Kor-FX Haptic Vest: Our first take

Kor-FX's haptic feedback vest will make you quiver, not quake

Kor-Fx’s vest is a rumble pack for VR, but it’s not for everybody

Treadmills, motion controllers, force feedback –  there are a lot of ways to bring more than just your audio and visual senses into play when it comes to gaming, and there’s no shortage of brands trying to do so.

The Kor-FX haptic vest places a series of specially tuned speakers at strategic points over your chest, so you can really feel the game you’re in to your very core. Kor-FX has been around the block already, with a successful Kickstarter campaign in June of 2014, and a loyal community of owners and optimizers.

It’s hard to say whether there’s mainstream appeal for such a device, but virtual reality has shown there’s no shortage of enthusiasts willing to throw down for fun new toys.

How does it work?

Though it’s a vest, the Kor-FX is basically an audio device. It replicates a specific set of frequencies in game and movie audio, which are translated to the vest’s vibrations, before passing the audio off to your headphones or speakers.

Shooting a gun is sure to cause it to shake, but getting hit might not always cause a loud enough noise to register.

The best part of this arrangement is that the Kor-FX requires no software, and very little setup. Simply plug the adapter box into an audio port on your system, and connect the USB port for power. Connect your headphones to the other side of the adapter box, and you’re ready to go.

The downside is the Kor-FX can’t always respond to specific events as it should. Shooting a gun is sure to cause it to shake, but getting hit might not always cause a loud enough noise to register. That’s why game choice is important when considering the Kor-FX.

For best results, turn it up

The Kor-FX is most effective in games with a lot of loud audio. The over-the-top weaponry and heavy soundtrack in Gears of War 4 made a great example for showing off the vest. As the ground shook from the violent windstorms, and pieces of buildings came crashing down, they were accentuated by a rumbling to the chest.

That said, the Kor-FX isn’t a game-changing experience, even in the best of situations. It’s more effective at adding immersion than a rumble pack, but reactions in the office were mixed. Some users said the vest didn’t do much for them in terms of immersiveness or long-term appeal, while others felt it added an audio element that wasn’t there before, like the shaking you feel at a live concert.

It’s particularly ineffective in games without dramatic explosions and gunfire. If you’re playing Hearthstone or Minecraft, you might as well leave it on the shelf. That’s to be expected, and there are other peripherals, like high-end gaming headphones or a high-resolution screen, that won’t be used to their full potential all the time.

The VR difference

The Kor-FX shines when paired up with a virtual reality headset. In a field where immersion is the name of the game, anything that brings you closer to the action is worth its weight in gold.

We also observed a similar effect to what we felt with Adr1ft for the Oculus Rift. The fact the in-game character is wearing a helmet helps the headset feel more natural — you’re in space, so of course you’re wearing a spacesuit. The same is true in racing games with the Kor-FX. Because you’d be strapped in with a heavy seatbelt, the extra padding on your chest and shoulders feels more natural.

On the other hand, it doesn’t feel as natural in games like Hover Junkers, where you’re moving quickly and dodging often. Combined with a headset, motion controllers, and headphones, and it starts to feel like you’re carrying around a lot of stuff while you play – because you are.

Something new

There’s a lot to like about the Kor-FX, but its appeal has limits. It’s only a solid offering for those who play loud games – racing simulators, over-the-top shooters, and confrontational action games. If you’re more of a MOBA fan, or you mostly play quieter, more subdued games, the Kor-FX isn’t nearly as impactful.

The good news is that Kor-FX isn’t done, and work has begun on a new vest that will improve on the current model’s functionality. It’s still in the very early development phases, but the second iteration of the haptic vest will build on critical user feedback, and target second-generation virtual reality headsets that are no doubt coming down the pipeline later next year.

For now, the Kor-FX remains a fun addition for the enthusiast who already has a full virtual reality setup, or a full racing wheel and pedals. That’s a great position to be in as virtual reality begins to take on the mainstream.

Highs

  • Uniquely immersive
  • Comfortable, lightweight fit
  • SteamVR support
  • Easy setup

Lows

  • Works best in loud games
  • Mixed reactions
Gaming

Seedling for Magic Leap is the most expensive plant you’ll ever take care of

Insomniac Games has officially launched its new game for Magic Leap One, called 'Seedling.' Throughout the game, you can nurture your very own life form wherever you are. In our demo with Seedling, we got to check out if the game is worth…
Computing

Stop your PC's vow of silence with these tips on how to fix audio problems

Sound problems got you down? Don't worry, with a few tweaks and tricks we'll get your sound card functioning as it should, and you listening to your favorite tunes and in-game audio in no time.
Home Theater

Here’s why you’re not getting Netflix in HD or 4K, and how to fix it

Are you having trouble watching your favorite movies or TV shows on Netflix in HD or 4K? We explain why loading takes so long, why the picture quality fluctuates, and what you can do about it.
Gaming

The hottest Nintendo Switch games you can get right now

The Nintendo Switch's lineup started off small, but games have steadily released as the console continues through its second year. Here are the best Nintendo Switch games available now, from Super Mario Odyssey to Fortnite.
Deals

Check out the best Green Monday deals for those last-minute gifts

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone, but that doesn't mean you've missed your chance of finding a great deal. We're talking about Green Monday, of course, and it falls on December 10.
Gaming

Itching to fight in an online match with friends in 'SSB Ultimate'? Here's how

You can play online against your friends in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, but it isn't quite as simple as you might expect from a multiplayer game in 2018. Here's how you can do so using the Battle Arena system.
Gaming

Still trying to unlock your main in 'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate'? Try these tips

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is Nintendo’s biggest entry in the series to date with over 70 characters to unlock, but the process can feel tiresome. Here are our tips to unlock your roster as quickly as possible.
Product Review

‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’ is an ode to gaming that lives up to its name

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a loving tribute to Nintendo and video game history. It’s a terrific multiplayer fighter that also has plenty for single-player fans to love this time around.
Gaming

PlayStation Classic hacked in less than a week to play games via USB drive

Hackers have already managed to crack the PlayStation Classic, with programs now available to allow users to play additional original PlayStation games on the system via a USB drive.
Gaming

‘Fortnite’ adds sword from ‘Infinity Blade,’ which disappears from App Store

Epic Games has added the Infinity Blade melee weapon to Fortnite just as it pulled all three games in the Infinity Blade trilogy from sale. The games are still available to download if you bought them.
Gaming

How you can give your PS4 a fresh start with a factory reset

Learn the many ways you can factory reset your PS4. From reverting your settings to factory to doing a full wipe and reinstalling the latest PlayStation firmware, we cover it all here, step by step.
Gaming

How to make a clan in ‘Destiny 2’ and where to go from there

Want to know how to make a clan in 'Destiny 2'? Here's everything you need to know, including how to design your clan's banner, earn extra loot, and help other players with guided games.
Mobile

Put down the controller and pick up the best phones for gaming on the go

Which phones are the best if all you want to do is play some mobile games? We've done the hard work and put together a list of the best gaming phones on Android and iOS, so you can keep playing and winning.
Gaming

Need help getting the Sleeper Simulant in 'Destiny 2'? We’ve got you covered

The Sleeper Simulant is one of the coolest new Exotic weapons you can unlock in the Warmind expansion of Destiny 2, but it's an involved process that will take awhile. Here's everything you need to know.