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The newest HTC Vive, spotted at CES in Las Vegas last week.
The newest HTC Vive, on display at CES in Las Vegas earlier this month.

The HTC Vive is coming to consumers soon, but some members of the media got to try out a handful of games being built for the virtual reality headset at an event this week in Seattle.

The overall reaction from IGN, Ars Technica and others points to a launch library full of great games and some welcome improvements to the consumer version of the hardware.

The event this week was all about the Vive’s game lineup and how those games run on HTC’s headset, which allows users more 3D motion thanks to dual “Lighthouse” trackers. But what exactly is a game is a little blurry in a virtual reality environment.

Sure, there’s the space sim Elite: Dangerous and the horror shooter Arizona Sunshine, but there’s also Job Simulator and Google’s Tilt Brush, which may not be the kind of games you expect to be playing in virtual reality.

IGN has the best writeup of all the games. The most interesting one seems to be Budget Cuts, which may have the most boring name but looks to be a fun-filled spy thriller VR game inspired by Portal. And IGN’s Mitch Dyer said “Arizona Sunshine makes you feel bad ass” and is “ridiculously satisfying.”

Overall, the games seems polished and took good advantage of the Vive’s bundled controllers, which are specially made for VR, and tracking around a room. Oculus has a similar product coming down the pipeline, but its controllers won’t be ready when the Rift ships in March. Instead, the Rift ships with an Xbox One controller.

The HTC Vive controller are specially designed to interact with the virtual environment
The HTC Vive controller are specially designed to interact with the virtual environment

However, it’s not just the games that members of the media got to spend time with; they also got a good idea of the hardware consumers will get in April when pre-orders start to ship.

Perhaps the coolest hardware development is the new front-facing camera that enables the “chaperone” feature, which shows your a rough, bluish outline of the objects closest to you.

GeekWire got to test chaperone mode at CES earlier this year, but reviewers got a little more time with it this week and it held up well during testing. The feature is practically required for a headset that allows people to walk around a room while wearing it, and the chaperone will automatically engage if a person or pet walks too close to you during gameplay.

The Lighthouse sensors also hold up to extended gameplay. The sensors use two sets of laser set up in different locations in the room to track movement, enabling deeper 3D gameplay elements than the Oculus Rift.

And thanks to a brighter screen with less motion blur, many (but not all), found the consumer version of HTC Vive to be largely void of motion sickness problems found in the Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard.

However, the Vive’s hardware may still require some refinement. Ars writer Sam Machkovech said the velcro headstrap on the Vive felt cheap compared to the Rift’s strap. And cords that attached the Vive to the PC were also an issue, in that they both felt bulky and could lead to some tangled feet if you’re doing a lot of turning around in your virtual world.

HTC Vive preorders start on Feb. 29. Pricing has not yet been announced. The kit will ship with the VR headset, controllers and dual Lighthouse system. It will also need a pretty powerful computer to power the virtual environments.

Note: Reference to pricing corrected since original post.

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