Thoughts On: The Quest 2
In 2006, I was 12 years old and obsessed with getting the Wii. It was all I could think about. Every day after school I'd read the same exact IGN review and watch the exact same Twilight Princess trailer on a then young video platform called YouTube, without fail, until I finally managed to get one.
Completely unrelated, but it would be another 13 years until I was diagnosed with ADHD.
Two years after that, I'd watch this blonde guy play Resident Evil 4 VR, and, after finding out that I could get an Oculus Quest 2 from my homie Chosa for half off, I was doing the same thing all over again - looking up articles about it at work. Figuring out what games would be worth playing, and so on. New coping mechanisms, same habits.
I bring this up because I haven't touched a VR system in my life. I never used the cardboard stuff, and I'm a filthy Mac user so I wasn't going to grab a Valve Index or anything like that. It dawned on me that VR would be the freshest experience I've had with videogames as an interactive form since 2006. And now I've spent time experiencing it.
So? Is VR the next revolution? Is it going to replace "flat-screen games," as enthusiasts call them? Are we about to get Ready Player One'd?
This was an extremely interesting time to get a Quest 2. It arrived at my place 2 days after Mark "Totally Not an Evil Dude" Zuckerburg announced that Facebook would call itself Meta. In fact, I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to be calling my "Oculus Quest" a "Meta Quest" (I will not be doing that).
Zucky spent an entire press conference talking about how the Metaverse is the future of everything, and demonstrated this by presenting a bunch of incredibly cringy videos showcasing people using the infinite imagination powered by computers to...work in fake offices and stuff.
The worst part about Zuckerburg wanting to be at the forefront of VR is that he's going to use his infinite amount of money and spice-less personality to make it as bland and silicon valley-flavored as possible. It's a turn off to half of the people I already know as a result. No one that isn't already a radicalized right-winger wants their life to be run by Facebook. This is exactly what went through my mind when I had to use my dummy FB account to log into my Oculus when I first booted it up. And that sucks, because the headset itself is, in my untrained opinion, a technical marvel.
When I was able to get it on my head. My first few minutes with the Quest were spent struggling to figure out how to put it on. It turns, I have a big-ass head! The straps had to be loosened pretty much all the way for it to fit my over-the-top noggin. After that I had to take it on and off and on again until the screens finally unblurred, revealing a peaceful Island cove and a screen beckoning me to begin exploring.
So explore I did. Kind of.
One thing I wasn't expecting the Quest to do the first time I used it was remind me how poor I've been for so much of my life.
I've lived in the same apartment I've always lived in for 14 years now. It's in a nice neighborhood, but my dad never cared that we were growing out of it - he was more than happy to stay there as long as the rent was low and he could do the absolute minimum amount of work to support us living in it. When I suggested that we go dutch and at least move towards renting a bigger home, he took such offense to the idea that he ran home to his family in Nebraska, leaving me alone to support my disabled mom and a sister still in school.
I've had the same room for that same amount of time. It's small, but I've done a lot to make it cozy. The Quest does not want you to play it in a cozy space. After setting up the Guardian system, I was asked to draw the boundaries of my play space, where I could move around in the virtual worlds it wanted to whisk me away to. I thought I had enough space in my own room.
I do not.
My first few hours with the system were soured by me barely making a move before the boundaries I set would grow red, reminding me that I'm about to bump into my bed, or my desk, or a wall. It was frustrating, both because it pulled me out of the experience that I was supposed to be immersed in, and because it reminded me that I failed to move my family into a bigger place, which was my 2021 New Year's Resolution.
I decided to move into the living room, and finally had some space to breathe after shoving the table out of the way. It works, but it's one more step to take before I can start playing, and it also leaves me vulnerable to being told how weird I look by my mom and sister as I flail about - stinging barbs that I was willing to put up with for the sake of this review.
I don't bring this up just to turn this into a weird sob story about my life; I genuinely wonder how much you might lose if you can't use a Quest 2 in a wide space. Some experiences are just fine in a standing position. But some of the magic that I'll soon be describing is slightly lost when the walls of reality close in on you. Literally.
Anyways, then I got to be Neo and I didn't care anymore.
Superhot is one of the greatest games ever made, a puzzle game that lets you feel cool killing dudes while also making you feel bad about it. You could even say that Superhot is the most innovative shooter I've played in years, but I won't say that.
