So while attending E3 this year I had the chance to check out the amazing War Thunder from from Gaijen entertainment in vivid amazing VR, with the help of and HTC Vive and the amazing Warthog Hotas from Thrustmaster. I had never experienced VR before, having missed the whole wave of VR. Both because of price, and because of generally not liking to adopt things before they get to their full and ripe potential. (remember Windows Vista? I was day on on that you would stop early adopting too).
So this was really a cold entry in to the VR sphere for me. I sat down and put headset fully expecting to be immersed in to an amazing world of flying airplanes and scenery and other random crap that flew up to me and made me want to throw myself back like in all those cool first time VR videos. I did not have that type of reaction at all, but I still appreciated it. Two things really prevented it from being that amazing moment for one, the first of which was partly my fault. I didnt have my glasses on when we started, making a lot of the games menus blurry and unreadable. The second issue was that I was not wearing a headset. Lack of sound really takes away from the experience of being in VR.
Its worth mentioning that I know my way around a HOTAS (Hands On Throttle-And-Stick) from years of playing MS flight sims and a genuine interest in aviation. Which meant that going in I was already probably better prepared for this than most would have been. I found my hands quite easily rested on the stick and throttle combination that the Warthog offered, and I quickly found all of the major flight surface controls even with the headset on. Initial problems were solved easily (it feels odd to know more about flying than the developer of the game). I was able to set all of the flight control surfaces to neutral on the HOTAS and get flying with any major difficulties.
After starting a few missions and getting a good feel for the game, I really felt like VR was a huge boon for the game. Instead of looking left and right by hitting the 4 way hat on the top of joystick which is the most common way of doing so in most sims, I was able to just look up. This was pretty amazing, and I found fairly few issues with the game itself in VR beyond some of the text not being readable to start off with. The blurriness issue was fixed when another member of the games dev team told me to put my glasses back on. Finally able to see the text in menus I felt a lot better about being able to actually see the instruments that are needed for flying (you know like the altimeter?) and got my self out there in the sky to do some flying.
Flying felt pretty good, the controls quite responsive, and although there is no one to one mapping with the Warthog, the screen did sort of reflect the changes in the sticks location. Since they aren’t mapped 1 to 1 like some other flight games are I did have some issues with the disconnect between my mind and body, and at one point the game did crash leaving me in darkness, and I opted to not have the headset on for sound since I was working in tandem with Rae and needed to hear her directions for filming and what not.
War Thunder is a huge game, with a ton of planes that recently passed 100 use able vehicles, so I only got to see a tiny tiny slice of it, but the missions that I did get to see looked fantastic, and I only had a few small problems with the Vive itself. I was often able to see the swirls of the lenses in the vive, which sort of threw me out of feeling like I was there in the plane, and at a few spot the whole thing crashed leaving me in a disconcerting darkness. Other than that the headset fit my rather large head quite well, and I had no issues with fit or comfort.
Over all I was fairly impressed with my first time in VR. Head tracking is almost flawless, and since this was a full production Vive unit it also came with the two small sensors which are placed on walls around the pc in use to give you mostly flawless head tracking and the ability to stand up and sit down or move around as you want to. This ability to move is not very useful when you are in a small single seat airplane, so again I really felt like maybe this wasn’t the best first VR experience for me. This had very little to do with War Thunder and very much to do with the fact that it just isnt the best use of VR out there. Even so it was still great fun, and if you are a flying simulator enthusiast I recommend taking a look at this set up.