I'm a fair-weather VR fan. I jump in, enjoy my brief time throwing shapes in my living room, and then I get out before I really have to commit—that is not an analogy for my personal relationships, thank you very much. While I feel there's a part of me willing to stick around in VR for longer, it's usually the lack of anything close to comfort with my choice of VR headset, the Oculus Quest 2 (opens in new tab), that sees me retire early.
I find myself adjusting the fabric strap included with the Quest 2 often, a major immersion breaker if ever there was one. For brief stints and stationary gaming the standard strap is decent enough, but it isn't quite up to the task of jumping around in Beat Saber or spending over any considerable length of time in VR. I find it puts a lot of weight on the front of my face—unsurprising really, considering its fabric design—and that means when I find just that perfect spot over my eyes and pull it taught around my head, after roughly half an hour the mask pressure starts to get the better of me.
Speaking to the wider PC Gamer team, it appears as though the mileage with the pre-packaged strap varies from person to person. Personally, an improved strap is as close to a necessity as I can think for my Quest experience, at least if I hope to enjoy any lengthy VR games. Those I'm currently interested in are anything but short and snappy: Half-Life: Alyx (opens in new tab), The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners (opens in new tab), and Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond (opens in new tab), to name a few.
With that in mind, I thought I better do it right with my next attempt. I've had previously decent, if not excellent, experiences with other VR headsets—the Valve Index, Vive, and Rift—but I've never owned them personally to really sink considerable hours into a lengthy game. So with an upgrade in mind, I ventured on to the Oculus website, scrolled through the accessories, and decided to spend a little cash to make VR more accommodating.
I ended up purchasing the Oculus Elite Strap (opens in new tab) and the Oculus Link Cable (opens in new tab), hoping that combined I would have enough fodder for a varied experience, and enough comfort for a lasting one.
I'll admit the cable felt a frivolous purchase, but I'm a sucker for a fancy fibre optic cable that promises an extra two metres in length over most reliable alternatives. Perhaps that will be the least of my worries, what with Virtual Desktop and now Oculus' own wireless beaming tech coming into play, but it feels good to have the wired option for a little extra battery juice.
The Elite Strap felt critical to my re-energised leap into virtual reality, however. It's simple enough to fit, adjustable at the rear, and comes with a single fabric adjustment strap to keep it snug and the lenses lined up correctly with my eyeballs. Once I had it on, I've found it easy to adjust on-the-fly, make micro-adjustments that stick, and keep the weight from wholly resting on my face or cheekbones.
The Valve Index (opens in new tab) still sticks in my mind as the ultimate in VR comfort, but for a $49 add-on for the Quest, I'm not complaining about the Elite Strap.
Right from the get-go, I've happily remained in VR for stints pushing over an hour. That's new for me. Not only has this totally changed how I see games that require more of my time flailing in VR, it's cranked the immersion up, largely by preventing those reality-shattering moments of readjusting the strap, for the most part. I still feel the need on occasion but with much less regularity than in the past.
Perhaps there's something to be said about whether the premium strap should've come included in the base Quest 2 package. But if the partially positive response to it from staff says anything about its opinion globally, I imagine the cheaper Quest 2 price tag is the favourable option over a pricier package with the Elite Strap included.
And let's not forget that some Elite Straps in the first batch were prone to breakages. A problem Facebook admitted to having, citing "processing inconsistency", and since fixed. Admittedly not a great start for a strap that I'm rather keen on now, but so far so good here.
There's something to be said for the more ergonomic and comfortable headband designs with modern VR headsets, and like I say it's not an issue I remember running into on pricier units. The Quest 2 I found to be less considerate in the strap department than some, but I'm willing to give it some leeway on account of its cracking value for money.
What I really wanted to get out there with this article was that this premium accessory has made a huge difference to how I enjoy VR with the Quest 2. The previous strap just wasn't cutting it, and was keeping me from investing all that much time in virtual reality over longer periods, but I'm happy to report the Elite Strap negates most of my complaints in that department.