When the pandemic happened, every single country went into a lockdown, and we all stayed in for the longest period possible. But thanks to the time that we live, we get to escape through the virtual world which we did and personally, I chose my escape through Virtual Reality. Instead of spending too much money, we decided to purchase an Oculus Rift S (which was the most affordable one at that time) and after using it for a lot of stuff, here’s what we think if this is an enjoyable time to jump into the world of Virtual Reality.

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Oculus has come a long way (or VR in general really)

From being an early adopter of a device to slowly moving into the mainstream market, it has been slow progress but you can see the improvements. So many brands, mainly Oculus (now goes by Meta, which I hate the name), HTC Vive and Valve being so much of a big player in the Virtual Reality segment, they have most definitely upped the ante for VR content consumption in more way than one: Games, socializing and entertainment. If you look at the market share of people who own a VR headset on Steam Survey, the numbers are small but it is indeed growing, thanks to more affordable headsets produced by the same brands.

Specifically, Oculus, who made the Rift, went on to make the Rift S – a rather simple one cable connection to your PC and Laptop to get VR up and running. Then came a much more impressive VR – Oculus Quest (again now goes by the name Meta Quest.) which is extremely portable, petite and powerful as well. But again, it has its limitations, which is what I am going to address in a bit.

But that said, VR in general is heading forward albeit at a slower pace. Nonetheless, the market is still showing signs of interest which is exactly what’s been keeping Virtual Reality and Augmented reality (story for another day) alive.

Why Oculus Rift S?

Now for one, most of my Virtual Reality experiences have been on Smartphones like the Samsung Gear VR and at launches where we get to play with them for a brief moment. Most of the VR headsets – to put it simply, are just dead expensive. So, I wanted to get something that fits my budget and so I found these Oculus Rift S at RM2000 which is a price I am comfortable paying.

Secondly, I didn’t want a VR headset that limits me from using other services. Like Oculus is a good service but it doesn’t let you do things beyond that, and if you know, Steam has VR games and this headset so happens to support Steam right out of the box, so that’s all it mattered. This is why I also didn’t opt in for Oculus Quest because of its internal memory and all those unnecessary shenanigans which I don’t want to go through.

Rift S is a Satellite Free Option and there are others too

Okay the moment you hear VR headset, so far all we have heard of, are complicated to setup, too much work and all that – right? Well, not anymore. The VR Headset has evolved into two specific types:

  • The All-in-one or Lite VR Headset
  • The Pro VR Headset

Now, these aren’t terms coined by the VR community officially but its just how I like to list it. Starting off with the All-in-one or Lite VR Headset – these are simple and easy to setup VR headsets that are user friendly from the get-go. Like how Oculus Quest has built in everything and all you need to do is just wear it, turn it on and play with it. The Oculus Rift S doesn’t have a native system, instead it works like how PlayStation VR does – you need to connect to your system, which will be the host and the required software will help you get everything up and running in no time.

These have built in IR sensors and cameras, to do the tracking and map your room. While it may not be 100% accurate, they are in fact, very well designed to map things in such a smart manner that will make you wonder if you even need Satellite based tracking.

The Pro kind on the other hand is where you up the ante – where you get serious with Virtual Reality, with all that precise tracking and mapping and also comes with tons of accessories for you to assemble in order to make it work.

Oculus “OS” is Okay

For starters, Oculus’ built-in OS is neat and guides you on how to setup and experience your Virtual Reality headset safely. Otherwise, I’d say the OS is limited when it comes to content. You do have a store that allows you to purchase any kind of application or games for free or for a good sum and remember, most applications are paid – and aren’t cheap or have any sort of discount. So, I’d say if you were to stop at Oculus own OS, that’s it. But once you enable the option in the settings to let other applications on your PC that support VR, well then, things get a lot more exciting.

So, I personally used Steam for this and…

The Steam Experience is Phenomenal

The moment your VR kicks in and launches SteamVR, you are out of the Oculus world, and entering Steam’s world where you can set up your home space to your favorite games, have a party room with other friends that have VR headsets. Now the games on the other hand, which are the exact titles you find in Oculus store, are now much more affordable, thanks to the occasional sales and with some exception titles, like Beat Saber that never sees a sale at all.

That said, we purchased a bunch of games – Beat Saber being the first one, followed by Half-Life: Alyx, Project Cars, Superhot VR, Synth Riders and Thumper. Now if you noticed, among the few games I purchased, the majority of them are rhythm-based games and these games are extremely popular on VR for their immersive-ness. I mean if you can wield a lightsaber within a game, that’s pretty cool right?

It ended up giving me some pleasant experience – so much so to a point, during the pandemic, it was my workout machine that motivated me to sweat it off and do some ducking, sliding, swinging my hands all around and feeling the soreness the next day. Now I did want to try games like what we play on a normal monitor and Valve did not disappoint me at all – if at all, the first game I believe people should play after Beat Saber is Half-Life: Alyx.

Half-Life: Alyx sets a very good benchmark as to how far VR games have come and while it is risky for them to execute it, them taking the leap of faith to make this gaming experience happen is exactly the motivation need because right now you can see a lot of games making its way to VR, including the pandemic favorite, Among Us making its way to VR.

A Whole new World to immerse

Now if gaming isn’t your thing, then if you are getting it purely for entertainment – that’s great too. Oculus even has applications where you can watch a movie as if you are watching on a big screen along with other VR users in a virtual Theatre. This is just one of the handful few ways VR is being expanded into. Museum of Other Realities takes art and brings to life in VR – there are even some great educational apps that let you be interactive. I think this is great.

All in all, it’s a Slowly but Surely Situation

Whatever I said so far, I mean it. The experience I started off with the Oculus Rift S is miles better compared to those cheap Cardboard boxes we used to use for our phone or even the Samsung Gear VR which had a nice experience but a limiting one at that. Getting a dedicated VR headset like the Quest or even hooking up to your System to have fun, is a totally different experience.

I would say that the content I have seen so far are definitely within a certain number, but it is growing slowly because VR content are a lot harder to produce and as a studio developing it for different kinds of headsets – it is definitely not an easy job. And factoring other important health conditions like Motion Sickness and so much more is being addressed as well, like in Half-Life you can change the movement based on the plethora of options.

If you are new to VR…

Honestly, I believe no one should fork out too much money on VR for their first time and I am glad that affordable options exist. In that case, if you are someone who actually wants to give Virtual Reality a shot – then get an All-in-one VR headset like this Oculus Rift S or the Oculus Quest 2, which is easier to setup, a lot more user friendly and gives you not only a glimpse of what the VR world has to offer but how immersive it can be.

Sure, it does come with certain limitation like the tracking is 95% accurate or in the software department but personally, using the Oculus Rift S for more than a year, I truly enjoyed a lot. Not to forget, the portability and mobility of the Oculus Rift S was an absolute relief as I could just bring it over to my friend’s place and play some party games taking turns. If you are not entertained, it’s easier to let go as well.

If you have experienced or Played VR more than ever…

When you are ready to fully commit to a proper full fledged Virtual Reality Headset, with better tracking, more space for you to move, that’s when you should commit to purchasing VR headsets like HTC Vive, Valve Index or even Oculus Rift. In fact, I am ready to commit to a full-fledged VR setup very soon.

By the way, most of the Oculus products we mentioned here including the Rift S have been discontinued and the only Oculus headset you can get right now is the Oculus Quest 2.  Thanks to our very own wallet, we purchased the Oculus Rift S in making this content happen.