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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 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:
You’ll need to change it to look like this:
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:
Finally, you’ll need to open the configuration utility and pause the service, in the menu seen below.
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.
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.
- 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 are going to be great, one day (they’re going to change pretty much everything), 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!