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Own an Oculus Rift, or know someone who does? Want to play one of the scariest games of the year in Virtual Reality? Well, we’ve got some good news.  In the past week, intrepid hackers and VR enthusiasts have figured out how to enabled hidden Oculus Rift support in The Creative Assembly’s new survival horror title, Alien Isolation.

The existence of the support is unsurprising, since the developers have used it to demo new prototypes of the Rift Oculus Rift Development Kit 2 Review and Giveaway Oculus Rift Development Kit 2 Review and Giveaway It’s been a year since the first Oculus Rift Development Kit was released, and it’s safe to say the world of gaming will never be the same again Read More several times now – but the support is decidedly unofficial for the time being. While the implementation is rough around the edges and can be a little buggy, it’s a whole lot of fun and actually pretty easy to switch on.

How To Enable VR Support

(These instructions are for the Oculus Rift DK2, and Windows Vista/7/8 — it may work on other platforms, but we haven’t tested it, so be prepared to spend some time debugging).  

To enter VR mode, you’ll need to locate the game folder (in ‘Program Files’). If you installed from Steam to the default, it should be under Program Files -> Steam -> steamapps -> common -> Alien: Isolation. Open the data folder, and find ‘ENGINE_SETTINGS.XML’ – open it in WordPad.  Towards the top of the file, you’ll find the Stereo settings sections. It should look like this:

enginesettingszoombed0

 

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You’ll need to change it to look like this:

enginesettingszoombed1

 

Save the updated file. Next, because the game doesn’t support direct to HMD mode, you’ll need to set your Rift’s display mode to ‘extended) , by right clicking on the Oculus logo in the taskbar. The dialog should look like this:

RiftDisplayMode

Finally, you’ll need to open the configuration utility and pause the service, in the menu seen below.

PauseRiftService

Now, run the ‘AI’ exe. Tada! The game should open on your Rift. Menus and cutscenes will display on a virtual screen in front of you, and the HUD should work properly in VR.

Debugging

If it doesn’t work properly for you, don’t worry, there are a few things you can try.

  • If your frame rate is too low (producing smearing and flickering during head turn), you’ll want to drop the graphical settings until turning your head is entirely smooth in most in-game scenes. On minimum settings, the game should run pretty well on even fairly modest hardware.
  • If you experience a crashing bug a few seconds after starting the game, it may be due to an incompatibility with some AMD CPU’s — try unplugging the DK2 head-tracking webcam before launching the game. Obviously, you won’t have positional tracking, but the rest of the game should work fine.
  • If you’re experiencing stereo conflicts (shimmery effects only rendering in one eye), try turning off post-processing effects like screen-space ambient occlusion.
  • If the world seems tilted or off center, it’s due to a bug in which the game doesn’t correctly callibrate its orientation with the gravitometer in the headset. Get an xbox 360 controller, hold your head level (or set the HMD on a flat surface), and click the two bumper buttons simultaneously to recenter the rotational origin of the headset.
  • If the game doesn’t start at all, or you’re having a different problem, make sure you’ve got the latest Oculus Runtime.  Make sure it’s actually running, and shows up in the task bar. Make sure it’s set in extended mode, and the rift (which should appear as a monitor) is set to landscape mode. Make sure you pause the Oculus service immediately before starting. If you’re using Windows Vista or 7, make sure to disable aero effects, which can improve frame rates and latency. If all else fails, reboot your computer while in extended mode and hope for the best.

Known Issues

  • The game doesn’t correctly reference your stored IPD, so the world may look a little too small or a little too big, for those of you with unusually-sized heads.
  • Some post-processing effects produce stereo conflicts, which can cause headaches
  • The neck model seems to be slightly off, which can contribute to user discomfort.
  • Rotation drift may lead to the sensation of the world tilting over time, forcing you to recenter your orientation periodically.
  • Some game sequences with forced head motion may result in nausea and camera clipping
  • The game has a true-black ghosting issue, causing dark shadows to blur behind head movement: this is due to a problem with the DK2’s screen, but can be ameliorated by a post-processing shader, which will hopefully be implemented at a later date.

