But what’s it like to play? We spent some time playing the top-rated HTC Vive games/experiences/whatever you want to call them, and here’s what we found:

Space Pirate Trainer

Space Pirate Trainer on the HTC Vive

Space Pirate Trainer has to be our favourite wave-based shooter available for the HTC Vive at the moment, and will take something special to knock it off the top spot. The idea of the game is fairly simple – armed with a combination of guns and shields, you have to take down increasingly difficult waves of flying robotic enemies.

We put the headset on and found ourselves on a huge open platform with a spaceship parked behind us – a pretty cool backdrop for a futuristic shooter. The graphics are impressive in Space Pirate Trainer and although it’s not quite life like, once the action starts you won’t even notice.

Looking down at our hands, we noticed that our controllers had been transformed into guns complete with five firing modes for different play styles. We had a shield too, but we had to physically reach behind our back (where we imagine it’d be stored) to grab it and activate it, and we had to perform the same action to put it back. Though it’s a relatively small detail, it’s the little ways that developers make you interact with the game that makes you believe that it’s ‘real’.

Once the game started, we completely forgot that we were in a room in an office in London – in our mind, we were on a different planet shooting floating robots, and it was amazing. The aiming took a little bit of getting used to but seeing the robots explode as we unleashed a barrage of bullets was exciting, and the fact that the robots can attack from all angles (including above you!) kept us on our toes and moving around the virtual space.

When the aliens returned fire time slowed down, allowing us to perform moves (in our mind) similar to Neo in that famous scene in The Matrix. It’s exhilarating, exciting and the increasing difficulty means you’ll keep coming back for another try.

Tiltbrush

Tiltbrush is a Google creation and offers something slightly different to the typical VR experience, but is exciting and fun nonetheless. There aren’t any enemies to battle or puzzles to solve in Tiltbrush – the only thing to do is draw.

However, it’s not just drawing on a piece of paper, it’s drawing in a three-dimensional space, allowing us to look around or even walk through our creations. The Vive controllers are transformed into a futuristic paintbrush and pallet, and we could browse the different menus, brushes and colours by swiping the touch-sensitive panel of the controller.

Drawing in 3D is an amazingly cool experience only improved by the selection of amazing brushes on offer, from Neon (or ‘Light’ as it’s called in-app) to Hypercolour and even fire. Many of the brushes on offer are animated which meant that once our drawing was complete, it looked ‘alive’ with pulsing electricity and mini fireworks firing into the virtual sky above us (or whatever else you can draw!). Even for those that can’t draw, it’s an amazingly fun experience and that reinvents something we all love deep down and brings back some of the joy of drawing and colouring.

The Blu

The Blu: Reef Migration

The Blu is without a doubt one of the most breath-taking and frankly beautiful VR experiences we’ve come across using the HTC Vive, and is one that we imagine won’t be beaten for quite some time. There are three different experiences within The Blu; Whale encounter, Reef Migration and Luminous Abyss.

In terms of sheer beauty, the Reef Migration experience is the best – we found ourselves at what looked like the Great Barrier Reef in clear water with the sun shining high above us. A variety of tropical fish swam past us and when we reached out with the controller to touch them, they swam away – as any fish would.

The fish were soon replaced by a bloom of Jellyfish (yes, that’s the right term to use!) that looked both detailed and vibrant, along with two or three frankly huge jellyfish that swam above our heads. While the detail was incredible, what’s more incredible is the sheer sense of scale that the game achieves – we felt anxious as the jellyfish, which was easily 10 times our size, swam above our heads even though we knew that it wasn’t real. It’s an incredible experience and is one that is very hard to put into words.

We won’t spoil the other two experiences, but Whale Encounter transports you to a shipwreck on the edge of an underwater cliff and Luminous Abyss places you at the bottom of the ocean in the dark armed only with a torch for light. Both are equally as enjoyable as Reef Migration, but for different reasons. The Blu is in our opinion the greatest VR experience available right now, and we’d recommend trying it if you get the chance.

HTC Vive: Specs

  • High resolution 2160x1200 display
  • 90Hz
  • More than 70 sensors, tracks movement to 1/10 degree
  • Bluetooth connectivity for notifications
  • Front-facing camera
  • Base stations, allowing you to walk around in VR
  • Controllers that allow you to interact with environments
  • High resolution 2160x1200 display
  • 90Hz
  • More than 70 sensors, tracks movement to 1/10 degree
  • Bluetooth connectivity for notifications
  • Front-facing camera
  • Base stations, allowing you to walk around in VR
  • Controllers that allow you to interact with environments

OUR VERDICT

The HTC Vive is an amazingly capable virtual reality headset that provides an experience unrivalled by its competitors with room-scale tracking and bespoke handheld controllers. Tracking is instant and when combined with a high-resolution 90Hz display provides a smooth experience that’s easy on the eye and looks ‘real’. Now, while the HTC Vive is no doubt an amazing virtual reality headset, we couldn’t quite decide on a verdict. With that being said, we’ve decided to split it into three different verdicts for different kinds of people:

For PC gamers: If you’ve already got a fairly capable PC, an interest in gaming and the money to afford the HTC Vive, we’d recommend investing. It’s exciting, new and provides something unmatched by the likes of standard gaming and watching TV. Being able to walk around and directly interact the virtual environment around you is amazing, and beats the experience provided by many of its competitors. It’s worth having a little think about where you’d play before purchasing though, as the Vive is best used in large, clutter-free spaces.

For casual users: If you’re a casual VR user or gamer, it’s a little more difficult. Yes, the experience is amazing but you need to consider whether you’ll be using it often enough to justify the £599 price tag and the (possible) required computer hardware upgrades. If time isn’t an issue, we’d recommend the PlayStation VR headset – the £350 headset and ~£200 console are all you need to get started, which is cheaper than the HTC Vive system itself.

For first-time users: If you’re a person that has never used VR before and doesn’t already have a decent PC, you may want to hold fire – at least until you’ve tried it. While VR is exciting, it’s not for everybody so we’d recommend going to one of the stores listed at the top of the article to try it out for yourself before you buy. It’s such a personal experience that no amount of reading will give you a fully accurate idea of what it’s like to use. It’s also worth keeping the price in mind - £759 may not seem too expensive to high-end PC gamers as they already have a powerful enough PC to run VR games, but those that don’t should consider that they’ll either have to upgrade their current PC or buy a brand new VR-capable PC. Either way, it’s something that’ll cost a fair bit of money and is worth debating beforehand.