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Hands on with the visually amazing Deep Echo

Take a trip to the bottom of the ocean in this beautiful but limited Rift experience.

Underwater experiences are often the most impressive games to be found on the Oculus Rift. Perhaps it’s the enclosed environment that envelops the player, which helps to alleviates motion sickness but also adds to the immersion of the game, or maybe it’s the chance to visit an environment that most of us will never see in real life. Whatever it is, we’re always happy to check out new experiences that take place under the sea, and Deep Echo is the latest underwater experience for the DK2 headset.

Developed by Raffaele Picca from Pixelgod, it’s a five minute game that puts players inside a submersible craft and then takes them through a twisting ride along the sea bed with the end goal of capturing a black box from the Lexington, the sister ship to the Saratogas. It’s a heavily scripted experience, with limited player interaction apart from aiming the crafts high-beam lights and targeting cross hair using head-tracking. For the rest of the game the player is left to sit and admire the visuals and animation happening outside of the craft. That makes Deep Echo a brilliant demo for showcasing the Oculus Rift to VR newcomers, but it limits repeated play-throughs and takes away from any potential excitement that might occur from unexpected events.

There are some really nice touches to the game. Seaweed moves and deforms around the craft as it passes by, particles that float in the water fade out realistically as they reach the cabin window, water bubbles rise with brilliant photorealism, and there are some wonderful touches on the inside of the craft including a working HUD and rotating air vents. We also noticed that the virtual body controls the craft’s joystick in-time with the movement of the submarine, which is a great little touch.

Graphically Deep Echo is an amazing experience. It’s powered by the Unreal Engine 4, and features all the graphical bells and whistles it can throw at the screen, including real-time lighting, model deformation, particle effects and some really clean anti-aliasing that eliminates any jagged imagery. However, this comes at a cost, and that’s frame rate. You’re going to need a top-spec PC to run Deep Echo at 75 frames-per-second. Additionally, we encountered a slight shimmering effect when running the experience in DirectToRift mode. A graphics quality setting on launch would prove to be a helpful solution to this problem, but for now expect some juddering, or if you’re running the Rift in Extended mode, try swapping to 60Hz then reset the Oculus Service to enable low persistence rendering at 60FPS.

You could describe Deep Echo as a slow motion roller coaster that takes place at the bottom of the sea. That’s how it feels throughout it’s five-minute run, even eliciting a brief moment of motion sickness during a quick turn in direction that leads into a dark cave; but perhaps the’s underselling the game, because it’s a completely immersive and graphically astonishing virtual reality ride. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for a new VR experience on the Rift, but you’re likely to be left wanting more after it has finished.

Download Deep Echo (Windows)