Virtual reality is at a point where developers have gotten a firm grasp on the platform’s kink and quirks and are starting to innovate, supplying VR users with better and better content. The infusion of virtual reality into the gaming industry has given developers almost a clean slate. While that opens up the creative potential, there’s a lot of trial and error as every attempts to tackle this new way to interact.
Movement is one of the most significant obstacles with motion sickness being a major concern. Frame-rate plays a big part in this, but the way a player moves within the game plays a role as well. Some developers are tiptoeing with a teleport function that plays things safe. Survios? They’re throwing players onto skates and telling them to go as fast as they can.
Before you’re even gathering your energy at the starting line, Sprint Vector gets you hype. The presentation wraps players in an exciting mixture of a game show and major sporting tournament. The initial introduction is a warming welcome with thousands upon thousands of digital onlookers cheering as you complete the basic tutorial and skate your way into a massive, spherical space. The music maintains that energy throughout the experience and resulted in more than one occasion of me dancing in VR.
Regarding movement, there are two options when utilizing what Survios calls the Fluid Locomotion System. You can alternate between your arms in a pulling motion, or use the pull and release motion with both arms at the same time in a skiing motion. To the onlooker, both will look strange, but it feels natural in the game. Steering slightly with the direction of my head, though, took some getting used to. You can also turn using the analog stick, but it cuts at a such a degree that it slowed my pace significantly unless I was taking a sharp turn.
The races themselves are increasingly intricate puzzles that allowed for some creativity as I rush to the finish line. At their most involved, you must skate around corners, leap and glide, climb, and shoot destructible obstacles. Often, the paths will widen with paths that separate for a bit and then crash in on each other. Occasionally those paths offer up options for safe ground traversal or less predictable routes through the air. Essentially, you’ve got your typical arcade racer fare. The physical exertion while racing is pretty significant, too. Input only involves turning your head and swinging your arms but, in just one race, I worked up a good sweat. Running a couple of the longer tracks will require a break and I ran a fan toward my play area to keep me cool.
As the races become more diverse, there are more opportunities for you to get off track. Whether by fatigue, poor luck, or a combination of both, you’ll occasionally run into a series of obstacles that completely stall your progress. The inevitable speed-runners and other high-level players will be able to skate right passed these things, but casual players will suffer. The sudden stalls could lead to frustration, which makes it a shame there isn’t a way to automatically get a racer back on the track with a subtle timing penalty instead of having to fight your way out whatever cluster you skate your way into. Also, if you’re a casual player more inclined to face the AI opponents, be ready for some spotty performance there until a patch addresses the issues. In my races, there were a few occasions where my opponents would simply stop without any obvious obstacles impeding their paths.
Adding to the arcade stylings of Sprint Vector, Survios has included various power-ups that help you get a leg up on your competition. There are explosives, gas traps, and more that will influence the tug-of-war between the racers. You deploy them by double tapping the trigger while you’re moving, but it didn’t feel as natural as the controls to move. Artfully maneuvering to keep pace while using the power-ups that don’t automatically track takes a lot of practice.
The Sprint Vector experience serves the VR platform in a couple different ways. It fits into your home as a competitive romp among friends or online and as one of a growing number of virtual reality games that can be worked into a fitness program. It also supplies a combination of competition and match length that fits into VR arcades. Either way you slice it, Sprint Vector is a pretty great value that deserves a spot in the VR ecosystem’s upper tier of games.
This review is based on a PC download code provided by the publisher. Sprint Vector is available for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive now. Launches on PlayStation VR February 13.