How It Plays

The VR support in Alien:Isolation is obviously imperfect. However, it is cool enough to be worth messing around with. Playing the first hour of the game in VR is a mildly uncomfortable experience (by the end, I was experiencing some vertigo and cold sweats), but it’s also genuinely atmospheric, creepy, and immersive. Much of the gameplay works well in VR, and moving through Sevastapol station in the dark is a unique haunted house of a journey that’s pretty much unmatched in the world of VR gaming right now. VR worlds 5 Ways the Metaverse Won't Be Like You Think 5 Ways the Metaverse Won't Be Like You Think As the roller-coaster comes to a halt before its impending drop, you look out and wonder how a virtual world could look so real. This kind of experience could be yours some day. Read More are going to be great, one day (they’re going to change pretty much everything Why Virtual Reality Technology Will Blow Your Mind in 5 Years Why Virtual Reality Technology Will Blow Your Mind in 5 Years The future of virtual reality includes head, eye and expression tracking, simulated touch, and much more. These amazing technologies will be available to you in 5 years or less. Read More ), but first-party AAA content has been somewhat lacking so far. It’s nice to get a glimpse of what a detailed, atmospheric world looks like in VR, even if it’s a little buggy.

It’s an unofficial hack, but there’s hope that in the coming months a patch will come out to bring the VR support up to a more polished standard.

So, what do you think of Alien: Isolation in VR?  Do you find it sick, or just sickening?  Let us know in the comments!

  1. Lorenzo Monsif
    October 28, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    So, I installed the game, changed the .XML, 'Stopped Runtime', launched the game. On my monitor it shows the two splits for each lens of the oculus as expected (but only if I turn headset off first) and then proceeds to not work when I turn it back on. If I do as instructions say above, I get the error:
    'More than an acceptable number of tracker frames have been skipped in the last time period'

    Any ideas what I can do?

  2. The Gameing Cup
    August 15, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    Thanks For Helping me ! ? tried to make that thing work but it showed gamae on top of the screen but when ? reading everything something said press pause on configure thing and open game when ? do that it worked but when ? opend the game sombody knockd the door and ? taked off the oculus after that when ? came back game was under me ! ? touth it not worked next day ? tried it again and ? get it thanks for help !

  3. phil
    May 19, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    Ok, I've just fired it up again in non-VR...I think the problem is that when you straffe left and right with the left stick the camera banks with it. If that's getting transferred over to the VR cam I'd guess that's the cause of the nausea.

  4. Phil
    May 19, 2015 at 7:51 am

    The rotational tilt seemed to get worse and worse as I walked around corners. I'm not sure exactly what caused me to get such bad motion sickness but I'm really interested to find out as I'm currently developing my own VR game. I have a feeling it may be partly due to the claustrophobic corridors and the speed at which the player accelerates and decelerates. Such a shame really as it could be incredible without the nausea.

  5. Phil
    May 19, 2015 at 4:12 am

    I'm running on an i7 with 32gb RAM and a GTX980. No problems with frame rate or anything like that. Had to switch off after about 30mins as I was starting to almost vomit. I've not had that with any other demo so far. Something is not quite right with the implementation clearly. Head tracking drifts like crazy. Interesting to see all the modelling detail in 3D. The character animations don't stand up to VR scrutiny though.

    Still feeling quite nauseous the next morning!

    • Andre Infante
      May 19, 2015 at 6:27 am

      Sorry to hear you got sick! Was your positional tracking working? If it wasn't, their neck model is significantly wrong, and can cause nausea. The drifting floor was also pretty upsetting, I found.

  6. Nikos
    April 3, 2015 at 3:37 am

    This game is great on its own. The VR element makes it even more scarier.

    It's far from a comfortable VR experience, though. Adapting the video quality settings helped increase the frame rate when moving forward/backwards, but turning my head left-right resulted in image stuttering. Turning by keyboard was smooth, so I guess the problem here is with tracking head movement.

