We all know the gaming industry’s obsession with the shooty-bang-bang genre, and VR games aren’t any different. This particular platform draws gamers with one keyword: immersiveness. However, with shooters in VR, the immersiveness ends with the 360° virtual world. Holding the controllers in each hand doesn't really emulate the feeling or action of using a gun, and this is exactly what French VR peripheral maker ProTubeVR aims to change with the MagTube.
The MagTube is a VR gunstock to which you attach your VR controllers to, it aiming to better help emulate “getting into the action” with a virtual rifle. And it doesn’t end there with the gun-feel emulation, as the MagTube supports mods like one that adds actual recoil to your VR gun shooting sessions, or a bipod to give your aim sniper-like stability. So let’s load the MagTube up and take a closer look!
Contents and impression
Similar to the ProSaber peripheral that I previously reviewed from the same company, the MagTube does not come in a particularly fancy or striking package. It comes in a standard (but sturdy) carton box with the items stored safely in bubble wraps. Out of the box comes the following:
- 1 x ready-to-use MagTube Rifle (carbon tubes/back-end/mounts)
- 1 x 2 points Black Sling
- 1 x Bipod (option)
- 2 x Allen keys
- 2 x Wrist straps
I was surprised when the box was delivered as it was nowhere as large as the MagTube was supposed to be. Only after opening it up did I understand why: the accessory can be folded into a square shape by adjusting the hinges with the included Allen key, and I found this extremely convenient for storage. Once unfolded, the MagTube measures around 70cm long and stands some 20cm tall. It stays in place after tightening the bolts with the Allen key and I did not encounter it folding onto itself or wobbling during gameplay.
It does not look like an actual gun right off the bat, unlike the fancy-looking BeswinVR M4VR Stock that we previously reviewed. It packs more resemblance to a gun scaffold of sorts, as it is essentially a couple of rods joined by some hinges. But this design has a more practical approach to it. The lack of extra parts to look like a gun don’t add to the functionality and could make it heavier and less practical. The hinges, present at three joints along the device, allow users to bend the MagTube at an angle for optimal comfort and in-game experience of every user. The same can be done for the controller’s cups to adjust them to each player’s preference. Those cups are also detachable as they attach magnetically to the MagTube, allowing users to further disassemble the unit easily for storage. This also has an in-game use as we shall see later.
Of note, the unit under review is the “MagTube - Carbon Full option” which starts at €175 and the review will reflect on this model. The base model of the MagTube starts at €99, with addons and different materials of the tube adding to the price. There's even a DIY model, with a handy tutorial available to help you set it up.
The ‘MagTube - Carbon Full option’ feels like the more premium version of the MagTube and uses practically the same parts as the ProSaber. As you might expect, the quality is the about the same, meaning the hinges are made from some sturdy plastic material, and the cups look 3D-printed but not cheap. The tubes are of high quality metal with a sturdy build, but yet are light, making the contraption weigh less than 1kg.
As with the ProSaber, the MagTube features the same cups to which the controllers attach. The process is quite finicky, requiring you to pass the wrist strap into a hole at the bottom of the cup, loop the strap around the controller and push the controller down to secure it. ProTubeVR does sell separate straps, the ProStraps, to better secure the controllers onto the cups and give some added peace of mind while in VR. This controller-securing process nevertheless remains problematic as you would need to remove and repeat the process whenever you change games or need to change batteries. It’s not very elegant nor very ideal and I wish (again) that ProTubeVR used another system, akin to a clamp mechanic to secure controllers.
Once the controllers are in place and the MagTube in position, it’s time to bring this accessory to the virtual battlefield!
Immersive VR shooting?
While ProTubeVR’s other product that I reviewed, the ProSaber, is limited to only one game and a specific plugin (Beat Saber’s Darth Maul mod), the MagTube is useable with many more games. In theory, you can use it with practically any VR games as it is simply a fancy mount for the controllers. But in practice, it’s best used with titles that give you control over a rifle or even sniper. ProTubeVR even has a recommended list which includes games like Pavlov, Onward and War Dust. Even better are games like Contractors that have a native gunstock calibration tool that help in making optimal use of this add-on. It takes some time to get used to using controllers stuck to the gunstock but they do help in lining up shots better when using an in-game rifle.
