For years we’ve heard about virtual reality being the next frontier of video gaming. That future was convincingly telegraphed through a large number of game demos that illustrated just how VR could bring brand new experiences to our favorite entertainment medium. As exciting as these demonstrations were, the future of VR nevertheless felt like it was forever away. As time progressed and also the hardware behind these VR demos improved, both Oculus and Sony felt comfortable enough with their respective VR players – Rift and Morpheus – to announce they’re coming to shop racks in 2016. These quickly approaching launch dates place a bull’s-eye on E3 as the place we’d likely get our hands on with launch games for both platforms. This year’s show didn’t disappoint; Oculus and Sony brought a number of demos for games slated to launch in 2016. Microsoft also surprised showgoers with HoloLens demonstrations for Halo, Minecraft, and more – giving us a notion just how this headset’s augmented truth or “holograms” could apply to games. Here’s our report on exactly how all three hardware manufacturers performed at the show.
You won’t see Oculus Rift’s Toybox in our E3 Hot 50 list (as it isn’t truly a game), but it was among the coolest experiences at the show. The Toy Box shows precisely how intuitive the Oculus Touch controllers are, which had been announced the week before E3. Like Valve’s SteamVR controllers, you hold one in each hand, and both are tracked in three dimensions so your fingers can appear virtually in whatever application you are running. Both controllers have an analog stick, a couple of face buttons, and a triggers in the back side. Within a few minutes of using them, I was making fists, pointing, and utilizing the controllers to pick up items – ranging from lighters to laser guns – with ease. Outside of perhaps not feeling the objects in my hands, this experience seems normal. I threw balls accurately, carefully placed blocks on tall towers, used a remote control to drive a tank, and even had the precision to flip open a Zippo lighter, hold a firework’s fuse to it, hold back until it ended up being nearly fully burned out, and throw it at the Oculus agent who had been in the virtual area with me. The Toybox clearly revealed how the Touch controllers could connect with other game genres like first-person shooters. It was the most convincing VR demonstration I’ve seen, and it ended up being made in under half a year by an internal development team at Oculus.