News that HTC and Valve would be working together to release a competing VR headset to the Oculus Rift came as a surprise. Despite the constant stream of rumors that Valve was working on VR behind closed doors, HTC seemed like an unlikely partner for this sort of project. Over the last year we've seen the HTC Vive go from damned impressive developer kit to retail product, with no shortage of incredibly impressive demos along the way. HTC went so far as to drive massive trucks with demo stages around the US for a while, and you'd be hard pressed to find someone who walked away from those experiences with anything but a smile on their face.
We're just starting to ramp up our VR coverage, and will soon be pouring all of our thoughts on this category right here for you to read. In the mean time, just like with the Oculus Rift, there are three reviews that tell a great story about how this hardware is being received.
HTC and Valve have released a product that is more expensive, more complicated, and more feature complete than the Oculus Rift is right now. That last bit is important in a lot of these reviews, which are quick to remind you that Oculus has already announced curious-looking controllers to offer an experience similar to what HTC and Valve are offering. We've yet to see how true that is, so taking a look at the hardware as it is makes a lot more sense. For that, the folks at Road to VR have done a lot to show you exactly what it takes to fully dive into Vive ownership. A big part of that experience is addressing exactly how much space you need to get the most out of the HTC Vive, and it's something well addressed in this review.
A lot of noise has been made about the added cost of the Vive over the Rift, and for a good reason. A $200 difference is significant for just about any purchase, and there's a better than good chance the Oculus controllers aren't going to cost that much. At least for the forseeable future, the HTC Vive is going to remain the more expensive of the two big desktop-class VR solutions. That having been said, most of the folks who have spent time with both systems agree the price difference is justified by the experience. The ability to move around gives an early feeling of a Star Trek Holodeck, and there are few nerds out there who wouldn't jump at the opportunity to experience that. A great balanced perspective on this comes from Will Greenwald at PCMag, who agrees that Vive is the only way to get the full experience right now.
More feature complete doesn't necessarily mean better, especially when it comes to the individual VR experiences being offered. Instead of a dedicated VR UI like the one seen on the Oculus Rift, Valve floats your Desktop Steam client in front of you to interact with. This is a familiar setup for most, but not exactly the most VR-friendly experience out there. It does give Vive owners a significant selection of content to play with, but the chances you'll find something that isn't quite finished or is short enough to almost be considered a tech demo can't be ignored. Polygon's Ben Kuchera does a fantastic job breaking down the big experiences for the Vive, but also highlighting the ways in which Valve struggles to enforce VR-friendly policies with the content you have available to you.
As a first generation room-scale VR experience you can actually have in your home, it looks like HTC and Valve have delivered something decent out of the box. It also looks like there's plenty of room for refinement, and that's something the folks at Oculus currently have over HTC. The biggest takeaway from these reviews, especially when you compare them to the reviews for the Oculus Rift, is that there is no clear winner between the two right now. More than anything, it means there's still so much room for these products to improve and compete with one another.
With no clear "winner" in VR right now, these two companies and several others are going to continue to fight for your attention with new and more interesting ideas. We'll have a lot more for you on the HTC Vive as we start to dig into this system ourselves.