Ever since I first cracked open the box of my Oculus Quest review unit a few weeks ago I’ve loved using it daily. Getting in and out of VR has never been easier and finally there’s a device that delivers high-quality experiences of the same or similar caliber that we’ve seen on headsets like Rift, PSVR, and Vive over the years. And it’s all delivered without any wires or external tracking sensors. But what the headset is sorely lacking (and that doesn’t appear to be changing by launch next week) is a dedicated social VR experience.
On Oculus Go you’ve got Rooms and Venues to hang out with friends and on Oculus Rift there’s a robust and customizable Home system plus Facebook Spaces. As it stands, Quest doesn’t have any of that. And while a free third-party social app from an indie developer isn’t quite the same as a dedicated, default, social hub it’s the next best thing. For that reason Rec Room has a big gap to fill in the Quest launch lineup.
After spending a few hours with Rec Room on Oculus Quest playing paintball, dodgeball, paddleball, and a litany of custom user-created rooms I can confidently say that it absolutely exceeds my expectations. Check out the footage of those stock game modes below:
The folks at Against Gravity are simply wizards. Rec Room isn’t the most visually intensive game out there obviously, but it’s basically an MMO. You’ve got cross-platform multiplayer across over a million VR headsets and a variety of platforms ranging from PSVR, PS4, PC, SteamVR, and Oculus Home versions of the app with the ability to create and play content from other users across those same devices as well. The sheer ambition and scale alone is mind-boggling, especially when you consider VR isn’t even necessary anymore to play Rec Room.
Now you put it on a headset without wires and without the need for a dedicated PC or game console and things get really interesting. Rec Room in VR is now totally portable. Using a WiFi tether on your smartphone you could theoretically enter the digital world within minutes without even needing to setup an external tracking system. Prior to Rec Room on Quest you’d at least need a few power outlets, a PC or PS4, and a tethered headset to make that happen.
And above all else, the gameplay holds up. Even with just four front-facing tracking cameras on the front of the Quest itself I was able to play shooters, throwing games, exploration games, and more with very few issues. Reaching behind my head to throw the dodgeball was a little finicky, for example, but I’d say the tracking was perfect 95% of the time and the added freedom more than makes up for that remaining 5% in a game like this.
There are two major downsides to Rec Room on Quest though, as it stands currently. Firstly, the entirety of the game isn’t going to be available at launch. Only a handful of the activities will be there on day one (that means no Rec Royale, bowling, laser tag, quest missions, etc) but they’re aiming to get them all added over time. Furthermore, about 25% of all player-created rooms won’t work, but luckily the vast majority of them will. You can see me playing a couple of the more popular custom rooms in the video above.
The other big downside is that in the port to Quest, it has suffered a small amount in terms of performance and fidelity. I noticed some frame drops in more intense rooms, such as a lot of the combat-heavy PvP areas, although overall it does feel very smooth. My hands looked a little jittery with quick movements sometimes too. Additionally, the foveated rendering on Quest felt like it was kicking into overdrive in Rec Room and was often extremely noticeable within my immediate vision and not just in my peripherals. Corners had to be cut to get it working well and they’ve done a great job, but it’s worth explaining that this isn’t an identical 1:1 straight port and is a tiny bit different from a user experience perspective.
All that being said, Quest is without a doubt my new favorite platform to play Rec Room. Even without full support for all activities I’d rather enjoy the social VR sessions Rec Room offers without cords and without location restrictions.
When new users open up their Oculus Quest for the first time and put it on their head, Rec Room should be one of the very first things they download (especially since it’s free). It’s a gateway to the wide world of social VR and is full of hundreds of games to play while connecting with others. It’s a great showcase of the power that VR affords and truly gives off a great first impression for users of all ages.
Worth noting, Rec Room is not the only app of this type hitting Quest at launch. There’s also VRChat of course, which is very similar, but is a much more resource intensive game with severe limitations on what’s possible for the Quest port, as well as an often less family friendly atmosphere. On the flip side, Rec Room has the pick up and play personality and easy to learn building tools that make it feel more like a made-for-VR version of Roblox.
Do you plan on downloading Rec Room an hopping in for free on Quest? Let us know down in the comments below!