If you thought shooter games were ubiquitous on PCs and consoles, wait until you dive into the world of virtual reality.
You have a controller in each hand with trigger buttons, so is it any wonder that gun games are so common? And they're relatively easy to make, given that bullets fire in a straight line and you don't have to be too imaginative with physics.
But one of the worst things about VR shooter games is when you switch from handguns, which are pretty true-to-life in many ways, and start using two-handed shotguns and rifles.
Suddenly it doesn't feel so good because you need to keep both hands aligned, and that's not easy to do when you don't have a physical rifle to hold onto.
That's where something like the ProTubeVR Magnetic Rifle Frame comes in to save the day. It's a gun stock frame that holds both controllers so that they always stay aligned.
Disclaimer: The base model costs €60, but I purchased a few addons and accessories for a total of €125, and ProTubeVR provided a €120 discount for me as a reviewer. All opinions in this review are solely mine and have not been influenced by ProTubeVR in any way.
I ordered the "kit" version of the ProTubeVR, which means it arrived in pieces and required assembly.
Fortunately, the pieces were organized well, it came with a pouch of spare parts, and the instructions were easy enough to follow (just a little more difficult than IKEA instructions).
It took me about 70 minutes from start to finish, and while it wasn't difficult, it was definitely a hassle. If you aren't on a tight budget, you might want to consider spending the extra €20 for it to arrive pre-assembled.
Once assembled, you'll need to spend another hour or so in whatever shooter game of choice as you tweak it to your liking and get comfortable with how all of the adjustments are made.
Yeah, the main selling point of the ProTubeVR is that it's highly configurable to your needs. It has four parts that are independently adjustable: the rear stock, the short rear frame, the medium center frame, and the long front frame.
Each part is connected using a toothed hinge so that it holds its shape during normal use but can also be twisted with enough force, allowing for on-the-fly tweaks.
The two cups, one for each controller, are also adjustable: tightened using butterfly knobs, you can slide them forward and backward along the frame, and you can even make them lean off-center if that's how you want to use your rifle.
So imagine a game like Gun Club VR, which has shotguns, SMGs, assault rifles, and sniper rifles. Each weapon has a unique distance and height between the trigger hand and support hand.
Whereas a fixed 3D-printed gun stock might work well for the AK-47 but not so well for the AWM, the ProTubeVR can adjust to fit any weapon. It'll still take a few minutes to make the adjustments, but that's a small price to pay for flexibility.
Does it feel like you're using a rifle? Yes and no.
The ProTubeVR is obviously nowhere near as heavy as a real-life rifle, and the controller cups and the rear stock are both plastic so those don't feel like true rifles either.
But when you're in a game and line up your sights and pop off a headshot, or when you mow down a line of targets with an automatic, yes it does feel like you're using a rifle.
Compared to free holding both controllers, I find that the ProTubeVR provides a huge increase in rifle accuracy and precision.
ProTubeVR offers a "magnetic cups" upgrade, and this is where the rifle frame really shines. The default ProTubeVR has the controller cups screwed to the frame itself, which is problematic because it makes reloading a pain in the neck.
You have to remove the controller from the cup, do the reload action, then try to slip the controller back into the cup—and the controller wrist strap goes through the cup, so you can't use the wrist strap if you ever need to remove the controller.
The magnetic cups solve both of these usability issues.
Here's how it works: instead of the cups being screwed to the frame, the cup and the frame each have one half of a magnet pair, and the magnets used in the ProTubeVR are strong.
When you need to reload, you can just pop the cup off by breaking the magnetism—the controller stays in the cup the whole time—and when you're done, you just move the cup to the general area of the rifle magnet and it locks back into place with a snap.
The downside is that the magnetic cups upgrade is an additional €35, but it's completely worth it. Reloading would be such a pain without it.
Here's another cool thing about the ProTubeVR:
While the rear controller cup is attached using a toothed hinge, the front controller cup is attached using a smooth hinge.
Why? Because when you're using a shotgun, you can keep the tension in the hinge loose and quickly swivel the cup back and forward to simulate the pumping reload of a pump-action shotgun. You don't even have to uncup!
