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Crytek's VR Demo Puts You Face to Face with a T-Rex

SAN FRANCISCO -- GDC has become the place to check out the latest in virtual reality, and Crytek complied with aplomb. Its heart-racing, Oculus-based VR demo put me up close and personal with an intimidating prehistoric beast.

Crytek showcased a wide variety of applications for its Cry Engine 3 game development platform, ranging from new games like the upcoming open-world RPG The Memory of Eldurim, to pushing the graphical limits of the just launched Nvidia Shield Console. But, it was Crytek's Back to Dinosaur Island VR demo that shattered my expectations, and may have been the best VR exhibit at GDC 2015.

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Back to Dinosaur Island is powered by the latest Oculus VR unit, Crescent Bay, which features a high-def display, built-in headphones and head tracking to create a demo that transports your entire body back to the Mesozoic age.

As the lights came up on the demo, I was surrounded by giant eggs, which I examined by moving my head in closer to peek inside. I then became so engrossed in exploring the world that I forgot about my surroundings in real life, causing me to almost crash into a big screen TV that was mirroring my view to onlookers behind me.

Next, I was attacked by giant mosquitoes, forcing me to duck and dodge the flying insect as they dived for my face. This was more than just a visceral reaction to being bombarded by enemies, as head tracking data from the Oculus headset allowed Cry Engine 3 to determine if I was actually able to avoid taking damage from the attacks (I did not).

Smaller dinosaurs lurked in the distance that responded to my gaze, but the real finale was when a 40-foot T-Rex sauntered up, greeting me with a terrifying roar. As we stood face to face, the T-Rex began to mimic my own head movements, swaying to the left and right and nosing up close in a most unsettling, yet fascinating manner.

The demo had my blood pumping, and did a masterful job of truly immersing me in a world that words can barely manage to describe, and if Back to Dinosaur Island is just a showcase for what's possible with VR using Cry Engine 3, then bring it on, because I can't wait to see a full-length game based on Crytek's exhibit at GDC.

Sam Rutherford is a Staff Writer at Tom’s Guide. Follow him @SamRutherford on Twitter, and Tom’s Guide on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.