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From horror fests to shoot-’em-ups, here are the 20 best Oculus Rift games

The Oculus Rift had a tough go of it out of the gate. Delayed shipments and a sparse library of games made its first six months on the market rocky, to say the least. Then, in late 2016, the delayed Oculus Touch controllers arrived, upping the impressiveness of most games by giving players full motion control with each hand.

Now, well into its second year of life, the Oculus Rift continues to impress with a steady stream of solid experiences. From first-person shooters to frightful psychological horror games to quirky puzzlers to co-op games, the platform has something for everyone. We’ve combed through its library to compile the best Oculus Rift games available on the VR headset today.

Lone Echo

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Numerous VR experiences have attempted to capture the feeling of floating in space, but the Oculus exclusive title Lone Echo is the only one to do it in a way that feels accurate.

In reality, most of your actions involve simple maintenance fixes to a space station, but through the excellent Oculus Touch controllers, all of your movements have an immersion to them that few VR games have been able to replicate thus far. With a strong sci-fi story and a wonderfully realized space setting, Lone Echo‘s several hours of play are the best way to visit space from your living room. Amazon

Wilson’s Heart

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One of the more ambitious Oculus Rift games to date, Wilson’s Heart serves up psychological horror through the immersive experience of VR.

Set in the 1940s, the game follows hospital patient Robert Wilson, who wakes up only to realize that his heart has been replaced by a perplexing device. You play as Wilson, but you’re not the only one with disturbing woes. As you make your way down spooky, tight corridors, you’ll meet an eccentric cast of characters, all of whom want to find out how and why they have been poked and prodded by the dastardly hospital staff.

Full of jump scares and eerie realizations, Wilson’s Heart makes great use of the Touch controllers to get you into the thick of its mind-altering horrors. Amazon

Superhot VR

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Conceived as an alternate expression of experimental first-person shooter Superhot, Superhot VR adapts the stop-motion mechanic to your arms as you wield Oculus Touch controllers. When you move your hands around, the bullets rain in from enemies, but if you stop to consider your next move, you’ll receive a welcome bullet remission.

The goal remains the same — to advance to the exit in each room — but in VR, the intensity is amplified. Dismembering foes in VR will get your blood pumping. You must move your hands methodically to succeed, but Superhot VR‘s ingenious design makes it a constant delight.

Amazon

Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives

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A testament to how VR excels at turning menial tasks into engaging, even sometimes transformative experiences, Owlchemy Labs’ Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives pretty much plays as advertised. Yet, the mundane becomes fascinating in VR. Who would have thought?

The year is 2050, and humans have automated every job. To spice up your unburdened human life, you can now use a VR headset to simulate what “honest work” was all about. You can ring up chips and drinks as a convenience store clerk, fix cars as a mechanic, man the griddle as a short-order cook, or process paperwork as a run-of-the-mill 9-to-5 office worker.

Of course, this is what robots thought work was like, so it may be different and much funnier than you remember. Amazon

The Unspoken

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This is the closest you can get to being a wizard at home. Oculus exclusive The Unspoken from heralded developer Insomniac Games does an exceedingly impressive job of making you feel like you’re doing a lot of wizarding work without demanding much of you. The Unspoken is an urban fantasy filled with customizable wizards and spell casters, and you just happen to be one of them.

The wide array of spells deployed via Oculus Touch controllers almost feel as if they are truly being guided from your fingertips. There’s some exploration here and a dreary game world, but the meat of the experience comes from the duels that help you advance through the ranks of a wizard fight club. Unlike the fight club you’re thinking of, it’s okay to talk about this one.

We recommend you play it, too. Amazon

Star Trek: Bridge Crew

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Quite possibly the best multiplayer VR experience to date, Star Trek: Bridge Crew lets users play out their childhood fantasies of joining the likes of James T. Kirk, Montgomery Scott, Hikaru Sulu, and Pavel Chekov as a member of a Starfleet crew.

Players work in teams of four, with each person in one of four roles — pilot, engineer, tactician, or captain. Each job — best acted out with an Oculus Touch controller, but playable with an Xbox One controller — asks players to tinker with a computer panel. Bridge Crew excels as a cooperative game due to the need to work together to find success. It really does feel like you’re living inside an episode of Star Trek.

Simply put, if you have a group to play with, Bridge Crew should be at the top of your wish list. Amazon

Robo Recall

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Originally designed as a pack-in game for the Oculus Touch controllers, Robo Recall is a frantic shoot-em-up designed to make it easy for you to look cool while blowing robots to bits. You play as Agent 34 of the robot manufacturing company RoboReady.

