Depends who you trust.
The Oculus Rift is proving to be about as divisive as virtual reality itself. Tech critics love the headset, but reviews from mainstream outlets are far less flattering.
That’s pretty much on par with consumer sentiment at this point. Hard core gamers, early adopters, and younger audiences are excited about the potential of the technology, but there are wide chasms between those groups and the rest of the world who don’t see a lot of reason to plunk down $600 for an Oculus Rift.
While the Rift has been widely anticipated for years now, there aren’t as many reviews as you’d expect for a device that has been this broadly promoted. That’s primarily due to ongoing supply constraints, a result of Facebook’s insufficient manufacturing pipeline. Oculus sent just a limited number of units to critics, focusing its efforts instead on fulfilling pre-orders.
So ultimately, the critical consensus may come down to which outlets you trust the most.
Wired was one of the biggest fans of the Rift, giving the device a nine out of 10 score. While it points out the best looking games are absent from the launch lineup, Wired concedes those would be coming soon. Furthermore, while the price is indeed high, Wired notes, early adopters can consider it an investment in the future.
“This is an astonishingly well-made device,” according to the tech glossy. “It delivers rock-solid, comfortable VR, and it does so easily. You’ll be able to put this thing on anyone and show them the magic.”
Engadget, also, had kind things to say about Rift while also echoing the general criticisms about price, the need for an ultra-high end PC, and the potential for motion sickness.
While advising most buyers would be better off waiting for a lower price point and some generational improvements, the tech-focused blog also believes early adopters would be more than pleased with the system.
“After spending a week with the Oculus Rift, I have no doubt that its approach to virtual reality is indeed the real deal,” writes Engadget reviewer Devindra Hardawar. “It’s well built and easy to set up, and there are already a few games and apps that’ll make VR believers out of the most ardent naysayer.”
On the other end of the spectrum was The Wall Street Journal, bluntly declaring the Rift “isn’t ready for the mainstream” in its headline.
Describing it as “awkward” and “isolating,” author Geoffrey Fowler outlines issues with setting the system up, arguing the Rift’s video game-centric (nearly game-exclusive) current catalog is insufficient for most consumers.
“Oculus Rift is the 2016 product you hope your neighbor buys,” Fowler writes. “You’ll definitely want to try it, but there’s little reason to own one unless you’re a serious gamer. … I believe the Oculus experience will make quantum leaps in fun and usefulness in the years ahead. … But I don’t believe that this particular Rift hardware will last. New capabilities will require more-powerful processors and higher-resolution headsets—someday hopefully ones that work without wires. If you buy a Rift today, chances are you’ll be replacing it in the near future.”
The New York Times seemed to agree, admitting the Rift is “brimming with potential,” but “clunky”. And like the Journal, the Times is disappointed with the initial software catalog.
“With about 30 games and a few apps available at Rift’s introduction, there isn’t much to do with the system yet,” writes Brian Chen, the lead consumer tech writer for the Times. “Oculus will eventually need a larger, more diverse set of content to transcend its initial audience of gamer geeks.”
Not every non-tech publication was bearish on the Rift, though. Our corporate cousins at Time were enchanted with the headset, saying despite its limitations, the Rift delivers on the promise of virtual reality.
“Entering the Rift is expensive, unnatural, and utterly addicting,” writes Time‘s Lisa Eadicicco. “Virtual reality is often talked about as a revolution, a paradigm shift, a really, really big deal. Using Oculus Rift proves this kind of talk isn’t hype.”