The Oculus Rift doesn't look nearly as sleek as the renderings you see online for the startup's virtual reality headset. It almost looks taped together. And we couldn't care less. Because once you don these amazing goggles, you'll see gaming in a whole new way.
Here at CES 2013, we were fortunate enough to get a few minutes of eyes-on time with the Rift, which got gamers so excited they backed this project to the tune of $2.4 million in funding as a Kickstarter project. Epic Games, Unity and Valve have also lent their support to the product, which will ship as a developer unit this March before being commercialized.
Here's what it's like to wear the Rift. It's beyond immersive. After we found our visual sweet spot with the headset, we walked around a medieval town (powered by the Unreal Engine 3) and marveled at the stereoscopic 3D snow fall from the sky. The beauty of the Rift is that we could look up at the sky too, just by moving our head upward. We could also see armored knights behind us by turning around in our chair. As one character passed and his sword got close to our face, we couldn't help but say "whoa." We're almost glad we didn't have to fight anyone in this demo.
With most games you spend a lot of time panning around--and we could with the Xbox controller Oculus VR had hooked up to the Rift. But as we started to rely on our head movements more we could concentrate more just on moving and use the right stick less. This makes for a much more natural gaming experience. It's not like you have to aim before you walk in real life, right?
It's still way too early to say whether the Rift will gather enough support to literally change the face of PC gaming (and eventually mobile gaming). But based on our experience--and the smile it instantly brought to our face--we'd say the Rift is 3D gaming done right. Now hurry up and get this thing in the hand of devs already.