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Elite: Dangerous

Elite: Dangerous

Written by John Yan on 10/16/2014 for PC  
More On: Elite: Dangerous

My original experience with Elite looks like this:

Yes, it’s the old Commodore 64 game. Back then, this was one of the defacto space sims out there. Ahead of its time, Elite was hard to get into, but offered up a unique space sim experience.

Fast forward 30 years and what we have now is Elite Dangerous, the fourth game in the series and has original developer David Braben on hand leading the effort. Elite Dangerous will be an open world space sim with ambitious goals such as a 1:1 Milky Way recreation with over 400 billion star systems. Future updates look to include exploring planets in a 1:1 scale with cities and a first person mode to name a few.

Frontier has put out a few betas and a big one happened on September 30th. Frontier was nice enough to get me access to the beta and having an Oculus Rift DK2, I knew exactly how I wanted to experience the game.

So, with the update in hand, I attached my DK2 to my computer. Along with the Oculus Rift DK2, I used the Saitek X-52 Pro stick and throttle system to up the immersion factor. With the DK2 set to extended mode, I fired up Elite Dangerous and proceeded to enable Rift support.

Now, I’ve played through many impressive Rift applications such as Half-Life 2, but nothing prepared me for how incredibly immersive and visually stunning Elite Dangerous would be.

Loading up the game and going through the first tutorial, I was placed inside the cockpit of the Sidewinder Mk1. Sitting docked in a space station, I proceeded to look around. I’ve played many flight sims with the free look option mapped to a hat switch, but being able to freely look around by turning my head is an experience second to none.

I slowly scanned around the interior of the Sidewinder Mk1 and was awed by the amount of detail inside. I looked down and saw my arms as well as my chest. Frontier really did a tremendous job in giving the illusion that you’re sitting inside the cockpit by modeling the body and having the view from the Oculus Rift be in the exact position of where your head would be.

Turning my head to the left, an interactive display appeared where I could do such things as go into a galaxy map or select contacts. One of my hats on the X-52 Pro allowed me to cycle through the menus so I didn’t have to use a mouse or keyboard. Turning right, another display popped up for modules and fire groups, again allowing me to use the X-52 Pro to navigate through the menus.

Utilizing the positional head tracking option of the DK2, I was able to lean into various parts of the HUD and displays to read them more clearly. The positional tracking helps with the suspension of disbelief and makes you feel like you have a great range of movement even though you are just sitting there.

I sat there and just took in the cockpit visuals for a good few minutes. I was sucked in even before a second of flying in space.  That’s something I would never have done if I was viewing the game on a monitor. The Oculus Rift’s design of enveloping your vision with a 3D visual just draws you in so much and really makes you feel like you are really there.

Going through the tutorial, I proceeded to undock from the station and fly out into the great beyond. You know those awesome shots of spaceships slowly leaving docks in movies like Star Trek? Well, the first time I flew out of a space station in Elite Dangerous, that feeling of awe took over me as I looked around the interior while I slowly left through the port opening. Just seeing the interior of the space station as I exited left me speechless the first time.

When I pulled up the galaxy map, it felt like I was floating in the middle of space as I moved the map around in three dimensions. I turned my head around to look at the various destinations and just got lost in the beauty of it.

Enabling the jump drive, I watched the stars fly by in my cockpit, the view reminiscent of the Millenium Falcon in Star Wars as it accelerate to light speed. I sat back and enjoyed the ride to my destination taking in the sights outer space.

In combat, the freedom to look everywhere with the Oculus Rift DK2 made dog fighting a lot easier. I was never comfortable using a hat to change my view, but with the Oculus Rift DK2, I was able to look around and above me easily while keeping an eye on the enemy spacecraft in order to get a bead on its position. The view changed as quick as I was able to look around and I never felt like the Oculus Rift DK2 lagged no matter how fast I turned. This helped keep the illusion of me being inside the Sidewinder Mk1 as well as making it a frustration free experience when in the heat of battle.

Elite Dangerous looks gorgeous and plays extremely well with the DK2. Frontier’s done an incredible job of modeling a space environment complete. From beautiful rendered planets to impressive space stations to dangerous looking asteroids, Elite Dangerous’ graphics make it seem like you are really there.

With the Oculus Rift, you’ll get plenty of those visuals along with a 3D view up close and personal. Now, those that have used the Oculus Rift will know about the screen door effect and it can sometimes break the immersive experience when you see it. I do see it at times, but it slowly fades away as I get more and more into the game. Some of the text can be hard to read because of this unless you lean in closer. For the most part though, the screen door effect of the Rift didn’t diminish the incredible experience had when using the peripheral with Elite Dangerous.

Playing the game with a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980, I had lag free gameplay on my i7 4770K computer. I did have to turn off hyperthreading in the BIOS though as there was some judder when using the Rift. Hopefully, a patch can fix this and you can expect some of these problems to crop up since the game is still in beta.

Elite Dangerous is one of those games that truly show off the potential of using an Oculus Rift along with a flight control setup. Frontier has done a remarkable job, even in the beta stage, in offering up a true space flight sim experience. I haven’t even touched the multiplayer portion and hearing that you’ll be getting a persistant world option along with being able to play with friends just made this a must buy for me. I found myself going back again and again, putting on my Rift, grasping the throttle and flightstick on my desk, and just getting lost in space hours on end. Frontier has a long road ahead of them, but so far the game they’ve produced is far away one of the best games I’ve played with the Rift and controller setup.

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About Author

I've been reviewing products since 1997 and started out at Gaming Nexus. After writing for a few different sites that went under, it's nice to bring back a site that's not dependent on revenue and just wants to deliver news and reviews of products.

I'm  married, and enjoy first person shooters, sports games, and real time strategy games.

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