For any frustrations and confusion related to Meta (formerly Facebook) and whatever the Metaverse is, one consistent and more straightforward element of the company’s VR push is that from the beginning, its hardware has been pretty solid. The headsets have not been without their growing pains, but the path from Rift to Quest has been generally smooth, and the iterations have always added worthy improvements. Meta Quest 3 continues along that path to deliver what is, by a large margin, my favorite VR headset, but it doesn’t fix all the problems the medium continues to face.
Comfortability And Visuals
Wearing Meta Quest 3 is reasonably comfortable. The straps are easy to adjust and allow you to make the headset surprisingly tight against your face. This is good for blocking out light and moving your head quickly without needing to adjust, but if you’re not careful the tension can lead to headaches. I am grateful for the option to wear the headset tightly, as specific positioning over your eyes is crucial. I would rather have the ability to wear the headset too tight than it hang loosely on my head. That would lead to a different and worse type of nausea.
I also found the headset surprisingly comfortable to wear with glasses. PlayStation VR2 is still the most agreeable headset for glasses wearers like myself, but I’m happy with the amount of room inside the Quest 3 for my admittedly large (but undeniably stylish) frames.
The screen inside the headset offers a significant improvement over Quest 2, which itself was a substantial improvement over the original Quest. Quest 3’s screens are comparable to the impressive in-headset screens of the PlayStation VR2. In general, however, VR still grapples with the fact that the screen is mere inches from your eyes. Compared to Meta’s prior headsets, Quest 3 is undoubtedly the sharpest it has ever looked. However, it is still jarring to play a game in your headset and then move to a traditional game on a decent TV and see the fidelity improvement.
The most worthwhile improvement, beyond the added resolution to the in-headset screens, is Quest 3’s approach to mixed reality. Quest has crucially featured the ability to use passthrough cameras to actually see your environment without taking off the headset since the beginning, but Quest 3’s pass-through cameras are full color and high resolution. It means seeing the outside world is more comfortable than ever. As a compliment to Quest 3, I was surprised I could look at my phone and, for the most part, see what was on the screen – a particularly practical feature when you need to quickly check a text or other alert.
How mixed reality will be implemented into video game experiences is yet to be seen, but the included game showing it off is a fun, if simple, technical showcase. Sitting in my office, I watched the walls fall away to reveal an alien planet as cute alien creatures approached me from the distance. Shooting the little creatures to collect them is simple fun and the false reality of my office suddenly existing separated from my home on an alien planet is charming. I am eager to see how games take advantage of this in the future.
Controllers And Interface
Unlike the headset itself, the controllers do not represent a significant hardware upgrade, but that’s okay. Quest’s controllers have always been comfortable with excellent motion tracking. I thought I would miss the rounded circles previously necessary for tracking that cover your hands, but their disappearance means you can bring your hands closer together, which leads to smoother gaming experiences.
Hand-tracking is also available which allows you to navigate menus and play some games without a controller. Using your hands is something Quest has been experimenting with for some time. The function is improved for Quest 3 with its higher-quality cameras, but hand-tracking still falls short of the optimal experience. Physically pushing menu buttons with your finger is a neat idea (and does feel better thanks to the pass-through cameras) but it is inconsistent and over-complicates the process of simply navigating the menus. Using your hands is a neat trick, but I moved back to a controller after only a few moments of tinkering.
Quest 3 is backwards compatible which means your library moves forward. Unfortunately, not every game is optimized for the new headset. At the time of this writing, Resident Evil 4, one of my favorite VR experiences, looks sharper, but features light stuttering and other visual issues that unfortunately lead to nausea. Alternatively, my favorite VR game, Beat Saber, plays like a dream on Quest 3. The same can be said of another excellent VR game, Pistol Whip. All my save data moved forward without needing to change any settings, which was unexpected and impressive. I also enjoyed newer games like Drop Dead: The Cabin, a wave-based zombie shooter that can be played online, and Runner, an Akira-inspired arcade shooter/racer that I first experienced on PlayStation VR2. Runner plays comparably on PlayStation VR2 and Quest 3, but it’s more enjoyable on the latter mainly because I vastly prefer the smoother usability and no-wires of the Quest 3. Resist, another previously released Quest game that received a Quest 3 update, also surprised me with its fun first-person Spider-Man-like swinging in a large open city.
Meta Quest 3 is my favorite VR headset by a significant margin. Setting up the headset is smooth and simple, the full-color pass-through cameras are useful and have potentially interesting future interactive applications, and the screen resolution improves what was already a great experience on Quest 2. The Quest’s greatest strength continues to be that it is fully standalone with no need to connect to a PC or console. Not having to deal with complicated setups or worry about tripping over wires lets you focus on the games you’re playing and allows you to be openly fooled by the simulation. If you are at all interested in VR, Quest 3 is the primary headset I recommend.
Now, with all of those nice and positive things being said, Quest 3 is not a game-changer. If VR has underwhelmed you in the past, Quest 3 won’t change your mind. If this still relatively young medium does not interest you, I doubt Quest 3 will make you a believer. However, if you have even a passing interest in VR and have been waiting to invest, or want an improved experience over your current headset, Quest 3 is the best option.
October 10, 2023
Source: Game Informer Meta Quest 3 Review – I Can See Clearer Now