Oculus Rift: ‘Remember: no pterodactyl arms’
Hands on with the latest in virtual reality
A gamer uses an Oculus Rift headset in the Oculus booth during the annual E3 2016 gaming conference in Los Angeles this week. Photograph: Getty Images
“Remember: no pterodactyl arms.”
With those wise words ringing in my ears, I put on the Rift and suddenly I’m in a virtual world, clinging on to the side of a rock face. To my left and right are beautiful landscapes and water far below me as the rock face falls away. It’s breathtaking, realistic, and utterly terrifying.
Did I mention I’m afraid of heights?
I look down and there are two disembodied hands floating in front of me: mine, thanks to the Oculus Touch controllers in my hands. The aim of Crytek’s The Climb is, as you’d expect, to climb. You can’t just hang there, because as in real life, your hands will get tired and you’ll fall off.
Or at least I imagine that’s how it would go; I’ve never climbed a cliff face in my life, and being honest, I’m not keen to see how the real-word experience measures up.
You have to keep a close eye on your wrists - an indicator turns from blue to red as your grip fades - and keep your palms chalked up so you don’t lose your hold. To get a grip on the rock, you need to get close enough to grab it, and that means physically moving yourself closer. This is no longer a sit-down game.
You need to make wide movements at times, hence the pterodactyl warning. There are jumps to be made that will require quite a bit of coordination. The Climb is physically demanding.
The trick I find is to keep looking up, or sideways to the next hand grip. That strategy fails when I find I have to move downwards to get past an overhang. I look down and see the rocks below me, and for a moment I freeze. I can feel myself sweating trying to get the proper grip to move off the rock I’m currently clinging on to for dear life. It sounds utterly daft, but that’s how realistic The Climb feels. The rational part of you knows this is a game and not actualy real, but there’s a loud voice drowning out the sensible one, screaming “Don’t move! Look at the drop! LOOK AT IT!”
At one point I pull myself up on to a platform and pause for a breather. I make the mistake of looking down and my stomach tries to drop through the floor.
You can fall off - numerous times. Seeing the ground lurching up at you, I’m not going to lie, is more than a bit frightening. Occasionally you can scramble at the rock and get a handhold to stop your descent. But the environment goes grey as you plummet to your death, so if you get to that point, there’s no saving you.
There are some oddities that will rip you out of the virtual world though. You can’t see through things so if your head hits a rock the screen will blank out until you crane your neck out of its way.
But overall, The Climb is a good introduction to virtual worlds. And who knows, enough time on it may cure my fear of heights.