I also bought two accessories with my ProTubeVR:
First, the foldable telescopic tactical bipod. This is basically a kickstand that you attach to the front barrel of the rifle frame and can bust out whenever you find yourself in prone position, such as with a sniper rifle.
It feels hefty—even better quality than the frame itself—and it's very easy to put on and take off thanks to the cleverly designed quick-release switch.
However, I don't find myself in prone position all that often, so I consider this an extremely situational accessory to buy.
Second, the two-point sling rather than the default one-point sling. The problem with the one-point sling is that it's uncomfortable: the frame hangs vertically when you let go, and you have to fumble for it when you want to pick up your rifle.
The two-point sling attaches to the front and back of the frame so that it hangs horizontally when you let go. And it only costs an extra €5 to upgrade from the one-point sling to two-point sling
Right now, I've configured my controller cups so that one is all the way to the front and the other is all the way to the back, and sometimes I find myself wishing that the frame itself was a few inches longer.
This is something I could DIY, since all I'd need is a longer metal tube of the same diameter, but it'd be nice of the base frame was longer to start with.
I'm also disappointed that the controller cups feel like they're 3D printed. It really detracts from the overall feel, especially because the product is so pricey.
In fact, one of the cups arrived with a dent where one of the hex-bolts was supposed to go in, and I had trouble forcing it in there:
The chrome frame is practical but unsightly. If aesthetics are important to you, definitely get the carbon fiber frame instead (although it'll cost an extra €35 to make that upgrade).
The carbon fiber frame is also lighter than the chrome frame, which may be more comfortable for longer gaming sessions. I find that my arms get tired after about 30 minutes of shooting with the chrome-framed ProTubeVR. Maybe I'm just weak!
I also wish the controller cups had rubber interiors. The Oculus Touch controllers sometimes loosen and slip out of the cups during play, and it's annoying having to shove them back in while you're under fire.
You can kind of alleviate this by angling the cups in a more horizontal orientation, but that may or may not affect your overall comfort.
Also, the default wrist straps on the Oculus Touch are semi-incompatible with the ProTubeVR cups. You can't shove the controllers in all the way, so that adds to the "slip out of the cup" issue. Instead, you have to replace your wrist straps with the ones provided by ProTubeVR.
These wrist straps aren't bad quality-wise, but there's no way to attach them to the Oculus Touch controllers without using some cleverly concocted DIY solution.
For me, I had to roll up some aluminum foil into pegs to keep the wrist straps plugged into the controllers.
Lastly, two complaints about the body sling:
First, the quality of the sling itself is fine, but there's absolutely no padding so it can cause irritation along your shoulder, neck, and chest. The one-point sling might not be as irritating as the two-point sling, but I don't have one to compare it with.
Second, the quality of the sling points—the loops on the frame that you hook the sling into—are terrible.
They don't feel substantial at all, and sometimes I worry that they'll break and the frame will crash to the ground, possibly damaging the controllers in the process. Of all the pieces to cheap out on, these definitely should not have been it!
So, is it worth it? I think so, but only if you're really into shooters. At this kind of price, you're going to need a lot of rifle and shotgun action to make the investment worth it.
For me? It opened up a whole new world of fun in Gun Club VR and allowed me to get even more value out of that game.
Some points to note:
- The magnetic cups upgrade is a must. They're so useful.
- The carbon fiber frame is optional, but worth it if you have money to burn and care about aesthetics. Otherwise, save the money, wrap the chrome frame in electrical or grip tape, and spend the money you saved on another game.
- The two-point sling is optional, but it's so cheap that you might as well get it. It's nice for hanging on the wall, too.
- The bipod is completely optional. Skip it unless you have money to burn. Can't think of many games where prone position is that common.
Overall, I'm satisfied!
You could probably 3D print something similar, but if you don't have a 3D printer, you'll end up spending a similar amount on a 3D printing service anyway, so you might as well get the ProTubeVR. It's the quick-adjust design that makes it worth the price.