    A GTX 970 + i7-5820K + 32GB DDR4 I'm currently using seams not fast enough for AI in VR but software optimisations could possibly bring the game to playable levels.

    • Nikolaos Tsarmpopoulos
      September 22, 2015 at 10:12 pm

      I've just purchased, second-hand, an NVIDIA Titan X and played one of the DLCs of the game, at 1080p. 2 hours game play with a 30 minutes break. No stuttering at all and the game was more scary than ever, Really Scary !!!! After I was killed once, I didn't want to see that again; I would just close my eyes...

      Being able to move my head around, to look through the grills, carefully bend around corners, is an amazing, very engaging experience! I could run and quickly turn to look back, to check if I was followed, look left or right through the windows and corridors.

      In addition to the issues mentioned in the article above, I found that the direction of travel is slightly affected when turning my head more than (about) 45 degrees, which was annoying, but I can easily imagine Alien Isolation being one of the best VR games, once appropriate fixes are applied to it by the developers.

      In many ways, it is so much easier to play the game in VR, because of the ease to look around, but this is why it also becomes so much scarier.

      Most cut scenes are not fit for purpose. Also, the size of the player's body (yes, I could see my virtual body when looking down), didn't look right;

      Also, when turning my head and looking down, my virtual body was rotating around its Z-axis. In VR, first person games will need a much more closer attention to details like this.

      The environment looked amazing. Smoke, frost and gasses coming out from ventilation grills and pipes were realistic, even though the game was not designed for VR. The textures on the surfaces were of high quality and the polygon count of the objects was just right. Not perfect, but good enough. In VR, you can get closer to the walls and carefully inspect the computer panels and machinery.

      On my previous graphics card, a GTX 970, I couldn't play the game. It might be smooth in corridors, but it would stutter in larger spaces, making it a very uncomfortable experience.

      The upcoming generation of graphics cards from NVIDIA and AMD will have to deliver the computational power of GTX 980+, to allow for a high quality VR experience.

      This is only the beginning of VR and it's very promising.

  7. Stephen
    February 21, 2015 at 4:25 am

    Alien Isolation in VR is quite simply the most profound digital media experience you can have at this time. Playing this game on a modern PC (decent 3GB graphics card and an i7 with 16GB ram) combined with a DK2 Oculus and decent headphones produced a level of immersion I've not yet seen on any other platform. Yes, this VR plugin needs work, but compared to many of the 'made for Oculus' demos out there, it actually runs first time and is very solid. I get a little frame shaking if I move very quickly, which is a shame (may simply be a fault with the Geforce 870 in my Gigabyte gaming laptop) but I've quickly got used to it. I found myself addicted to the adrenaline this game produced and found it hard to rip myself away, even after 4 hours of initial play. Would be great if Nvidia produced a set of game settings specific to this game, as I spent quite a bit of time trying to fine tune the balance of graphics versus frame rate needed for 75fps. All in all though, I was astounded by what I experience. At times, specially in the crew quarters and tunnel sections, it almost become a photo realistic experience, like genuinely being inside the Alient game. If this is a hint of the future, we all need to keep one thing firmly in mind, 'in space no one can hear you scream' but they can hear you screaming through the wall of your terrace house at 3am in the morning when a zenomorph takes you by surprise. You have been warned! For anyone with a DK2 and a suitable rig, this is an absolute must. It's £30 and the the mod to make the game Oculus enabled takes 30 seconds and nothing more than one word.... enjoy!

  8. OculusGuy
    November 1, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    Or just download Game Manager by Bilago and it works automatically without having to jump through all those hoops.

    • Andre Infante
      November 2, 2014 at 9:56 am

      Bilago's game manager is a great resource, but isn't really appropriate for the bugs this game seems to have. Pausing and restarting the executable through the game manager isn't any easier than doing it through the Oculus runtime. However, if you run into issues not described here, that's a good suggestion.

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