At E3 last week, we had the opportunity to take Elite for a test spin. Not only that, but we were given some time with, wait for it… the Oculus Rift version! Garrett and Bill were generous enough to let me take it for a spin since I had never tried the Oculus Rift prior to this, and there is only one word to describe the experience: MIND-BLOWING!
Let’s start with some of the basics of Elite, first off, our whole galaxy is simulated. The whole thing. Every star you see in the sky can be visited. It’s rather overwhelming, to be honest. One hundred billion star systems, over four hundred billion stars, everything orbiting and rotating as close to accurately as modern science and ambition will allow, this game serves up space opera with a healthy dose of galactic realism.
Then there are the controls, they had me set up with a matching flight stick and throttle. Now, I am no newbie to space sim games, I played the original Elite, plus all the Wing Commanders, and lots more, but this controller set up was badass! It also has a moderate learning curve, which I didn’t have time to learn, but I didn’t embarrass myself too badly, I only scraped against the side of the landing bay once, ala GalaxyQuest.
Then I was in open space. I pulled away from the space station a bit, to get some perspective, and, damn, it was huge. The detail so precise that you could see the shadow of my small ship playing over the surface of the base as I moved about.
It was at this point I started looking around me, and the Oculus Rift followed my every movement, panning about the cockpit and giving me instrument updates at a glance. I could even see my own hands on the controls, shifting and moving as I maneuvered about space. I was pretty astonished by this, but the best was still to come. The guys watching me told me to look behind me. I glanced back and saw the rest of the cockpit, etc. No, they said, really look behind you. So I pulled my chair out a bit and turned all the way around. There was the entire entry to the cockpit and the rest of the ship stretching out literally behind me. That was when I started drooling and babbling about my mind being blown. Everywhere I turned my gaze, the game and the Rift rendered everything I could and should see, in such a way that I felt that I was right there. The immersion was absolute, and, having experienced it, I now understand why they say the Oculus is the future of gaming, because it is.
Oh, then I crashed into something that I never noticed because I was TOO fascinated by the other cool things. Oops, first ship down.
Next we wanted to try some combat, so once again my skills were tested to the max, getting clear of the launch bay. This time I lasted long enough for the automatic warp engines to take over and send me on my way, at eleven times the speed of light, to a highly contested system. I arrived there as an undecided mercenary, both sides available for me to throw my weight behind. Noticing that the in-system government was communist, and having just watched Rocky IV, I decided to back the Federation guys.
Combat was easy to jump into and soon I was blasting away at enemy targets, and zipping around the furball. I guess my efforts weren’t too noticeable though, because most of the enemy ships chose to ignore me, at least until I got really close. Probably too close, actually, because when they turned their guns on me I got shredded. Warning klaxons braying, letting me know that the cockpit was now open to space, and I only had a set amount of air available to breathe. Plus, I lost missile lock ability when I lost my HUD. Still, I was undeterred and determined to get at least one kill out of this battle, so I picked an enemy ship that looked like it might blow soon, and dove at it like a falcon stooping on, uh… whatever birds falcons stoop on. A pigeon, maybe? This was one tough pigeon though, and it blew me out of the sky long before I could finish him off, ending my embarrassing bad dogfighting performance.
It all looked gorgeous though, and I was proud to die in such flamingly beautiful graphic splendor.