Your job at the company is to remove defective units from the production line, but a virus has turned the robots against their creators, and now you must take them out. While Robo Recall boils down to a series of timed shooting galleries, it’s much more interesting than your average on rails FPS. You can pick up enemies and fling them into other robots with a swipe of your hand, and you can even catch bullets in the air and whirl them back to turn the infected robots into nothing more than a pile of parts. Robo Recall shows off the brilliance of the Oculus Touch controllers.

Best of all, it’s free-to-play. Oculus

Arizona Sunshine

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One of the only full-fledged first person shooters available in VR, Arizona Sunshine drops you into the smoldering heat of an American Southwest that is currently littered with zombies. Using the Oculus Touch, you can aim, shoot, and reload dozens of weapons.

More open than other shooters in VR, Arizona Sunshine has a campaign mode that lets players explore the deserts and caves in search of an escape. After the campaign is finished, there are both single- and multiplayer horde modes, which force you to fight off hordes of the undead. Arizona Sunshine is a fast-paced gore-fest filled with bloodied, hungry zombies. It’s slick and demonstrates how the Oculus Rift can deliver complete packages with multiple game modes.

Amazon

Chronos

For people used to playing traditional video games and looking to ease into the world of VR, Chronos is a great option. An easy comparison is Dark Souls. It’s a game full of pitched sword duels in which you have to carefully land blows and defend against the attacks of your foes to stay alive. Chronos eschews the usual VR approach of the first-person viewpoint — in which you see the game through the eyes of the character you’re playing as — in favor of the third-person view, where you watch and control the action from a separate perspective, much like a camera recording an event. Oculus

Edge of Nowhere

Insomniac Games took a stab at doing horror in virtual reality in a way that’s different from nearly every other game of that genre on the platform.

Rather than go the usual route, using a first-person perspective that has you playing as if you’re in the shoes (and seeing through the eyes) of the protagonist, it puts the camera behind the main character, just like in Chronos.

The result is a more psychological, stealthy take on horror. Edge of Nowhere is another of those VR games that feels like it could easily exist as a more traditional game, but it does some experimentation with the platform to find new ways to scare players.

Oculus

Smartphone sales fall for first time ever, says Gartner

Apple’s iPhone X wasn’t enough to boost smartphone sales in the holiday quarter.

CNET

Uh oh. Smartphones finally took a nosedive. In the fourth quarter of 2017, smartphone sales fell for the first time ever, according to Gartner.

Handset makers sold nearly 408 million smartphones to customers in the quarter, down 5.6 percent from the same period a year ago, the research firm said Thursday. That marks the first annual decline since Gartner started tracking the smartphone market in 2004. Fewer people are switching their feature phones to smartphones “due to a lack of quality ‘ultra-low-cost’ smartphones” and instead are buying nicer feature phones, Gartner analyst Anshul Gupta said Thursday.

And people who already own smartphones are upgrading to higher-end models and holding on to them longer, he added. “Moreover, while demand for high quality, 4G connectivity and better camera features remained strong, high expectations and few incremental benefits during replacement weakened smartphone sales,” Gupta noted.

The smartphone market has been slowing down of late. It’s become harder for handset vendors to make huge changes in their devices and differentiate from one another.

Prices for the latest and greatest phones have actually increased at the same time US carriers have gotten rid of subsidies. All of that’s meant people are waiting longer to upgrade. Even Apple has struggled.

It reported in April 2016 that its iPhone unit sales fell for the first time ever, and they ended up declining for that full year. Apple’s sales have largely rebounded, though they again slid in the December quarter despite the launch of the iPhone X. Samsung managed to hold on to the No.

1 position in the fourth quarter, even though its unit sales slid 3.6 percent to 74 million units, Gartner said. The company on Sunday will show off its newest phone, the Galaxy S9. The device is expected to feature tweaks but no major design overhaul.

Apple ranked No.

2 in the period with iPhone sales down 5 percent to 73.2 million, followed by Chinese vendors Huawei, Oppo and Vivo. Huawei and Xiaomi (which doesn’t rank in the top five) were the only smartphone vendors to see their unit sales grow in the quarter, Gartner said.

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(Note, Apple earlier this month reported it sold 77.3 million iPhones in the December quarter, but Gartner calculates its figure differently. It tallies devices in the hands of actual users, while Apple and others also include phones that have not yet been purchased by end consumers and are still held by Verizon Wireless, Best Buy and other vendors.)

For the full year, smartphone sales increased 2.7 percent to 1.5 billion units, Gartner said. Samsung’s market share stayed about flat at 21 percent, while Apple’s remained at about 14 percent. Huawei’s grew to 9.8 percent from 8.9 percent in 2016.

For smartphone operating systems, Android’s lead grew by 1.1 percentage points to 86 percent.

Apple’s iOS remained at about 14 percent.

