For the purpose of transparency, this review was completed using a review code provided by Viewpoint Games. The use of a review code does not affect my judgement of this product.
Users of both HTC Vive and Oculus have been able to play VR Karts since 2015, but Viewpoint Games have now ported this over to the Playstation VR, but have included some additional features. At the moment there is not an abundance of racers available on the Playstation VR platform; so is VR Karts a welcomed change?
As soon as I booted up the game and seen the bright colours, and the cartoon feel to the visuals shouted out ‘Mario Kart’. Then you start to play the tutorial and learn about the boost system, and then weapon pick ups on the way around the track; again this shouts out the same. So, the game is using the same basic mechanics of any kart racer released after the aforementioned Mario Kart, but how does the gameplay hold up?
Now as you would expect from what I mentioned above, the main elements of the gameplay are; efficiently managing your boost, collecting power-ups and navigating at times difficult tracks. Lets talk about the power-ups. I would like to say there is not a huge variety of power-up available in the game, and a lot of them are your standard weapons like rockets, mines and a spike strip. But, they have included one I think standouts and that’s the beehive, this is dropped onto the opponent’s head and will restrict their viewing field. All the power-ups that are not ones laid as traps do require you to able to see the other racers to lock-on to them.
You will soon learn that getting the boosts becomes a lot more important that the power-ups, because although the power-ups are useful and times the boost becomes essential. This is mainly down to the turning system they have implemented into the game, where you are better having a portion of boost than none. You can turn the corners without a boost, but if you do this your turning seems really slow and you often find yourself hitting the wall. However, as it explained in the tutorial hitting the corners and activating boost causes you to drift. This is where the boost management comes into full effect, and this is something you soon find yourself getting used to.
As mentioned previously the visuals are very colourful and cartoon-like, but to me this is what suits the kart racing genre the best. Don’t get me wrong here, you are not going to be blown away by the visual, but Viewpoint Games have used the correct formula for this type of game. The colourful, clean and sharp look they have used for the racers and the tracks really do give the game that family game feeling; which serves the game well. Outside of the general visuals of the game Viewpoint Games have added some slight customization to the mix. The word slight is pretty much what sums up the customization options unfortunately, because all you can do is alter colours of your driver and kart and add a limited number of accessories. These few options really don’t live up to the amount of variety available or come close compared to most kart racers out there.
The game is controlled using the Dualshock 4, but as you would expect with a racer I can’t imagine the implementation of Move support working that will (well without bringing back those awful plastic accessories to place the controllers into). The controls are what you would expect from a racing game using the Dualshock with R2 to accelerate, L2 to reverse, and you boost and weapon used being assigned to the circle and X button. But, what the VR element adds to the control scheme is where using a projectile based weapon your reticle is controlled by the movement of your head. In term adding something to VR experience.
Since I have mentioned the VR controls, let’s have a look the use of VR on the game. For me Viewpoint Games have used the VR very well, while racing looking over your shoulder or beside you and you will see the other racers. The game does sometimes get you going at a decent speed, but it never gets fast it becomes uncomfortable. With that in mind I can say that the game did not cause me to feel any sort of motion sickness – but as mentioned before this can be different from player to player.
If you look at what is available in VR Karts in relation to game modes, there is a number of reasons to go back and play it again. Overall you are looking at Quick Race, Time Trial, Championship and Online modes. But, to be honest most of my single player time has been spent in Championship, the simple reason is because this is the most fun. I know I keep going back to this game, but the Championships work on the same premise of Mario Kart. I really did find the later/harder Championships do become very tricky, and for me this is reason to go back to try to do better. Now for the online mode this is 6-player race, and this is where you have the most fun with the game. There’s nothing more enjoyable on a kart racer than taking out another real player over an AI. Over my time in online mode I have not come across any connection issues, which is also a good thing about VR Karts; the online runs great. However, this makes you think have the pushed the Playstation VR and the PSN to its limit. Either way I would prefer a smooth online experience than a bumpy one, and this is what VR Karts offers.
There is two issues I think that faces VR Karts, these are the lack of variety and the price point on the Playstation VR. As you can expect to two go hand in hand, if you are paying £34.99 for a kart racer you would expect more variety than what it offers. This could have been easily resolved by may be adding more little add-ons to unlock for your racer, even next racers, karts of tracks; at the moment it may seem hard for people to justify the price.
If you have any questions about the review, or want to let me know what you think – feel free to tweet me @TattasticGamer
VR Karts is something a little different to what is available on Playstation VR at the moment. But, where it offers something new with enjoyable gameplay and longevity, it has a shortfall in variety and content for £34.99 price tag.