The plan was to write a full, scored review for John Wick Chronicles on the HTC Vive, but I physically wasn’t able to play long enough to finish the full game due to the low frame rate. The PC I was using met the game’s minimum specifications in all ways, and exceeded them in most, so I emailed the developer to figure out what was going on.
“The reprojection system used by Valve will lock your VR frame rate to 45fps whenever your system is unable to maintain 90fps,” Almir Listo, global brand director at Starbreeze, told Polygon.
So if your system can’t handle the game at 90fps reliably, you’ll be locked at 45 ... which is way too low to be tolerable in the Vive. This is why I had to remove the headset so quickly to avoid throwing up after trying to play; the game was playing at half the minimum frame rate needed to keep the player comfortable.
So why handle things this way?
“The trade-off is that whilst it can be juddery, its consistency is better and less nausea inducing than letting the frame rate fluctuate all over the place, and it also helps approximate head tracking movement when the system might otherwise not have time to display your movement,” Listo explained. “There have been new optimization made on this system to avoid this drop too frequently, but still, if it happens too often, it will cap at 45fps.”
You can compare the minimum to the recommended specs below; there’s quite the jump in power.
OS: Windows 10
Processor: Intel i5-4590
Memory: 8 GB RAM
Graphics: NVIDIA Geforce GTX 970
OS: Windows 10
Processor: Intel i7-4770
Memory: 16 GB RAM
Graphics: NVIDIA Geforce GTX 980 Ti
So my test system, which runs a Geforce GTX 970 graphics card and is slightly above the minimum specs in all other ways, can’t actually provide the minimum requirements necessary to run the game in a way that will be physically comfortable.
There’s a reason Sony will refuse certification if your game doesn’t run at 60fps on the PlayStation VR; the minimum frame rates for these systems aren’t suggestions, they’re guidelines that protect you from feeling sick.
If a game can’t run at 90fps on a Rift or a Vive using the listed minimum specs, the minimum specs need to either be changed, or there needs to be a warning that you will almost certainly feel ill when playing the game. Vive games aren’t playable in any real way at 45fps, and I don’t think we should pretend otherwise.