HTC Vive: we tried the new version of the best virtual reality headset moment

If HTC smartphone side does not really sold us dreams this year, it was mainly to better showcase its flagship product of the moment, the HTC Vive, in his Pre version, ie an almost final version, as it will be marketed in the coming days. Let's break the suspense right away, the live promises to be the best virtual reality helmet this year.

For two or three people refractory to virtual reality, quickly recall what the HTC Vive. This is a virtual reality helmet, designed by HTC in partnership with Valve (the developers behind Steam). Similar to the Oculus Rift headset, the headset of Facebook, but which HTC has added THE characteristic that changes everything: it is possible to move in space, to ensure that his head movements and hand are taken into account. And that really changes everything.

This principle simply live, we already know well, since we have already tested twice in the past. What changes with this version is that it is an almost final version, a version that will be sold almost as is the general public in the month of April.

Small hardware changes ...

Overall, compared to earlier versions, it is primarily aesthetic and ergonomic changes. On the side of the helmet, it is now smaller, with refractive light sensor less present (the small white dots embedded in the helmet shell) an interchangeable strap and a strap system revised and corrected. The result ? While my thick glasses were compressed into the headset HTC Vive development - a prototype - I was much more comfortable in the final version. The helmet is undeniably lighter - and therefore more easily forgettable - and more comfortable.


Joysticks, also underwent a redesign sacred from the first prototypes. It's simple, it now looks like real levers. The sensors are integrated in much finer way and they have a plastic shell with very nice touch. Especially, the buttons are now arranged around very ergonomically.

There is this trigger under the handle, always enjoyable in shooters, a trackpad (the round), a button below the trackpad and a final falling under the index or middle finger. Add to that a force feedback and a total lack of son. Once immersed in a game, they are real natural extensions of the hand. HTC and Valve have done a great job on the design and handling.


Front. The large round button is a trackpad that can control the thumb, very accurate.

The trigger, the back of the joystick. 
The button on the side.... Who makes the game much more comfortable experience

And once in games then? What's up ? To be quite honest,

 I am quite unable to say whether there have been improvements in the screen or the image quality. In fact, what I remember, it's not at all the feeling on the material once it was over my head, but instead of the 20 minutes of virtual reality that I experienced. Suffice to say it's really good sign.

The cube on the top left of the image, enables the tracker movements of the user.


The main novelty of this new version is the "external" camera that can locate in reality once the helmet over his eyes. No way indeed to move from one reality to another abruptly when active this camera via a double pressure on a joystick button under the trackpad.

Area objects, people (it is possible to discern facial features and lip movements) and the environment then appear in all shades of green, superimposed on the environment of virtual reality. A green that echoes the HTC brand but also reminded me Matrix and columns of green digits of a virtual reality.

 I do not know if it's a wink, but the effect is extremely successful, bluffing and does not break the immersion. 

The reality is invited in virtual reality

This camera should allow both to reconnect with reality, but we can also assume that developers can exploit in one way or another in games. Speaking of games, however, HTC had two new titles to show. Job Simulator, first of all, is as a puzzle game where the player must perform basic actions series using joysticks. Is run a coffee, turn on your PC, print copies, transfer employees, throwing cups on its neighbors open space, etc. The second degree, highlighted by a very cartoon art direction, is pervasive and very successful.

The second title I was able to try a new demo shooter. Set on a space platform, the player must avoid the drone attacks that assail. The player is then equipped with two automatic laser guns brandished it at arms, John Woo. The first parts are easy, with one or two drones to face, we dodge stooping or doing shuffle. But soon things get tough with the arrival of five, six or even ten flying drones. To protect themselves, the player can wield a shield by putting a hand on her back and replace one of his two pistols by a reflector shield.

It's nag, replayability is surely too limited, but I wanted only one thing out of this demo, the remake for again the very real feeling to have laser guns in the hands me protected behind a shield. The game was very basic, but I think I never felt as exhilarating feeling in a video game. 

The best virtual reality helmet ... Alas, no headline for now

How not to be convinced by the live out of this new demo session? As it stands, the Vive is the virtual reality helmet the most promising of the moment. Immersive, light, beautiful, it is capable of supporting classic games (including Dangerous Elite), sitting on a chair and games where you can move in a given space. However, it remains a qu'épineuse question: will there be enough games upon its release, and the As of the year? Job Simulator or Fantastic Contraption will be sold automatically with the headset. But after ? There is always the same expectation of the killer app, this game will federate a wide audience around the helmet and slow in coming.

The live, this is the object that is undeniably like virtual reality. This is the second time I tested the headset and both times I leave enchanted, dazzled, amazed. I am not exaggerating, feelings - very real - are difficult to describe and understand better once the helmet on the head.

Still, if we now ask myself whether I'll buy one this year, I surely answer in the negative. At $ 799 (and at least as many euros, although it is not official yet) in addition to a powerful gaming PC and furthermore no real big game, I will wait for a price drop or second version. But damn, I sincerely hope that one of my friends quickly crack techies to go camping with him.

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