HTC Vive Review - Part 2
Staff Writer By: M.D. McCallum (WarLord720)
I've read all sorts of information about the HMD. How it was heavy, bulky, clunky and uncomfortable. For my own taste, I will agree it is clunky but that is as far as I will go. I do not find the HMD to be heavy or bulky. It's pretty much what I'd expect from a head mounted display except that, in my case at least, the head strap sits more on top of the head (while still surrounding it) than down on the head. This puts the HMD in a comfortable position with just the right amount of tilt on the back strap to make it feel very secure. You'll probably start off using it very cautiously but then after a little while of caution it doesn't take much to see that HTC made this HMD to survive. I wouldn't take it off and casually toss it on the desk or even the couch or a chair. It's still a piece of equipment and should be treated as such but you can USE it and not baby it.
You have to keep in mind that the HMD, and by default yourself, are tethered to the PC... or at least the junction box in-between the HMD and your computer. In Part 1 of this review I provided an image of two rubber coated gaffer clamps that I use to clamp the HMD cable to the table so it won't pull on the junction box. I have already pulled the power cord out of the box once... hence the clips. The cable is actually running through the clamps freely. You'll be crawling, walking, bending, stooping and all sorts of things wearing the HMD so just stay aware of where the tether is if you are by yourself or let your friends watch it during Vive play sessions. You don't want to be tangled in your tether... it's just not cool.
Back of the HTC Vive HMD. Umbilical cord passes through 2 sided slot in strap back.
The VIVE CONTROLLERS
If you have a pistol in one hand and a flashlight in the other (The Brookhaven Experiment) then it's not long before those controllers feel like a flashlight and a pistol. When those zombies get in close you can swing the flashlight at them to knock them back and it FEELS like you are hitting them with a flashlight. The controllers are shaped as such they fit the hand easily and almost seem to magically morph into whatever they become in the VRverse. You can hold a shield in one hand and a sword in the other. The only thing lacking is the heft of the items. However, the controllers track so well that in combat you have to hit your opponent in an open area not covered by their shield, armor or helmet to score hit points. You can pick the controllers up from a desk, chair or floor with the HMD on because you see a rendered model of them in the HMD and the tracking matches. Reach for them in the VRverse and you find them in the real world.
The controllers become all sorts of tools and even bare hands. When rummaging around the top of a desk for clues or looking for loot the hands grab and move things around as extensions of your own hands. Looks a little creepy at first but after adapting to them they become quite useful.
HEADPHONES OR EAR BUDS
The Vive ships with a good set of ear buds that sound great and immerse you into the VRverse but full headphones put you so deep you can forget what room of what house you are at in the real world. In the Brookhaven Experiment you hear what direction the zombies are coming from (provided you have the right bud in the right ear... ahem). The problem with the headphones is just as you would expect... the bulkiness and an added layer to wear and deal with in addition to the HMD. For me, it's no big deal. I prefer the headphones but use the ear buds more often as they allow me to hear some of the outside world and know when someone else has entered the room. I don't like to be surprised in the VRverse by the real world. In fact, someone might get hurt where it to happen while in the midst of a violent level of some zombie killer. Blood can get to pumping so it's easy for a reflex action to kick in.
The ear bug plug-in. Can use headphones with same type of jack.
After setup and initial forays into the VRverse it soon became second nature to launch the SteamVR software and use it to launch into your favorite game from your Steam library. You can also start the games directly with shortcuts after SteamVR is up and running. So far, while I have some negatives, they are so insignificant compared to the technology in hand that they aren't worth mentioning again. The HTC Vive is not difficult to setup and get running. For this author, it is not too heavy especially for first gen tech. It is clunky as I stated earlier but I guess I expected there to be something strapped to my head so I expected to feel something. No... it's not the holodeck but it's not a flat monitor either.
I do know one thing for sure. Even if it took 2 days of hard work to setup I'd still do it because it's that much of a step forward. Ignore Virtual Reality at your own risk. I'm on the VR bandwagon and have no intention of getting off anytime soon. One thing about the Vive experience is... love it or hate it... you won't soon forget it.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord is an international award winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. M.D. is currently working on VR projects and characters. You can learn more about MD at his website.