From survival horror and physics puzzler to tower defence and first person shooter, part of the excitement surrounding virtual reality comes from seeing how developers adapt these myriad genres for the game-changing piece of tech. It was only a matter before PlayStation VR got its first kart racer, then.
Created by Viewpoint Games, the simply-named VR Karts has been around the circuit a few times already, appearing not only PSVR but having already released on Oculus, Daydream, Vive, and Gear as well. Although well-travelled, in terms of design and fun factor, it finds itself completely lapped by genre stalwarts like Mario Kart and Crash Team Racing.
Everything about VR Karts has a plainness to it, a lack of character that’s extremely hard to overlook. There’s only one type of kart and racer with an embarrassingly limited stock of cosmetic options available. The tracks also lack any degree of meaningful diversity, many of them vibrantly coloured, but ultimately flat, featureless, and forgettable. In VR Karts we struggled to even find a shortcut, let alone the next Rainbow Road.
That void of dynamism carries over into the racing. While certainly functional, there’s an awkward stiffness when taking corners, forcing players to kill their speed or careen into walls. Drifting is tied to the game’s nitrous boosts, helping you navigate bends tightly, though it’s hit and miss on some tracks.
The spread of weapon pick-ups do little to elevate the action, despite a couple of interesting additions. Amid rockets, mines, spike traps, and EMPs is a beehive that obscures your field of vision in VR. A few more creative touches such as this would have gone a long way to improving the game.
Going into VR Karts, I wanted to wring as much as I could out of it. However, little more than an hour in, I had beaten every cup, played every race, gone online, and even registered a few time trial scores.
Fair enough, you might think – Viewpoint is a small developer and presumably limited in what it could do with its debut game. As soon as I saw the pricetag, however, any sympathy I may of had for the game went straight out the window. It’s £34.99!
That’s what they’re asking for a handful of dull tracks and serviceable gameplay. Even at launch, the infinitely superior (though far from perfect) Driveclub VR was priced the same, boasting a massive selection of vehicles, cups, and locations.
Even, if for some reason, you happen to take a liking towards VR Karts, it’s not worth £34.99 of anyone’s money and exposes the imaginary premium that studios are putting on games simply because it says VR in the title. It’s such a sour point to end on, but even if it were priced accordingly, VR Karts rarely peaks above mediocrity.
Version tested: PlayStation 4