I mentioned earlier that the magnetically-attached controller cups have an in-game use and this is to help in reloading in some games or switching to single-handed weapons. This allows you to perform single-handed actions that require you to move the controller around in one hand (like reloading) and attach the controller back to the gunstock afterwards, all without having to remove your headset to fiddle with the attaching/detaching process.
It’s a well-designed feature that allows the controllers to be removable yet secure. However, it needs an adjustment period as you’ll have to exert some extra force to pull the cup out of its magnetic attachment. Moreover, if you are detaching the controllers to swap between rifles (requiring the gunstock) and handguns (singlehanded), it can be a disadvantage in multiplayer games as this process takes some time. But on the plus side, this somewhat adds to the immersiveness by emulating the action of physically changing weapons.
Overall, the MagTube enhances immersiveness in VR, much more than holding a controller in each hand does. I very much prefer using it to aim and shoot at opponents in VR shooting games than performing the same actions with the controllers solely. Switching back to the latter feels bland now that I have experienced VR with a gunstock. It’s also lightweight, allowing for swift movement and aiming. Being light also makes it comfortable to use but I wish that the buttstock part has some cushioning to it.
What makes the MagTube interesting is that it is not simply a gunstock to stick controllers to, like the BeswinVR M4VR Stock essentially is. ProTubeVR designed their VR gunstock to accommodate modules that further enhances the immersiveness.
On the official ProTubeVR store page for the MagTube, you will have the option to purchase mods when placing your order that allow you to upgrade the gunstock.
Firstly, there’s the sling which is included in the package or you can upgrade it to one that has a two-point attachment, starting at €5 (different colours have different prices). This not only makes using the MagTube more secure with the sling around your shoulder holding the device but it also has a practical aspect. It allows you to detach the controller cups, without the need to pause the game and find a place to store the gunstock and jump back in the game. You can easily switch in-game, on-the-fly. This can become quite handy in heated action sequences.
Then there’s the bipod which comes at an additional €25 and attaches to the front of the gunstock. I was quite impressed by the quality of the bipod as the build is practically entirely out of study metal, with rubber bases on each leg. The latter are even telescopic, allowing you to extend them to suit your needs. This add-on helps in stabilizing the gunstock and you can just place it on a flat surface to help you get a better aim in-game. It’s a cool and nice-to-have mod but isn’t 100% necessary to enjoy the MagTube.
Lastly, we have the ForceTube mod or what’s easily my favourite mod and the MagTube’s standout add-on. It is a haptic module that emulates the gun recoil feeling in VR. It’s attached to the back of the MagTube, replacing the buttstock, and comes in contact with your shoulder/lateral chest. Once paired to the Oculus or PC via Bluetooth, it transmits vibrations from the rifle as it would in real time. There are even some games that natively support this mod like Contractors and Pavlov, with a companion app that lets you use it for other PC VR titles.
The ForceTube deserves its own article and I will talk more about it in a dedicated piece but it’s the best way to play VR shooters that I’ve experienced so far. However, this experience doesn’t come cheap as the ForceTube mod alone costs €284, which is even pricier than the MagTube itself! So only consider it if you can afford it but it will deliver a unique VR experience.
Shoot for it or not?
ProTubeVR’s MagTube doesn’t pack the most attractive design for a VR gunstock but it favours functionality over aesthetics. It is lightweight and well designed to be used during gameplay to give an overall enhanced experience. Its starting price is even much lower than competitors like the BeswinVR M4VR Stock and even supports the most common VR headsets’ controllers. Furthermore, the MagTube supports optional upgrades in the form of mods which further increase the VR immersiveness, in particular the ForceTube mod, but these can be costly.
Overall, I’m very satisfied with the MagTube as it enhances my VR shooter gaming sessions, especially when the unique mods are in use. It takes some time to get used to but it will help create some memorable and unique VR gaming experiences.
Changed the store link to the original MagTube (not the carbon one) upon request from ProTubeVR.