Having made its debut on the Samsung Gear VR, Viewpoint Games’ VR Karts now turns its attention to Oculus VR’s bigger brother: Oculus Rift. Made available via Oculus Home at launch, VR Karts is exactly what you’d expect from the title: a Super Mario Kart inspired VR experience. While it’s a good first attempt however, it’s not likely to withstand the barrage of ‘me too’ titles that will inevitably follow suit.
While still listed as ‘Early Access’ on Steam, the Oculus Home edition of VR Karts is the official release build, which is the edition VRFocus used for this review. The videogame feels complete in that it offers a wide variety of customisation options, numerous gameplay modes and even online multiplayer. However, there are some odd issues within that will deter many from investing their time in VR Karts.
That online matches are difficult to find at this time is perhaps inevitable, given the youth of the Oculus Rift consumer hardware and the incompatibility with earlier versions of the head-mounted display (HMD), but the fact that the online leaderboards seem to have trouble keeping up with statistics earned is a severe disappointment. The same issues can be levelled at the Time Trial mode, in which none of VRFocus’ records were added to the online leaderboard, despite there only being one other competitor listed at the time of writing.
In-game things are more clearly developed. A progression system through the various single-player cups is obvious and accessible, with early difficulty allowing players to become acclimatised to the first-person viewpoint and kart handling therein. The variety of tracks is superior to the Gear VR release – one of the mobile edition’s greatest flaws – and the aiming of weaponry via the central position of a player’s field-of-view is assisted greatly by the inclusion of positional tracking.
The AI opponents that players will face aren’t exactly memorable, but given that their identity floats above their head in-race it’s easy to decipher who’s ahead of you on the current leaderboard, and those racers with whom you owe a vendetta. Hypno Bunny and Meta Girl caused VRFocus more problems than imaginable in the first few races but in later cups they were nowhere to be seen, suggesting that the level of intellect assigned to the competition is random at the start of a cup.
VR Karts on Oculus Rift is superior to its mobile sister title, VR Karts Sprint, but only in the ways that you would naturally expect: more customisation options, more tracks and the benefits of positional tracking. It’s an enjoyable starting point for kart racing in VR, but hasn’t dared breakaway from the existing template nor pushed the boundaries for fear of inducing the dreaded simulator sickness. It’s a ‘safe’ play by Viewpoint Games, but not a far reaching one.