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Samsung Galaxy S9 event: Watch it live here

After doing its own thing last year, Samsung returns to dominate Mobile World Congress 2018 on Sunday with the reveal of its next flagship phones, the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus. The latest members of Samsung’s large and high-powered Galaxy family give Samsung its first opportunity to return Apple’s iPhone X serve that was debuted last September. We don’t know what exactly Samsung will give us just yet, but as the event is titled “The Camera.

Reimagined,” something about taking photos is a good guess. Other rumors include a face unlock tool, a virtual fingerprint reader, a fast wireless charger and Qualcomm’s‘s Snapdragon 845 processor. The event takes place in Barcelona this Sunday, February 25 at 6:00 p.m. local time (find when the when in starts in your time zone).

If you can’t make it to Spain, fear not as you only have to bookmark this page to watch the event live. Of course, CNET will bring you all the details of the new phones as the event unfolds, followed by top analysis of what it all means from Samsung, Apple and the entire wireless industry. Our editors Roger Cheng, Jessica Dolcourt and Andrew Hoyle will be on the ground in Spain, so also follow them on Twitter at @RogerWCheng, @jdolcourt and @Batteryhq for the sights and sounds as it all happens.

Back in San Francisco, Brian Tong, Lexy Savvides and Stephen Beacham will host a live show around the event and will take your calls and tweets.

They’ll kick it off at 8:30 a.m.

PT (convert to your time zone), a half-hour before Samsung takes the stage.

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Mobile World Congress 2018

The Galaxy S9 arrives in stores on March 16, says report

The Galaxy S9 will be revealed on Feb.

25.

Samsung

We know the Galaxy S9 will be unveiled on Feb.

25, but how long until you can actually hold one in your hand? Not too long, reports The Investor, which claims the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus will go on sale across the globe March 16. But if waiting 19 days after the phone is announced seems unbearable, you may be able to get the phone early.

Preorders for the Galaxy S9 may go live on Feb.

28 in Korea, according to the report. It also claims that people who preorder the Galaxy devices may receive it between March 9 and March 15, a few days before the phone lands in stores. The report cites Korean telecom carriers, which apparently already have an official preorder and release schedule from Samsung.

We couldn’t independently verify this information with Samsung — Samsung declined to comment on this story — but as the Galaxy S9 unveil draws closer, concrete dates may have already been set in stone. Last year the Galaxy S8 was first announced on March 29, but it wasn’t until April 21 that it first went on sale in places like South Korea, Canada and the US. Other countries like Australia and the UK didn’t get the S8 until April 28, while markets like Japan and South Africa didn’t get the phone until June.

While we don’t know for sure when the Galaxy S9 is rolling out to each country, if the reported dates are true it could mean less waiting for some. The Galaxy S9 will be unveiled the day before the international mobile tradeshow Mobile World Congress. Samsung’s Galaxy S phones are the most popular Android devices out there, and the S9 could give other premium phones like Apple’s iPhone X some stiff competition.

Be sure to stay tuned to CNET as we cover Mobile World Congress live and look out for official details on the Galaxy S9.

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Mobile World Congress 2018

BlackBerry and Nokia still struggling to make a comeback

Last February, the once-great Nokia and BlackBerry brands each hoped to stage a triumphant return at the world’s largest phone show. A year on, we’re still waiting for a knockout device that will put either one back in the international spotlight in a meaningful way. Despite the brands launching 8 Android phones between them in the past year, it’s clear neither one has turned the tide.

Neither company can expect to return to their pre-2010 heights, before the phone world accelerated its path to its current iPhone/Android duopoly. But if their respective comebacks fall flat, it means fewer choices for consumers in an era increasingly dominated by Apple and Samsung handsets. Fewer than 6 million Nokia phones shipped in the past year, IHS Markit analyst Wayne Lam told CNET.

BlackBerry could have shipped as many as 170,000 units in the fourth quarter, according to Neil Shah, an analyst at Counterpoint Research. In contrast, Apple sold 77.3 million iPhones in a single quarter. BlackBerry declined to share sales figures and HMD Global, which licenses Nokia’s name, didn’t respond to multiple requests to comment on this story.

Low sales figures are to be expected for these revivalists, even a year in. Comebacks in the phone world don’t happen overnight; they occur over years of steady investment and marketing work. “[With] Nokia and Blackberry, there’s an expectation that they will take the world by storm in just a few months and dominate the market once again,” said Francois Maheiu, BlackBerry’s chief commercial officer. “The world knows there are two mega players right now, Apple and Samsung… it takes time.”

