Viewpoint Games originally released VR Karts for the Oculus Rift and Vive systems in 2015. This year they’re bringing the family-friendly kart racer to the PlayStation 4, along with some new features. With not a lot of choice, regarding VR racing games, let’s see if this Perp published title is worth its asking price.
The gameplay for any kart racer is pretty standard; power-ups, boosts, tricky tracks and the odd rage-inducing pitfall. VR Karts has all of these, the boost pick-up is by far the most important and you’ll learn early on that it’s vital to always have a portion of boost. This is because to adequately turn any sharp corner you need to use boost to begin a drift, without it you will turn like molasses and crash into the wall. The success of your racer is determined by your effective boost management; forget the straights, save it for the corners.
Watch the PSVR launch trailer for VR Karts below:
The other power-ups can also turn the tide of a race, they’re more interesting than I thought they’d be. The beehive weapon is one of my favourites; a bee drops a beehive on the head of the targeted racer and their vision is blocked except for a small hole in the middle, which is a rather effective way to force them to slow down or risk colliding into the barriers. The other power-ups are pretty standard, although you do aim them by looking-and-locking-on to your opponents so they have to be in sight. This is a cool feature and makes use of the VR controls.
The VR experience is rather good, it’s fun to look behind you and to the side to see the other racers chasing your tail. When you hit the higher speeds you do get a sensation of rush, which is loads of fun but unfortunately you never hit super high speeds very often. The graphics are clean and colourful and do a good job of projecting the family-friendly vibe. In VR it immerses you in the kart and you’ll find yourself leaning your head as you take a pin corner.
There are a variety of modes: quick race, time-trial, online and championships. In championships you’ll race across all of the various tracks in scored heats. Anyone familiar with Mario Kart will feel at home here and you’ll probably spend most of your offline time in this mode. It can get pretty intense in the later races, this is in part because there is no pause button. Need to go to the toilet on the last race? Too bad! Get racing monkey! The online section pits six players head-to-head, which is where I had the most fun. Racing against real life human beings is far more satisfying than the AI opponents. There’s something insidiously satisfying about teleporting in front of the lead to place 1st. It would have been appreciated to be able to race against more than just five other people. I’m not sure what strain PS VR can put on servers and the like but with six players it ran buttery smooth.
View some VR Karts screenshots in our gallery:
You are able to customise your kart and racing driver. However, only with a set of colour changes; no wacky karts, no wacky characters, no wacky boost trails – it lacks that desired wackiness that all kart racers need. You won’t have the range of cool cars like in Rocket League or the zany sprites of Crash Team Racing. Man with helmet is about all you get. It’s a nice touch to be able to customise your racer but without more interesting options it comes off as plain dull, even with adding sunglasses or bull horns. Not good enough.
That’s where we get to the crux of the game; there just isn’t enough here. There’s no progression system, there’s nothing to aim for but a global leaderboard and I know of few people that even care to look at that. Without different racers and tracks to unlock, VR Karts feels a little empty. There’s a really good VR experience hiding somewhere inside it but there isn’t enough content to warrant the price tag. At £34.99 you have to justify it and I don’t think it does. It’s fun, definitely, but without deeper progression or interesting characters your time on the game will dwindle, fast.
VR Karts was reviewed using a digital code supplied by the publisher.
Developer: Viewpoint Games Publisher: Perp Release Date: May 18, 2017 Reviewed On: PS4 / PSVR Also On: Oculus, Vive, Daydream, Samsung Gear VR