Oculus Quest 2 - Brutal Backlog
Brutal Backlog is a semi-regular feature where the JDR team play through some of the unplayed games on their shelves (both digital and physical), disregarding their age or the technical limitations of their era. Only the very best titles will stand up to scrutiny today.
Life is expensive. I know that’s probably obvious to most people, but recently, I had my first foray into “actual adulthood”; I saw some terrible things, started working for a salary, became a regular at a coffee shop by my office, developed some friends that I only talked to when we were on the clock, and then left my job “to pursue other career opportunities”. Over the past few months, I’ve spent more money on caffeine than I’d care to admit, dreamed about vacations I’ll never be able to afford and I even bought a tie!
However, somehow, virtual reality isn’t as expensive as any of those things, so I figured it’s as good a time as any to pick up a headset and spend the next few weeks visiting various vacation destinations from the comfort of my own home office. While I’m not sure exactly why I haven’t gotten invested in the whole alternate reality thing before, now that I am, I’m excited to see what exactly made Ready Player One’s world happen, and hopefully I’ll do so without draining my bank account even more.
Oh, before I forget, I’m starting my journey with an Oculus Quest 2, because it was $300 and I don’t need to upgrade my GPU to use it.
One Day In
Although I’m about as smart as an ape, I was somehow able to get my Quest set up without any troubles, and so far my experiences with it have been everything that I had hoped for. After selling my soul, credit card data and retina details to The Zucc, I’ve been able to play a few of VR’s best-reviewed titles without any major issues, and those games have been absolutely surreal (and well worth the 50 gallons in petrol that I paid for the headset).
So far, I’ve played about an hour of SUPERHOT VR, Onward and The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners each, and to say that these have been the coolest hours of my recent life would be an understatement. SUPERHOT is undoubtedly the game that showcases virtual reality the best because of how it combines physical movement with in-game actions, but Onward feels unnervingly realistic and The Walking Dead is exactly what I was hoping to experience when I picked up the headset.
Instead of having a lengthy adjustment period like I was expecting, I’ve been able to play each of my chosen games simply by doing what I would in real life. When I picked up a sidearm in Onward, for example, I aimed and moved exactly like I do when I’m at the range. I’m 95% sure I’ll have some sort of stress disorder by the time I box up my headset in a year, and I’m not really sure how else to describe my currently limited experience with the Quest 2.
That said, even though I’ve only had my newfangled piece of tech for 24 hours, I’m already curious about how much use I’ll get out of it once the novelty wears off. While setting up my Quest was unbelievably easy, and to use it going forward all I need to do is charge it (and plug it into my PC when I want to play Steam-exclusive titles), I’m also yet to find a title that’s more than a just traditional PC game with a gimmick. SUPERHOT VR is just SUPERHOT in VR, The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners is The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct in VR, and Onward is Insurgency: Sandstorm in VR. That’s not a bad thing, but seeing as I’m already heavily invested in two of those titles on my main gaming rig, it’s something that I’ll be paying attention to over the following months.
One Week In
Much to my surprise, or maybe not, I’ve gotten a lot of use out of my $300 impulse purchase over the past week. Most of that time has been spent in Onward, because I am if nothing else a massive fan of quasi-realistic shooters. I’ve also completed SUPERHOT VR, finished about ¼ of The Walking Dead, and picked up Blade and Sorcery. I do properly love all these games, and what I said initially about the headset remains true: virtual reality is absolutely surreal. Attacking an enemy position while physically ducking to avoid incoming shots and doing realistic reloads is something that just isn’t possible on standard machines, and for that reason alone I’m content with my purchase.
However, since buying the set, I have noticed a few flaws with the hardware itself. While I don’t regret picking up the Quest, the battery life on the thing is absolutely abysmal. It takes about an hour to charge it, and then I can only play with it for another two or three. This isn’t that big of a problem, especially seeing as a couple of the games I’ve tried have given me some light motion sickness, but it has made it difficult to get invested into some of the story-driven titles I’ve tried playing. I’m sure I’ll come up with a magical solution to this problem later, but for now, it remains a fairly constant annoyance.
The other thing I’m not entirely a fan of is the PC link cable. To be clear, it’s mind boggling that virtual reality exists, and it’s even weirder to think that I can play fully-fledged titles on it simply by hooking up a $70 piece of wire to my main computer. That said, because I need something to gripe about, it is annoying that every time I want to play a game like Hotdogs, Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, I need to plug that cable in (which uses a USB-C connector, which my PC doesn’t have without an adaptor), then boot up the Oculus app, then the SteamVR app, and then the game itself. I could just use my WiFi to connect the two now that I’m thinking about it, but that means I won’t be able to download as many Arma mods while I have a glorified box strapped to my face.