Both BlackBerry and Nokia phones are expected to update in the coming months, hoping to kick up momentum once again. The Nokia brand has its announcement this week at Mobile World Congress 2018 and BlackBerry is expected to unveil its next phone later in March, according to analysts. The hopefuls will need much more than a flashy presentation or booth space to wrest attention from the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus, which Samsung will unveil on February 25.

For BlackBerry and Nokia devices to stand a chance against the Samsung leviathan, they’ll need to show top-tier phones with hardware and software good enough to compete.

Nokia hopes a meh 2017 leads to an ‘awesome’ breakout in 2018

A year ago, it looked like Nokia phones would fulfill their fans’ biggest wish: to run on Android software. But even six releases in, the handsets aren’t doing much other than laying a stable budget base. After years of smartphone hot potato, they have a lot of catching up to do.

The original Nokia phones first switched hands to Microsoft, which bought the rights in 2013, and replaced Nokia’s proprietary software (primarily Symbian with a dash of MeeGo) with Windows OS. Three years later, Microsoft bumped its license to a new company, HMD Global, which uses Android. With so many Android phones available, Nokia phones today rely on hardware and competitive pricing to stand out.

However, HMD Global’s 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 and higher-end Nokia 8, failed to generate as much buzz as the 3310, a revamped flip phone that doesn’t even have Wi-Fi, apps or a touchscreen.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

On the flip phone side, Nokia “may be in for a slight revival especially on the backs of the new 4G feature phone trend that is sweeping global markets such as India and other cost sensitive global markets,” said Lam. We’re not exactly sure what HMD Global has planned for Nokia in 2018, apart from something “awesome,” according to a tweet from Juho Sarvikas, the product lead of HMD Global, which operates out of Nokia’s spiritual homeland of Finland. But the fact that HMD Global is hosting a press event, when few brands want to compete with Samsung, shows a commitment to further build the Nokia name in 2018.

Most buyers throughout the world pick new phones through their carrier. Nokia could differentiate its hardware by offering a feature other phonemakers don’t, perhaps a return to the 41-megapixel “Pureview” camera from 2012. But its best chance of success is to get on as many global carriers as possible.

“The big question for HMD/Nokia is whether their success can continue without moving into the US, which is a tough market and one where the Nokia brand will not help much,” said Carlonia Milanesi, an alayst with Creative Strategies. “Nokia will not be able substantially to grow further without gaining share in China and the US.”

BlackBerry: Staying alive, but only just

Where Nokia phones spread out over the entry-level and midrange, the new BlackBerry wanted to punch in with a single high-end device, the KeyOne. Licensed by China’s TCL Communication, which also markets Alcatel phones, the KeyOne returned to the legacy brand’s core characteristics of a physical keyboard and enhanced security that caters to corporate IT policies. Late in the year, the keyboard-equipped KeyOne was joined by the all-screen BlackBerry Motion.

And in January, the company introduced a new KeyOne color and direct US sales for the BlackBerry Motion, which had previously only sold in Canada. While we don’t expect to see new BlackBerry phones until after this month’s biggest mobile trade show, TCL’s investment indicates that it’s business as usual.

Josh Miller/CNET

BlackBerry phones have more carrier visibility than Nokia handsets in the key US market, with a presence in AT&T and Sprint. Globally, Orange, Vodafone and Singtel are wins.

That was all part of TCL’s two-pronged plan. “Number one for us was to make BlackBerry available all over the world again,” BlackBerry’s Maheiu said, adding that the KeyOne is sold in more than 50 countries. The second approach is to court security-conscious businesses to offer BlackBerry phones as an option for employees, alongside Apple and Samsung devices.

“BlackBerry will be the third choice for the employee,” said Maheiu. To this end, BlackBerry has seeded over 1,000 businesses with its phones for testing in-house, in the hopes that at the end of the trial, companies embrace the KeyOne and Motion. Over 30 percent of those corporations would bring the phones on board by the end of December 2017, the phonemaker said, and it expects that figure to rise to over 50 percent by end of March.

Not everyone agrees with the brand’s chances. “Sadly, I think they overestimated the size of the QWERTY market as well as how difficult it is to get into the enterprise market,” said analyst Milanesi. While BlackBerry’s visibility is still a blip on the global map, its strategy to build through carriers and corporations could forge some humble inroads, so long as its phones can offer the same features as other top handsets for the same price or less.

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BlackBerry could also gain momentum by jumping early on the foldable smartphone trend. We’ve already seen one device with the ZTE Axon M, and Samsung has vowed to release its first foldable phone in 2018.

“I think if BlackBerry are design savvy, they can add to the overall conversation around how these devices look and operate,” IHS Markit analyst Lam said.

It’s too soon to say if BlackBerry phones will move quickly on the foldable concept.

Regardless, TCL shows a confident face.

“BlackBerry handsets are here to stay,” said Maheiu.

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