Hurtling round a race track at breakneck speeds can be an exhilarating videogame experience, especially when adding in the immersion factor of virtual reality (VR). Most realistic racing titles for VR headsets tend to involve cars, putting players in the driving seat of some souped-up four-wheeled bullet, with very few taking on the challenge of motorbike racing. Well for fans of the two-wheeled vehicle variety Digital Tales has just launched a VR version of its SBK Official Mobile Game, SBK VR.
As an officially licensed videogame, SBK VR features a faithful recreation of the bikes, riders and circuits from the 2016 Motul FIM Superbike World Championship, letting you jump on Aprilia, Kawasaki, Honda, Ducati, MV Agusta, BMW or Yamaha bikes as 2016 champion Jonathan Rea or any of the other riders.
Split into three standard race modes, Championship, Quick Race or Time Trial, the bulk of the challenge is really in the first mode, and just like its real life counter parts there a qualifying laps to complete before two races on each track. The qualifiers can be skipped should you want to get through the races quicker but completing them does provide two useful advantages. Firstly you learn the track – highly significant when aiming for first place – plus you’ll get bumped to the back of the pack – which is good fun to race through but does have its challenges.
SBK VR requires a gamepad as standard so making sure you have a decent one is essential – for this review VRFocus used a Bluetooth Xbox One controller. Being a realistic simulator there’s no throwing the bikes around the track, hurtling towards corners and breaking at the last second as this puts you into the gravel every single time. It can be very hard to judge the braking distance in fact as the indicator which tells you what sort of corner is coming up appears very late – it can also be turned off to make it even harder – so if you’ve just flown down a long straight whacking the anchors on feels like it does very little.
The actual sense of realism and immersion is very good, you’re looking through a visor which can help with reducing nausea, with the bikes instrument panel just below your viewpoint. One aspect that may affect some people is in the corners. Of course the bike tilts and brings the viewpoint closer to the road – so far so good – but the horizon line will then change angle accordingly which is often a big no no in VR. Another issue comes down to how the player controls their bike with the joystick. If it’s not held down and smoothly controlled – i.e. letting the joystick momentarily snap back to central position – then the videogame will pop the bike back to an upright position. That’s completely understandable, however it does create an awful jarring motion that may stop a lot of players continuing.
So the controls do need some getting used to, but SBK VR is still an enjoyable experience that looks great in VR. It certainly isn’t a title for early adopters of VR, however for Samsung Gear VR owners that are well accustomed to the technology then SBK VR certainly offers a decent challenge and change from all the shooters that are available.