Oculus Rift VR headset review: The magical, yet unfinished birth of virtual reality

Virtual reality is finally here.

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What use is four stars in a vacuum? Is that four stars for hardware? Four stars for software? A combination of both?

It’s not really a vacuum though. Remember what I said earlier: Three years of VR evolution behind closed doors has given us a pretty good idea of where the field is going. What’s possible. What work still needs to be done.

So perhaps it’s best to say our rating for the Oculus Rift is based on how well we think Oculus accomplished its stated goals: Creating a device that could (and pardon the VR buzzword here) instill a feeling of virtual “Presence” in the user, here in 2016. The Rift launch isn’t perfect, nor does it feel finished given the conspicuous absence of Oculus’s own Touch controllers. But I’ve still had moments this week where hardware concerns slipped away and I just enjoyed rocketing through space or standing in Iceland or relaxing on an alien planet. Not playing at doing those things, but actually doing them

In that sense, the initial Oculus Rift headset is stunningly successful, despite its high price and missing Touch controllers and first-gen rough edges. Those drawbacks will likely limit this debut to enthusiasts only at the consumer level, but this hardware can truly transport you to exotic locales—once you’re in-game, there’s no denying that the Rift’s experience is literally awesome, especially if you’ve never tried VR before.

Welcome to virtual reality, and congratulations to everyone at Oculus on the launch. It’s been a long time coming.

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At a Glance
  • After years of dev kits and prototypes and behind-closed-door demos, the Oculus Rift is finally ready for consumers. Welcome to VR.

    Pros

    • Better (sturdier) design than predecessors
    • Meets all of Oculus's initial goals for seated VR
    • Oculus brings plenty of software to launch, with more on the way

    Cons

    • Clearly not designed with room-scale VR in mind
    • Oculus Store needs work
    • Xbox controller is a stopgap solution at best
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