Either way, the entire process takes less than five minutes, so it’s not exactly a big deal, but it is something that will likely prevent me from playing some of the headset’s non-native titles in the future.
One Month In
After spending about 100 hours with my Quest 2, it turns out my earlier-stated curiosity about using it has been fulfilled in a bad way; I have all but stopped using my headset because of minor inconveniences, and I’m still not sure how to feel about that.
I want to reiterate this for the third time in this article: virtual reality is fucking cool. The fact that it, along with games like Onward and Blade and Sorcery even exist is a feat of human engineering that shouldn’t be possible. Shooting guns that feel identical to their real-life counterparts in H3VR, getting exhausted after stabbing zombies in The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners or John Wick-ing my way through SUPERHOT VR are some of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced, and this is coming from a guy who drank a Four Loko once.
However, now that the novelty of VR has finally worn off for me, it feels like a chore to play with it. While the headset is easy enough to boot up, once it’s ready, the problems I had with it one week in have become serious issues that I’m rarely in the mood to deal with. The Quest’s short battery life, coupled with the fact that it refuses to sit decently on my head and the constant annoyance of my earbuds falling out, mean that it’s difficult to actually get immersed in games.
And all of these things have become especially annoying because there’s an ever-shrinking list of games that I want to get immersed in. After beating SUPERHOT VR and as much of The Walking Dead as I can emotionally handle right now, there’s exactly four games I keep installed. I’ve spent hours looking for new titles to add to my roster, but at the end of the day I’m simply finding it harder and harder to justify charging my Quest, because if I’m not in the mood to play one of those games, there’s no reason to turn the thing on.
I’m sure that last bit is partially my fault. There are a lot of games on the Quest 2, but most of them are either insanely social experiences or filled to the brim with kids, and I’m not a fan of dealing with either one of those things for free. It’s also possible that I did just miss the must-play game on the headset, and if so, feel free to message me on Twitter.
But, after all is said and done, I’m just not sure how much value I’ll get out of this thing going forward. I have, and probably always will, love Blade and Sorcery, however when I’m not in the mood to do blade things and sorcery other things, I just don’t think I’ll be using the headset very often in the future.
Four Months In
It’s officially “the future” now, and sadly it looks like I was right about how much value I got out of my Quest 2. Over the past three months, I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve turned my set on. I played Blade and Sorcery two times, Pavlov VR twice, and tested out a new gun in Hotdogs, Horseshoes and Hand Grenades a single time. Outside of that, I’ve stopped charging my headset entirely, I think one of the controller batteries finally died, and at some point soon I’m going to put it into a box along with my joystick, PlayStation 4 and college diploma.
While VR is great, and the memories I made in Pavlov will likely stick with me for a lifetime, I just haven’t found enough of a justification to make space in my cramped room to play with it. I mean, I want to play Quest exclusive titles, if for no other reason than I’m starting to regret spending my last real paycheck on it instead of buying expensive bourbon, but I also haven’t found a reason to.
If I want to shoot things, I can just go to the range (yay America!). If I want to stab things, I’ll sharpen the pirate sword I bought off Amazon and accidentally cut my hand open again (yay worldwide shipping!). If I want to play an immersive simulator that makes me question the role of video games in society, I’ll re-install Norco (yay Sweden!). The fact that none of these things are quite as enjoyable as they are on other platforms isn’t exactly the Quest’s fault, but that hasn’t stopped me from not entirely enjoying the $300 I chucked at The Zucc a few months ago.
I do think that, going forward, I will use the headset more than I have in the past few months. With gas costing more than a pack of smokes and the weather being a tad rubbish as of late, it’s going to get harder and harder for me to get into the real world, and video games have always been my favourite escape from reality. Virtual reality is still, I believe, a great version of that escape, and it’s only a matter of time before whatever game developer we’re all still okay with makes a title that will once again make me want to charge my headset.
But until then, I’m just not sure that the platform is worth it for people like me (which is to say people with a limited amount of disposable income, other hobbies and a very unique taste in vidya).
That’s just, like, my opinion, though. The Quest 2 is an impressive bit of hardware that’s leagues cheaper than Valve’s version of the platform, and there are a lot of great games on it that are (somewhat) unique. The problem is that once I got bored of those games, I just couldn’t be bothered to deal with a handful of minor inconveniences when I have a black box that doesn’t require me to charge it. In the future, I’m sure that virtual reality will be drop-dead fantastic, but for now I think it falls into the same category as modern-gen consoles, which is to say that it’s great and all, but it lacks the convenience factor that keeps me glued to my PC and phone.
I suppose for $300 (or about 50 gallons of gas in the US), it’s not the dumbest thing I’ve ever purchased, and I don’t think even I regret buying it all that much. But if I had that same sum of change again, and knew what I know now, I’m not sure I’d bother to buy the Quest 2 when there’s currently a sale on the Epic Store.
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