Oculus Touch: Rift’s controllers give VR a whole new dimension

Being late to the game never looked so good
Oculus Touch hands on

The Oculus Rift headset has been a solid piece of VR tech but also a slight disappointment, since the bundled Xbox One controller has felt like a limitation. It's fun, but not as immersive as when using room-tracking tech like the HTC Vive.

Thankfully that will all change once Oculus Touch finally launches on 6 December. There may be some small last-minute tweaks, but during developer conference Oculus Connect 3 we got to play with what should be pretty much the final product.

Essential guide: All you need to know about Oculus Touch

The hardware hasn't changed much on the outside since we last used Touch despite going through many iterations in development. The half-moon design has stayed along with the three buttons on each controller. You can also still do pointing and thumbs-up motions as the sensors are able to pick up the slightest movements. I found this out during my demo of Ready at Dawn's Lone Echo which involved using my index finger to 'press' a virtual button down until it lit up completely.

The full range of buttons include a clickable thumb stick, a trigger for your forefinger and a touchpad button for the three remaining fingers. There's also a strap in case things get dicey in-game – after all, you don't want to throw your new controller at the computer.

The sensors were on point. In the early days it didn't feel as intuitive – I'd be able to hit targets sometimes, but then the aim would veer off despite pointing a gun at an unmoving object. In comparison, it now feels like tracking has improved drastically. During shooters like Artika.1 and Robo Recall, I was able to point the gun and accurately fire off headshots.

There were moments, however, where grabbing a holstered gun off my back proved more difficult than I anticipated. Holstering in the front was fine. This could be an issue with the games, or, more obviously, the sensor placement. An extra $79 sensor placed in a spot that can better track your movements would be helpful here.

Oculus Touch games

While there weren't too many games when we first tried Touch, the short shooter demos like Bullet Train and social experiment Toybox were still fun. That's not the case any longer as Oculus now has a full line-up of Touch games – many of which we've been lucky enough to try out.

We've already mentioned two shooters above and the space opera adventure Lone Echo,but the latter title involves a bit more than shooting bad guys. Rather you're using your hands to manoeuvre around zero gravity space. If you've played Adr1ft that should sound familiar – except you've been using a gamepad. With the Touch controllers, you can grab walls to propel yourself forward or use thrusters to gently grab onto handholds and prevent yourself drifting off into space.

Must read list: The best Oculus Rift games

Superhot is another game I finally got to try, and I can see it being as close as we may get for now to VR's "killer app". The Touch controllers are working at their finest here as you swoop, swipe punches and reach for weapons in this weird, time-bending FPS puzzle.

Then there's multiplayer, artsy spray painting game Kingspray, which lets you tag walls with graffiti using the Touch controllers. You can grab objects to throw around for fun, stand on and even take photos of your creations to share, all done through Touch. The buttons are programmed with a lot of corresponding actions so it was hard to remember what button to press during our demo, but like HTC Vive's Tiltbrush, it probably won't take long to get used to.

For something completely different, Square Enix's VR manga experience Project Hikari is also coming to Oculus with Touch support. While you're not doing much – you only need one Touch controller – it's still an incredibly immersive experience. You could probably opt to use a gamepad as well for Hikari but it's oddly satisfying using Touch to peek inside comic panels. Even the act of turning a page with the controllers felt pretty incredible.

Early verdict

I was initially skeptical about Oculus' release plans for Touch but now I'm duly impressed. It seems like the long game the company has played may just pay off.

However, totalling up the cost of Touch with the Oculus Rift headset and an extra $79 sensor for room tracking breaks the bank even more than Vive. This was to be expected, though, and as annoying as it is I don't think it will stop many from throwing down the money.

Honestly, it may be worth it as well, with the kinds of games releasing on the Oculus platform. Valve and HTC have a hefty library but not many are nearly as polished as the titles you can find in the Oculus Store. And with the might of Facebook's wallet backing the game developers, it's not hard to see why. Now, if only December could get here faster so we can really put Oculus Touch to the test…

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