Starbreeze Studios may have had one of the more shocking announcements of E3 2015, and it happened before the show even officially started!

As part of a pre-E3 preview event, the developer behind the Payday series, the Syndicate reboot, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and many other games unveiled their brand new virtual reality headset called StarVR yesterday evening.

Being the resident EGM VR junkie, I was fortunate enough after the announcement to be the first person in the world outside of the studio to actually go hands-on (head-on?) with this new piece of hardware.

The demo we were given was based on Overkill’s The Walking Dead, which was also announced to be the first game for StarVR. It was explicitly stated, however, that the demo we played would not be part of the final game, but instead would convey a feel for the title, while more importantly, showing off what the headset could do.

In the demo, I was a recently infected person who was on his last legs. The pair of people I had been traveling with did not want to leave me behind, or at least not until they could get my car and some supplies from me. So, they strapped me into a wheelchair and gave me a shotgun. As they pushed me through the halls of a hospital, I would have to cover them. It was an absolutely beautiful looking rail-shooter experience, but I felt it was a tad too heavily scripted for my tastes. At the very least, though, it gave me a solid sense of what StarVR was all about as it really let me put the headset through its paces.

Starbreeze global brand director Almir Listo stated beforehand that the StarVR headset provides a 210-degree horizontal field-of-view, which is easily the largest of any VR headset revealed to date when you look at the 120-degrees of Microsoft’s Hololens, the 110-degrees offered with Oculus’s Crescent Bay and Valve’s ReVive, or Morpheus’ 100-degrees. I can confirm that in my experience, StarVR provides more peripheral vision than any headset I’ve tried (just Hololens eludes me at this point), and only when I looked to the extreme right or left could I see the very edges of the displays.

Speaking of display, StarVR touts a 5K resolution due to dual 5.5-inch screens. The picture for The Walking Dead was crisp, clear, and had no framerate drops, but I can’t definitively say it was better or worse than the others without putting them side-by-side. StarVR also features orientation and positional tracking, so every time I moved my head around during the demo, my character in game would do the same.

This was critical because at this moment, StarVR lacks more traditional input devices so at least moving my head around gave me a sense of being in the world until I finally received my shotgun. In regards to controllers, Starbreeze CTO Emmanuel Marquez admitted they were still working on them, and were keeping an eye on what other companies in the VR marketplace, like Valve, do in that regard. It was also mentioned that they would love to be compatible with a wide array of devices, including those of their own design like the prop shotgun I was able to play around with and that was featured in the above video.

The idea that Starbreeze could come out with a special line of prop weapons for shooters like The Walking Dead is intriguing, and it’d be far from the first time we had large plastic guns in our hands to play games with. The prop shotgun, even with some sensors attached to it, felt like a real gun (minus the lack of kickback). Every time I did the pump-action, it responded in game. I could fire blindly behind me as we ran down an alley, or I could look down the sights to make sure I put each and every zombie down with a single shot. I’m just concerned how much it would cost to package extra sensors and a large toy shotgun with every copy of Overkill’s The Walking Dead. And what about other weapons? It was an interesting idea, and having a prop in my hands helped with immersion, but I honestly don’t know if it’s completely sound to think every gamer would collect prop weapons to play VR games with.

In terms of plug-ins, StarVR features a USB 3.0 port and a 3.5mm headphone jack so players can use their own headphones for comfort and ease. Of course, unlike Oculus with their built in headphones, this means that, for the moment, positional audio is not a part of StarVR and was noticeably absent from the demo I played.

A nice surprise from Starbreeze’s headset, though, came in how comfortable it felt on my head. While it’s a bit bulkier and larger than an Oculus Rift in terms of shape and size, it felt about the same in terms of weight and the cushions on the inside really kept it from feeling like it was pressing into my head at all. I actually think it may be my favorite headset so far when it comes to just how it feels on top of my head. It should be mentioned, however, that the headset was tethered to a nearby PC, but I was told wireless functionality is on the docket for future versions of the StarVR.

No potential release date or price point was set for StarVR during the event. Lionel Anton, Starbreeze’s lead VR hardware designer, said that what I got to go hands-on with was “a first prototype”, leading me to believe that, along with everything I saw yesterday, that Starbreeze is still some ways off from being ready to stand toe-to-toe with Oculus or Sony. They certainly seem to be on the right track, though. Expect more info and insights about StarVR this week at E3, where it’ll be fully on display.

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