What I will say is that if Superhot is great, then Superhot VR is transcendental. I am lucky that it was the first VR game I chose to play, because it instantly sold me on the concept. When I first put the Quest on my head, I still felt like I was effectively interfacing with a bunch of screens, just ones that were floating in the air. Superhot VR took me to the third dimension of VR with its mechanics. It was simple things, like punching a guy, or spawning me into a level where the enemies are behind me, or even dropping my gun and having to grab it again. But it was enough to make me realize what I had on my hands - or rather, in my hands. Twisting my body to dodge bullets and hearing them whizz past me, reaching out on my tip-toes to grab a shotgun in midair before turning around and blasting a goon was enough to make me realize that I was in a new realm of interactivity in videogames. I'm using a lot of words, but I still don't know if I'm doing a good job of emphasizing how exciting it was to experience.
What wasn't exciting was how much of a number it did on me physically.
Being clear: the Quest has not made me motion sick in any capacity. This is because I'm a freak. It's the same reason why I acclimated to a Moonlander Ergo Keyboard in less than 48 hours. My brain can't handle two people talking at once, but it can pick up moving in a stationary position in VR no problem.
That said, I've only played the Oculus with my contacts on so far and folks, what in the hell? I know Colorado is already a dry state, but something about putting this thing on makes it feel like I'm in a desert. I had to pause in the middle of playing two days into my time with the system so I could take off the headset and dry off the ghibli-level blobs of tears that were streaming down my face. I've been making adjustments since, but it's only marginally improved.
I don't know what's causing it - maybe I'm wearing the headset wrong, maybe I just need to get used to it, but regardless, I'm surprised that this is what's getting me and not, you know, participating in a VR rollercoaster or whatever. Edit: I got the Glasses Spacer working and now I feel no eye strain whatsoever, it's massive improvement and I can play with zero uncomfortableness. Guess my contacts were the problem!
Okay so let's talk about
This game is what made me curious about the Quest in the first place. Resident Evil 4 is probably one of the games I've finished most, outside of Ocarina of Time and Shadow of the Colossus. I know it like the back of my hand, so I was interested to see how much VR would update the experience for me.
Turns out, the answer is a lot!
Despite being a seasoned RE4 vet, right down to trying my hand speedrunning it for a bit, RE4VR kicked my ass for the first couple of hours. The opening set-piece, getting hounded by enemies in the first village, was overwhelming instead of familiar. Any confidence I had from previous playthroughs meant nothing as I panicked whilst attempting to reload my handgun and aim it at the chainsaw dude rushing at me. The audio in Resident Evil has always been great, but it provides a newfound sense of dread when the sounds of enemies around you are literally an indicator of enemies all around you.
I got the hang of it, eventually. And I've ended up in awe at the fact that Capcom was able to somehow make RE4 fresh for me once again, after playing it so many times. The physical act of dodging out of the way of axes, pulling the pins of grenades to throw them, or even yanking a bear trap open to release a certain wolf, all add a fresh coat of paint on top of a game that's now old enough to have a Sweet 16. And though I've read people saying that it's not the prettiest looking game on the Quest 2, you could have fooled me, because for me it all feels real, and my flinches, jumps, and sometimes actual shouts, are all proof of that. I can't imagine what a better looking game will do to me, but I'm eager to find out.
Anyways, back to the Wii.
My mom, for all intents and purposes, does not know what a videogame is. The extent of her lexicon is "nintendo, playstation, mario," and "save so you can come eat dinner." Despite this, my mom probably played Wii Sports more than anyone else in my family. She hit tennis balls like they owed her money, and I had to temper her overzealousness by reminding her to put the Wii Remote's wrist strap on.
This was the beginning and ending of my mom's interactive electronic career, until this past week. I put on a walking tour of Shinjuku from YouTube VR, and then beckoned her over. It blew her mind. She waved at people, pointed to the places we saw when we were in Japan a few years ago, and once again I had to physically hold her back so that she wouldn't break our TV. When she finally took the thing off after a few minutes, she said "we need to spend a whole day doing this!" I think that's pretty cool. It takes a lot to get my mom interested in tech-related stuff, but the Quest caught her attention immediately, to the point that she's telling her own friends to come over and try it out. There's potential here, again, in the same way that the Wii broke a lot of barriers for videogames and the casual crowd. And on top of that, the Quest controllers are intuitive in the same way, letting my mom point and click at the screen without fiddling with too many buttons.
Alright, this is getting way too long. But that's my time with the Quest 2. It will not change the world, I don't think, not any time soon. There are too many caveats, from Facebook's involvement to the way it still makes people sick to the ever-changing technology itself. But it most definitely converted me into a VR Enthusiast. I'm actually keeping an eye out for upcoming games now, and a few of the ones I've played will probably show up on my GOTY list next month - shout out to Until You Fall, an absolute BANGER that had me posing and slashing like the anime dude I always wanted to be when I was 13 years old.
I honestly think the Quest 2 is worth picking up, even if Facebook sucks ass, which it does. If you're even a little interested in VR, it's without a doubt the easiest way to get into it - no wires or computers required.