One of the headline deals of this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Week events is the Google Daydream View VR headset, which has plummetted in price to just £34.99 at the time of writing – that’s quite a saving on the RRP of around £99.
This price cut will no doubt have had many of you reaching for your wallets in glee, but a low-cost VR headset is only as good as the quality of the experience it provides – and if you recall, we were rather lukewarm about the whole thing when we reviewed the original unit a while back.
Daydream View is a neat concept, as it doesn’t require you to spend hundreds of pounds on expensive equipment in order to jump on the Virtual Reality bandwagon; even at full price, Daydream View is a much more agreeable option than dropping the amount of cash needed to own a HTC Vive or Oculus Rift headset. Daydream View uses your phone as its ‘brains’ and for its display, so the headset itself is little more than a hollow shell which bolts onto your face.
Complete with its own motion-sensing controller – which can be charged via USB Type-C – Daydream View is an entry-level proposition that finds itself in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Samsung’s Gear VR is the same kind of concept but is exclusive to Samsung’s phones, while the Oculus Go is an attempt to give users a self-contained VR experience that is both cheap and not reliant on having an expensive smartphone to hand. While Daydream View made quite an impression back in 2016, it’s finding it harder and harder to stand out in 2018.
Google refined the Daydream View system in 2017 with a revised headset which features a third head strap and a slightly redesigned front flap to improve cooling on the phone and to avoid outside light from creep into the lenses, but the concept has remained otherwise unchanged from a hardware perspective – which leaves the software to do the talking. Is it still worth investing in Daydream View in 2018?
Back at launch, we lamented the fact that unique apps and games were somewhat thin on the ground. Daydream View is a powerful platform but it has the misfortune of going up against several powerful rivals which tend to attract the lion’s share of content. To be fair, even after all these months that situation hasn’t changed as dramatically as we’d have hoped, and in terms of entertainment apps, pickings remain rather slim, especially when compared to the volume of games available on the Oculus-powered Gear VR.
That’s not to say that Daydream View doesn’t have content that will draw you in; one of our favourite uses of any VR headset is hopping into Google Street View and roving around various locations as if we were really there; there are also loads of VR compatible videos to watch on YouTube and apps like NBA and NFL VR give a unique perspective on their respective sports.
We were ready to give up on Daydream View in the process of putting together this feature until we stumbled across what could be seen as the platform’s killer app – and ironically, it’s a game that has been available for almost 20 years and was recently released on other VR platforms.
Sega’s Rez originally launched on the Sega Dreamcast in 2001, and could be seen as a fusion between the likes of After Burner, Panzer Dragoon and the Hollywood movie Tron. It mixed trippy visuals with a pumping (and context-sensitive) trance soundtrack and was hailed as a classic almost instantly. Subsequent re-releases and updates have kept the legend of this timeless title alive over the years, and in 2016 Rez Infinite brought the game to a whole new generation.
While the PC and PlayStation 4 versions of Rez Infinite require you to invest in cumbersome VR gear, the Android edition can be played with the Daydream View headset. There are some niggles to report – the crosshair ‘drifts’ quite badly at points, which can be annoying – but on the whole, the quality of the game shines through. Given that it costs just £8.99 to purchase (a free demo is also available) – and taking into account that the Daydream VR headset is now just £35 – this is the cheapest means of experiencing this seminal shooter in Virtual Reality, and that makes Daydream View an almost essential purchase in our eyes.
It might seem foolish to recommend buying a VR headset purely to play one game, but Rez Infinite is that good. Also, we hope that Daydream View will continue to grow as a platform and that Google will continue to support it as best it can; the recent price cut could be a prelude to the company winding down the platform, or, as we’d like to believe, it could indicate that a new headset is on the way. If it’s the latter, then hopefully we’ll see more experiences like Rez Infinite coming soon. Tetsuya Mizuguchi – the genius behind Rez – recently updated one of the world’s most famous games in the form of Tetris Effect, which has VR support. Could we eventually see this come to Daydream View? Our fingers (and toes) are crossed.
Whatever the future holds for Daydream View, we highly recommend that you purchase one of these devices as soon as possible, assuming, of course, you have a compatible handset. Rez Infinite is one of those games that is massively improved by VR, and being able to access this unique experience for just over £40 is a steal if you ask us.