It's the point when a spaceship blasts a hole in my ceiling, before a horde of fluffy aliens invade my living room, that I realise the Meta Quest 3 is going to live up to the hype that’s surrounded it since it launched.
I’m playing First Encounters, and it’s an incredible introduction to full-colour passthrough, which is a brand new feature in Meta’s latest standalone VR headset, enabling mixed reality experiences.
Whilst the Meta Quest 2 (this is has now dropped to $199 during Black Friday) supported passthrough – so you can see what’s going on around you in the real world whilst wearing your headset – it was only in black and white, and the quality was janky at best. But thanks to the dual 18 PPD (peak pixel density) cameras in the Meta Quest 3, it now boasts higher quality and full-colour. And it’s a game-changer (and already at the top of our best VR headsets guide).
First Encounters is a free, mixed reality game that comes bundled on every Meta Quest 3 headset, and it was my first port of call once I’d got my headset configured. Before you can start the game you need to create a boundary, which in itself is an incredibly satisfying experience. You are prompted to walk around your room, and–as you do so–the app creates a geometric map of the floor, walls, ceiling, and furniture, so that VR objects will be able to interact with your physical environment. You can edit the map in more detail if required, but I found that the app did an excellent job.
I don’t want to spoil all the fun, because there’s a lot to love about this game, but the basic premise is that you have to blast different coloured creatures, which the game informs you are “pesky space puffians”. If you build up combos of the same colour creatures, you get more points; you can blast away sections of your room to reveal more puffians; and you can even peer out of your room to target more of the bad guys (although once you see them, it’s very hard to refer to them as “bad”).
What’s great about having an accurate map of your room, and being able to see your physical environment, is that you don’t have to stay seated, or even in the same play area; you can move around the entire room, and if you stay still for too long you’ll have puffians crawling up your legs. This elevates VR to a whole new level of fun, and also makes the experience much more interactive.
Much like ‘Astro’s Playroom’ on the PS5, First Encounters is designed to showcase what the Meta Quest 3 is capable of, and it’s a wonderful introduction to mixed reality gaming. It isn’t going to provide you with days of gameplay, and the colour passthrough is by no means perfect, but it’s a perfect illustration of what the Meta Quest 3 is capable of. And anyone that plays it is going to have a blast.
See my Meta Quest 3 review for a deep dive into the device.