Virtual reality: everything you need to know

vr virtual reality guide
vr virtual reality guide

Virtual reality is getting bigger, better, and more exciting every year, and with so many amazing games and powerful headsets to choose from, there’s never been a better time to start exploring its possibilities.

But with so many options out there, it can be tricky to know where to start. That’s why we’ve pulled together the most important things you need to know about VR headsets and condensed them down into one handy guide to get you started on your VR journey.

vr virtual reality guide game logo

Virtual reality is getting bigger, better, and more exciting every year, and with so many amazing games and powerful headsets to choose from, there’s never been a better time to start exploring its possibilities.

But with so many options out there, it can be tricky to know where to start. That’s why we’ve pulled together the most important things you need to know about VR headsets and condensed them down into one handy guide to get you started on your VR journey.

What is virtual reality?

Virtual reality gaming allows you to step into, and interact with, the worlds of video games via a special headset and controllers.

While VR games immerse you in a completely virtual world, augmented reality (AR) games such as Pokémon GO! and Minecraft Earth superimpose virtual objects on the world around you.

Some VR headsets track your position in the room, which means you can physically walk around a limited space as you interact with your virtual environment, but most games will also let you play while standing or sitting. Your movements will be tracked by the headset itself or via base stations, or in the case of PSVR, by a PlayStation Camera. More on that shortly…

Do I need a powerful computer to play VR games?

Because it provides high quality graphics and motion tracking, VR can be quite intensive, which means you’ll usually need a reasonably powerful gaming PC or console to run VR games properly. Every headset requires slightly different specs to work properly, though, so make sure to research them thoroughly before committing to a particular headset. If you’re curious about the sort of PC specs you might need to play a major VR game (in this case Valve’s upcoming flagship VR title Half-Life: Alyx), head here to see the details.

There are also VR games which use your smartphone as the basis for a mini VR headset, as well as Nintendo Labo expansion sets that do the same with your Nintendo Switch. While those expansion sets come with VR games for you to get stuck into, you can also play some other Switch games in VR too – for example, Super Mario Odyssey, which has three whole kingdoms rebuilt to accommodate VR play, or Breath of the Wild, which has a setting that’ll let you play through the whole thing using your Labo headset.

Do I need a special controller to play VR games?

vr virtual reality guide half life alyx

This depends on the headset you’re using. The PSVR headset works with the Dualshock 4 controller as standard, while other headsets like the HTC Vive come with a pair of special VR controllers, one for each hand.

There are also other types of controllers that you can pair up with your headsets though (for instance, there’s a gun-shaped one for the PSVR), so it’s worth looking around for something that fits your playstyle best.

How do I choose a VR headset?

Here’s a very quick introduction to three of the major headsets available at GAME.

HTC Vive
There are three versions of the HTC Vive headset to choose from: the basic Vive, the Vive Pro, and the Vive Cosmos. Each headset comes with two controllers, and while the Vive and Vive Pro come with base stations to help the hardware figure out your position in the virtual world, the Vive Cosmos has special cameras built in and doesn’t need base stations to work.

Oculus Rift
There are three versions of the Rift, too. You’ll need a PC to power the Rift S, but it doesn’t require any external base stations. The Oculus Go and more powerful Oculus Quest, meanwhile, are both all-in-one devices, meaning you don’t need a PC or console to play VR games. All three come with special VR controllers.

PSVR
If you’ve already got a PS4, then PSVR is an option you might want to consider. Every version of the PS4 is PSVR-compatible, so you don’t have to upgrade to the PS4 Pro for it to work (although it’ll run more smoothly if you do). You’ll need a PSVR headset and a PlayStation Camera to get started, and you’ll be able to use the Dualshock 4 controller to navigate the virtual worlds you explore. Alternatively, you can use the PSVR Move Controllers or PSVR Aim Controller for added immersion.

Are there many VR games to choose from?

The short answer is yes – and many of the biggest VR games are compatible with multiple headsets, with more coming out every year. One of the biggest ones announced this year is the long-awaited next instalment in the Half-Life franchise, Half-Life: Alyx, which is a full-length VR title due out in March 2020. There are also headset-specific VR libraries and stores.

Ready to get started on your VR journey? Head here to check out the VR headsets and games available at GAME.

And if you want the latest news, features, and deals from GAME, sign up to our newsletter today!