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Hands on with Alien Isolation on the Oculus Rift DK2

Back in June at the 2014 E3, Alien Isolation was demonstrated on the Oculus Rift DK2 to gamers and journalists alike, who were all blown away by its horror, graphics and atmosphere. It almost seemed certain that the game would be playable on the headset on release; but alas, SEGA chose not to support the Rift.

That wasn’t the end of the story, however. It was clear that support fr the Oculus Rift DK2 was added during its development, so immediately after the games release on September 7th, the folks at /r/Oculus began to dig through its code to see if any traces of Rift support were still remaining; and as it turns out: yes there was!

A frantic hunt began, with several members trawling through code and experimenting with settings until voila! Popcorncrackle managed to get the game running. Here are his instructions from the reddit page:

1) Go to Program Files > Steam > steamapps > common > Alien Isolation > DATA
2) Open the ENGINE_SETTINGS.XML file using Text Edit, and change the stereo options to:

<Setting name=”Stereo Mode”>
<Quality name=”Rift” precedence=”4″/>

(<Setting name=”Stereo Mode”>
<Quality name=”Rift” precedence=”4″/>

3) Open BENCHMARK_TEMPLATE.TXT and change:

Stereo Mode=Rift

4) Set your Oculus Rift DK2 to Extended mode
5) Open the Oculus Configuration Utility and pause the service
6) Play the game.
7) To re-calibrate your orientation press LB or RB at the same time on Xbox 360 controller.

So how does it play? It’s just as amazing as we hoped. One simple tweak has unlocked the Alien universe and brought it to life like never before, and it’s staggering how well the Oculus Rift has been implementation into the game. For example, you can no longer hold down the Control key to lean left and right, instead you only need to physically lean in your chair, and it makes peering over tables and through objects more lifelike and easy. With full 3D depth perception there’s no need to blur the background when you take out the location tracker device, instead you can now focus with your eyes. Positional tracking is present, menus and cut scenes render properly, the sense of scale is spot-on, the graphics look amazing, and it runs at 75 fps on our NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760-powered PC. It’s really, really impressive stuff.

Obviously there are going to be some niggles. First of all, it’s dark. Really dark. You’ll need to turn up the gamma a few notches, otherwise you’ll struggle to navigate dark corridors. Second, in-game cut scenes take control of your head movements, which will likely make a few of you feel sick (we were fine, however). Third, you’ll see some clipping issues, such as when you look directly down at your own body, or when Ripley unlocks a door and her arms get too close to the camera. Finally, you can’t re-calibrate the Rift view using the keyboard. Instead you’ll have to reach for the Xbox controller and press LB or RB at the same time. But these are minor issues considering the game was never officially meant to support the Rift, and they don’t break immersion or prevent you from playing the game properly.

As for the game itself, it’s perfectly suited to VR. It’s atmospheric, immersive, and utterly terrifying on the Oculus Rift. Peering over a table to see the Alien stride into view is likely to be the most frightening gaming experience you can have. We’re delighted that /r/Oculus has managed to unlock the Rift implementation, because it improves the game immeasurably, and it makes for one of the best Oculus Rift experiences you can have alongside Elite: Dangerous.

  • JamesMctiffin

    I’ve just tried this, i havnt even seen the alien yet and had to take it off a few times to let me heart rate drop. 
    For those of you that doubt the immense power of the Rift, you need to find someone who can demo this to you. 

    Warning – It’s really not for the faint hearted.

  • CowTippinSloth

    Shadows render different in each eye for me. boo
    I’m also using GTX 760