I got an Oculus Rift headset around late December last year. Why haven't I talked about it? Because their is nothing noteworthy to talk about. Even though VR has been out for years, I still hit the same issues I heard about back when it first started. There are no noteworthy games, the field is still dominated by shooters, and any big games released are just VR versions of non-VR games. I have seen some games here-and-there that I might want to play, but I still haven't felt that any of them are the definitive VR experience. That is where Beat Saber comes in.
One red stick, one blue stick, a bunch of blocks moving towards you with either arrows or dots on them, mines, obstacle walls, and a song. That is the game in a nutshell, but it feels like so much more. In Beat Saber, you use the two light saber-esque objects to swipe at blocks coming towards you. and all of it plays to the beat of a song. That's it. But that is all it took for me to see just how great VR can be.
One criticism I have for the VR space that I left out is that the majority of VR games are glorified tech demos. And that is what this game is. A glorified tech demo. But the thing about this 'tech demo' is that it has a lot of replay value that few others have. For starters, the game is a rhythm game. I listen to songs I like multiple times (not in one sitting though). If a song is good to you, then you will most likely listen to it again. Now take that and add a fun element to it, and you have rhythm games. So right off the bat you have a game with some level of replay value. But the game only has ten built-in songs, so what if you don't find a song you like? Well, even though the game will have a level editor in the future, the modding community has already made an online playlist full of user-created levels. So if the main songs don't meet your fancy (which they didn't for me), then you can most likely find something that appeals to your tastes in music. Now I will say that there are more dumb songs than I would like, but there are still songs in there for everyone. In the end, the game has replay value, something I still haven't really found in VR.
The next thing I found great with the game is how technically simple it is. My play space is barely larger than the minimum requirements, but I never felt constricted by the small space when playing the game. With other VR games I have played, I feel I need the most amount of space to feel comfortable, but with this game I didn't feel like I needed that space. The other great technical aspect of the game is that you have to face forward. Whenever I play other games, I would play with one camera in front of me and one camera behind to allow myself 360-degree tracking. The issue with that is I never had great tracking. Oculus recommends a third sensor, and for good reason. The tracking sucks when the cameras are at opposites, but when they are side-by-side the tracking is better. The issue with that though is then I can't turn around without the tracking going on the fritz. Fortunately for this game, you only have to face forward, and so far I haven't had any major tracking issues. As for the game itself, I find that to be simple as well. The only buttons being used are to either select things in menus or pause the game. That's it. The game is played with the movement of your hands. Not only does this make the game simple to pick up for myself or anyone else that wants to play the game, it also dodges some of the negative aspects of VR. You don't have to deal with moving around with a poor-but-necessary teleportation system, and movement instead of buttons is healthier because you're moving ( I am not advocating this game as a way of exercise though). VR is a difficult thing to set up and manage, so having a game that requires so little from you both hardware and software-wise means a lot for me, as for I want a game to be simple and worth it if I have to set up all of this stuff just to play (I don't have any cameras mounted).
But the question is, is it worth it? Well, I wouldn't go through all of this writing just to say it's boring. The game is a blast. I have always drummed my fingers against a table to the beat of a song, so taking that and making it a game is a lot of fun. I know some people like to think this game as a Star Wars thing, but I imagine the game like using drum sticks. Plus, the game isn't a shooter, which is already a win in my book.
I was originally going to title this 'A Game I Recommend,' but I felt that this game was more to me. This game saved VR for me. After I got my VR set and tried some games with it, I didn't touch it until now. Now, I want to re-arrange my room so I can play this game more and more games like this. I guess this blog can speak to VR rhythm games as a whole, but it's Beat Saber that saved VR for me. It's the only VR game I have played that I want to go back to (that and maybe Superhot VR), and it's the only VR game I have played that can really stand with the other great games I have played this year.
What are the games that saved VR for you? Put them in the comments below. And of course, thank you all for reading.