The first time I used a VR headset, I felt nauseous ten minutes in. I had to sit down. I needed water. My head was spinning. That was nearly ten years ago – and since then, VR has gone through an impressive evolution, with the Meta (formerly Oculus) leading the charge through multiple iterations and innovations.
The Meta Quest 2, released in 2020, was a major stepping stone for the future, allowing crisp VR gameplay and interaction at an affordable price point. The newly-released Meta Quest 3 has taken that technology many steps further. As a clear sign of lessons learned, it’s one of the most well-rounded virtual reality headsets on the market, with a slew of improved features that make its VR experience feel seamless.
Leaps and bounds
While the Meta Quest 3 is priced slightly above its predecessor – it will run you around AUD $799.99 | USD $499.99 – there is fair justification in this leap. The most notable improvement is to the device’s display, which now features 2,064 x 2,208 pixels per eye – up 30% from its predecessor, according to Meta. Realistically, that’s just numbers. What you need to know is this enhanced display is wonderfully crisp, with well-defined and focused edges no matter where you look.
The resolution here is stunning, particularly if you’ve experienced VR in other headsets before. To compare, the Meta Quest 2 featured crisp text often with a fuzzy, multi-colour outline and a very slight but distracting lack of definite focus. In the Meta Quest 3, this problem is solved absolutely.
While playing Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR – which is an excellent VR experience on this headset – menus were presented cleanly and crisply, with no focus halo or fuzziness. Lines were clean and straight, and aided a real sense of immersion.
I mention this first, as a crisp display is the lynchpin in any good VR device. Without that layer of crispness and quality, immersion – the real point of virtual reality – is moot. In choosing to prioritise a brighter, better display in the design of Quest 3, Meta has created a core hook with this device.
You could choose to remain on the Meta Quest 2, which is still well-supported and plays pretty much all the same games as the Meta Quest 3, but the refreshed display, with its crispness and colour vividness, is grand. Beyond making games more lively and engaging, it also makes gameplay easier to follow, and in my time with the device, didn’t inspire any feelings of nausea or dizziness, as other headsets had previously done.
While I can only speak to my personal experiences in this regard, playing VR games on the Meta Quest 3 was a more robust experience for me, with better visual fidelity and stability allowing for hours of gameplay without discomfort. Resident Evil 4 VR, which I previously had to play with visual blinders on, and in teleporting mode, was very smooth on the Meta Quest 3 – even if I did have to remove the headset multiple times to break from the spookiness.
Beat Saber was also a treat, with that added visual fidelity making every beat hit harder, and more resoundingly (with the headset’s improved surround sound also providing loud, well-balanced audio). As mentioned, Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR is also a solid experience on the device, with strong visuals, in-game movement, and stealth mechanics allowing for a full-bodied Assassin’s Creed experience.
Beyond its display, the Meta Quest 3 also rocks solid improvements to its controller system, with a revamped set of battery-powered controllers allowing for easy movement within virtual worlds. These are smaller than their predecessors, and feel more ergonomic. They fit neatly into your palm, and have plush buttons with a simple, easily understood layout.
The movement tracking for the controllers has also seemingly been improved, with quick calibration in games like Nexus allowing you to guide in-game movement snappily, and accurately. While tightening a bow string and fighting a guard with a sword, the seamlessness makes the experience all the more realistic, loosening those all-important barriers between the real and virtual worlds.
After multiple years of iteration, these controllers feel like an end point for Meta. While it briefly experimented with larger, more unwieldy controllers, these are simple, well-designed, and just the right size – a Goldilocks achievement.
Likewise, there is a sense of iterative refinement in other parts of the Meta Quest 3, as reflective of its status as the fourth generation of Meta/Oculus devices (including the Pro).
Following swiftly behind the device’s improved display and controllers, the refreshed chassis and design of the headset is also impressive in its own right. While it remains weighty – around the same as its predecessor – it is more ergonomic and comfortable, with the weight of the headset now spread more evenly.
Where the Meta Quest 2 was supported largely by a middle head strap, the Meta Quest 3 includes multiple support points, and easy adjustment. If you get the balance wrong, you can end up placing weight on your head incorrectly – and causing noticeable pressure – but it’s simple enough to adjust and readjust the straps to your head size, spreading out the weight load.
With the headset supported by these reliable straps, you can spend hours gaming without really noticing the headset – although this does come with two caveats.
The first is that the pads around the headset are cotton, and they absorb sweat. By nature, your face will get warm while using the Meta Quest 3. While there is a gap around the nose pad that lets in cooling air, you will still get sweaty during longer gaming sessions. I didn’t run into trouble during my review, but I can imagine that the headset’s face pads constantly absorbing sweat won’t be good in the long run – and these will likely need to be replaced eventually.
The second caveat is a more universal one – that you can’t really spend continuous hours gaming on the Meta Quest 3 as its battery life won’t hold up, and the included charging cable is too short for connected play. In my testing, I was able to get around 2 to 3 hours of VR gameplay out of the Meta Quest 3 at a time, with charges needed between sessions. It takes a bit over an hour for the headset to get a full charge, by estimation, so there are moments when you’ll need to stop and pause your game playing.
For me personally, I didn’t have much trouble with this, as I only really wanted to spend an hour or two gaming with the headset at a time (based on preference, more than anything else) but those who wish for more immersion, and hours more time wandering virtual fields will need to contend with this meagre battery life and cable setup.
Best of the rest
Realistically, there is still a long way to go before virtual reality is considered a mainstream technology, accepted in work places and for hobby gaming. Headsets including the Meta Quest 3 are still heavy and somewhat unwieldy, and a significant amount of people simple can’t engage with the technology without risking their wellbeing.
Regardless of these quirks, the Meta Quest 3 is still an impressive device for VR gaming, and a clear product of nearly a decade of iteration. Its tweaks, while relatively minor in the grand scheme, are very impactful, and contribute to impressive, and significantly elevated virtual reality experiences. For anyone looking to finally invest in the world of VR headsets, this is the one.
Meta Quest 3
Five stars: ★★★★★
Release Date: 10 October 2023
A Meta Quest 3 headset and a copy of Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR were provided for the purposes of this review.