomscale VR with just two sensors
Using Oculus Rift and Touch with HTC Vive games on Steam: how well does it work?
Oculus Rift and Touch may work better in USB 2.0 for some PCs
Oculus Rift Review
HTC Vive Review