Oculus Rift Dev Kit 2: eyes-on preview at Gamescom 2014

We strapped into the latest version of the Rift at in Cologne and took our eyes for an immersive spin

After leaving the small demo room tucked away in an unassuming corner of Gamescom, I had my verdict - the Oculus Rift DK2 is by far the best thing that I've ever had on my face.

Having never tried previous iterations of the Rift before, I didn't really know what to expect. 

I'd read plenty of hands-on reviews of course, and after Stuff's own Will Findlater raved about his session with the Crystal Cove model at CES earlier this year, I strapped on the newest iteration - the DK2 - with childlike excitement.

I was blown away.

READ MORE: Face-on review: Oculus Rift Crystal Cove, a bona fide VR revolution

Lucky's Tale

The first title I tried out was a platformer called Lucky's Tale, which saw me control a fox called Lucky from a third-person perspective.

Oculus Rift Dev Kit 2: eyes-on preview at Gamescom 2014

That's quite an interesting deviation from the usual first-person Oculus titles that we've seen to date, and I was worried that I wouldn't experience the same level of immersion that they offered.

Thankfully, I was wrong. The minute I opened my eyes, I wasn't in a small white demo room in Germany anymore. I was in a bright cartoon world, high above a vast body of water.

Leaning over the edge brought the drop into view, and as butterflies flitted around my face, I found myself instinctively reaching out to grab them.

I was a bit taken out of the experience however, when I couldn't see my own arms in front of my face. If all Oculus titles were compatible with sensor gloves which mapped your 1:1 hand motions in real-time, the experience would be even better.

One of the DK2's improvements is a higher resolution screen (1080p versus the original Development Kit's 1280x800 display), and after the initial few seconds of noticing the pixels (they are right up against your eyeballs after all), my mind just erased them out, and I was well and truly lost in the world.

Oculus Rift Dev Kit 2: eyes-on preview at Gamescom 2014

Using a controller, I guided Lucky around, smashing boxes, jumping on bad guys and running across walkways. As Lucky moved, the camera automatically followed him around, occasionally zooming in to help navigate tricky walkways.

I also found myself naturally peering in closer to objects like flowers and mushrooms to get a better look at them; made possible by the same head-tracking LED lights from the Crystal Cove iteration, although on the DK2 they're hidden from view. 

A camera tracks these LEDs, which allows your head to be tracked in 3D space, letting you peer around objects and adding an impressive layer of immersion.

After guiding Lucky to the end of the level, I had to throw some bombs at a few targets. Aiming was taken care of with my head. I simply looked where I wanted to aim, and pressed the trigger. Simple.

By this point I know I'll be snapping up a Rift on launch day, and it occured to me that I didn't feel sick.

Many users of past iterations of the Rift have complained about motion sickness, but the DK2 has a higher framerate, reducing motion blur which Oculus tells us all but eradicates motion sickness.

I tend to deal with motion in games quite well anyway (Mirror's Edge on a projector didn't phase me), so it's hard for me to say if my lack of discomfort was down to the increased frame rate or not.

More after the break...

SuperHot

You might already be familiar with this successful Kickstarter title, an FPS that pits you agains hordes of low-poly red goons; the catch is that time moves only when you do, with bullets leaving Matrix-style trails in the air as you weave among them.

I'd played the free online demo about 50 times before in the past, but the Rift made it even better.

It began by peeking around a corner at a group of enemies at the other end of a corridor. Rounding a corner, the window to my right shattered, showering me with glass and putting me right in the path of a line of bullets. 

I instinctively ducked as I moved forward, and this simple reflex saved my virtual life, sending the bullets harmlessly above my head. 

As I made my way closer to the enemies, they fired off multiple shots each. I rushed forward to reach my gun, then froze. 

In front of me was a wall of bullets, but rather than duck, I opted to go full Neo.

Slowly creeping forward, I weaved between the deadly peppering, and marvelled at a single bullet as it missed my face by centimetres.

I turned my head sideways and again, instinctively reached my hand out to catch the bullet in mid flight, such was my level of immersion.

And then, sadly, it was over. I pulled the headset off, and I was at Gamescom once again - but a Rift-virgin no more.

The future

The final retail version, Oculus' Nate Palmer tells me, will have an even higher resolution screen and a faster frame rate for an even better experience.

Palmer also announced that Oculus VR will be having its first-ever developers conference this year on 19 September.

Without the games to support it, the Rift is nothing more than an amazing curiosity, but from what I've seen so far, it will bring virtual reality to the masses – dropping countless jaws along the way.

There's still no release date for the final retail version (yes, I asked), but we might see further announcements from the developers conference next month, so stay tuned.

READ MORE: The five best games we've played on Oculus Rift so far

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