The best Oculus Touch VR experiences we've seen so far – CNET

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If you’re thinking of getting an Oculus Rift, you’ll need an Oculus Touch.

An Oculus Touch set is an impressive pair of motion-sensing controllers, and they’re exactly the type of VR-specific controllers that the PC-connected Oculus Rift has lacked since its March debut. Those controllers will cost you ($199 for a pair, with a sensor camera and two games), but they enable experiences you simply can’t get with Oculus Rift otherwise. Oculus says there will be 35 Touch titles at launch.

I got to try the Oculus Touch and many of its games, and these are the best apps and experiences so far.

Lone Echo

In the year 2126, you are a sentient artificial intelligence in a robot body, assigned to a mining facility in the rings of Saturn. Put another way: The Oculus Touch gives you amazingly detailed robot arms (remember the inside of Luke’s robot hand at the end of “Empire Strikes Back”? You can see the metal tendons move when you flex!) and you have to use them to navigate in zero gravity.

You literally have to reach out and touch walls, handholds and objects to pull yourself through the space station. Oh, and you have tiny little compressed-air thrusters inside your wrists to help steer. You’re like Sandra Bullock in “Gravity,” except you’ve also got George Clooney’s awesome jetpack, and there’s no pesky need to find oxygen. It feels awesome, but the game doesn’t have a release date yet.

Update: Oh, and there’s also an incredible online multiplayer mode that’s like a mix of Ender’s Game and Ultimate Frisbee. Your team of five has to navigate a zero-G arena filled with floating obstacles (the enemy’s gate is down!) in order to throw a disc into the opposing team’s goal. You can push off your teammates for an additional boost, pass the disc to friendlies if you’re stuck, even grab onto members of the opposing team, punch them in the head, steal their disc, and toss it to a teammate.


Robo Recall.

Oculus

Robo Recall

Maybe you’ve heard of Bullet Train — the first epic photo-realistic demo for the Oculus Touch controllers that let you fight like Neo in The Matrix, blasting enemy robots apart with guns, plucking bullets right out of the air and throwing them at enemies, and teleporting around the environment to grab weapons right out of your enemies’ hands and wreak havoc up close?

Epic turned that tech demo into Robo Recall. Except now, you can also rip apart enemy robots with your bare hands, juggle them in the air with your twin pistols and generally perform all kinds of gun-fu. The Oculus Touch controllers mean you can just reach out and grab whatever you see — be it bullet or a robot spider leaping at your face — and use it as a weapon, instantly, by throwing it at your target of choice. Aiming feels so intuitive, you don’t really need to think about it. It’s basically the best light gun game of all time.

Oh, and Robo Recall will be a free download when it arrives early 2017.

SUPERHOT

But Superhot might be even better. Like Robo Recall, Superhot is all about taking down foes with guns and projectiles you literally reach out and grab — but with one amazing difference. Time only moves when you move, and one hit kills. As soon as you turn your head, move your arm to grab the gun or wine bottle lying on the table, your foes start moving and shooting.

In many ways, it’s more of a puzzle game than a first-person shooter, where you figure out the right things to do, in the right order, to survive against incredible odds in movie-inspired shootouts and brawls. It’s an incredible rush, and the everything-is-made-of-glass art style is pretty neat. Fans of the original, non-VR version should know that Superhot in VR is a totally new game, with all-new levels and story. It picks up where the original game leaves off.

The developers say it’ll be a day-one title for Oculus Touch.

CNET’s Sean Hollister dives for cover in a four-player Dead & Buried VR shootout

Josh Miller/CNET

Dead & Buried

Two-on-two online multiplayer cowboy gunslinger shootouts, complete with voice chat. Saloon showdowns, train robberies and some single-player shooting galleries thrown in to practice your aim. To take cover, you actually move your body behind objects in the game world. Draw six-shooters with your actual hands, aim them at foes and fire away. To reload, you flip the revolver cylinder out with a flick of your wrist. Pick up additional weapons (shotguns, sticks of dynamite, you name it) from spots in your environment.

It’s pretty much what you’d expect, if what you’re expecting is pretty great. The guns take some real skill to shoot, though — you might be better off carefully aiming one pistol than firing wildly with two! It’s an Oculus Touch launch title.

Arktika:1

Yes, it’s another shooting game (Oculus Touch is all about the gun games!), but Arktika doesn’t just hand you a pair of pistols and start you shooting. If our early demo is any indication, it’s got some pretty incredible interactive environments and a story (about being a mercenary in a post-apocalyptic frozen wasteland) to go with them. The Oculus Touch controllers let you interact with a holographic map that shows you your mission objectives, and play with an old-school record turntable and ping-pong paddle in the briefing room. In the armory, you reach out and grab attachments you can snap right onto your futuristic guns.

You’ll have to wait for it, though: the developers say it isn’t coming till Q2 2017.

The Unspoken

It’s a wizard duel. Sling fireballs, throw stone gargoyles with your telekinetic powers, summon legendary javelins or even cast more whimsical spells like creating a magical paper airplane that you have to fold before you throw it. The Touch controllers are mostly there to point your spells where to go, but it does feel surprisingly awesome to throw up a shield spell and block incoming projectiles with your real arms. Plus, the spells look gorgeous. You can imagine the power flowing through you.

The Unspoken will be available on day one for Oculus Touch, and it’ll come free with Touch pre-orders.

Quill

Draw, paint and color in VR, with Photoshop-like layers. Then, play it back and watch the painting come together in real time. You use one Touch controller to precisely put beautiful, flowing strokes exactly where you want them, and the other as your easel and palette. The coolest part? Use both controllers together to quickly scale any object as big or small as you want: I took a Matchbox-size car and made it big enough to drive.

The flowing, 3D art you can make with Quill is beautiful and compelling — to the point where Oculus made an entire movie with this home-built software. (It’s called “Dear Angelica,” and I felt a tear in my eye.) The company’s commissioning comic books from artists using the tool, too. It’s a shame Oculus won’t say when or even if regular Oculus owners will get to use Quill, but we’re hoping for an announcement soon.

Project Hikari brings Japanese manga to life. In this picture, the right-most panel is actually computer-generated 3D graphics, and you can move your head to look around.

Josh Miller/CNET

Other titles:

  • Killing Floor adds an awesome throwing knife, flashlight and creepy sneak-up-behind-you zombies to your Oculus Touch gunplay. Sadly, you can’t just turn your body to shoot zombies behind you, unless perhaps you’ve got a third Oculus camera. It’s coming 2017.
  • Kingspray Graffiti gives you a can of paint, a wall, the ability to rope in an online friend and a whole lot of colors and tweaks with which to create your street art masterpiece. Tentatively slated for Touch launch.
  • Project Hikari is a Japanese manga (graphic novel) brought to life. You read, but some panels let you see the characters and their environments turned into gorgeous CG, and you can look around with the headset to get a better perspective. Touch merely lets you turn the pages. Square Enix isn’t sure this one’s a real product yet.
  • I Expect You to Die is James Bond meets MacGyver, where you try to gadget your way out of deathtraps (“Cut the wire!” “Which wire?”) by reaching out to manipulate and combine objects. It’s kooky and fun. It’s a Touch launch title.
  • VR Sports Challenge, a free pack-in with the Oculus Touch, gives you lots of little minigames based on real sports. Pass and shoot basketballs, throw and receive footballs, punch out angry hockey players and much more, with your real hands. Not bad, but leaves you wanting a full recreation of each sport. It’s free with Touch pre-orders, and will be out at launch.

Full disclosure: My wife works for Facebook, owner of Oculus, as a business-to-business video coordinator.

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