Like go-karts are to actual racing, everything in VR Karts just feels like its okay with being alright. Mundane, but mostly fun to drive, VR Karts is the latest in virtual reality titles that offers little more than it promises. In a time when virtual reality titles need more than just the fact that they’re in VR to differentiate themselves, developer Viewpoint Games offers a small experience that hardly justifies its price tag.
As the game’s title suggests, players race go-karts through a small set of worlds that consist of several courses. Most of these are easy to master during a three lap race, with the exception of a couple that offer more difficult turns to overcome. The courses all vary, but most are slight variations with the exception of aesthetics. The majority of courses can be played through by just completing the Championship mode which consists of a Rookie, Amateur and Pro Cup. Each one ramps up the difficulty by picking some of the more difficult courses as the Cup difficulty increases.
Your real challenge, though, will come in handling the AI, who keep up with you and unleash weapons that will stun just enough for them to take the lead or cover lost ground. The addition of weapons to VR Karts is what makes it slightly more enjoyable than it otherwise would have been. They’re structured much in the same way of a Mario Kart with a few weapon pick ups (or speed boosts) bundled together, with each one disappearing after a racer drives through them. They range from simple shields and mines you can drop behind you to missiles and beehives that you can aim at opponents ahead of you. Aiming involves pointing your head in the direction of your opponent in order to lock on and then releasing the action button. It’s easy and intuitive, which is good because most of your time should be spent keeping your eyes on the road. It also allows for selecting who you want to hit that’s in front of you without any cumbersome controls.
What’s most unfortunate about VR Karts is its lack of variety. Sure, there are a few modes to play through and there is even online multiplayer. They’re conventional modes though, with the exception of Turbo mode, but that’s just a faster version of a quick race. There is even an alternate control scheme that lets you turn the PlayStation 4 controller into a steering wheel by having you tilt it left and right to drive. I found it to give a little more freedom when turning, but sometimes it was a little too sensitive. Mix that with some weird driving physics and you run into plenty of times where frustration hits a new high as weapons are dispatched on you by opponents, your steering becomes wildly too sensitive, and for some reason, a turn makes your car freak out and drive into a tree. They’re small moments, but I found them to be frequent enough that I didn’t really want to continue playing.
There’s really just not much reason to play either. You can customize your racer, but it’s still fairly limited. Aesthetically, I enjoyed the way characters looked, even if they felt only slightly removed from a ModNation Racers game. There’s nowhere near as much personality in this as there is in ModNation though, and it’s really hard to justify a game in VR when it lacks a reasonable pricing scheme. It’s $30 for it on PS VR, and if it was half of that, then I’d be more alright with it. But VR Karts is just adequate. It doesn’t even utilize virtual reality that much. I would complete one Championship Cup and then walk away from my VR headset with little initiative to go back (besides the fact that I was reviewing it).
It’s hard to recommend VR Karts unless you just desperately need a go-kart game in virtual reality. You can race go-karts and if that’s good enough for you, then proceed to spend $29.99 on a game that is worth about half that. While the weapon aiming is very easy to use, I also don’t think it is used enough throughout races, nor does the difficulty really warrant it until you’re messing with the Pro Cup or you’re online. Honestly, VR Karts is solid. But in a sea of VR titles that rely on their virtual reality gimmicks, it’s not easy to recommend a game that barely justifies the technology it was made to use. For now, go play some of the more engaging racing titles available in virtual reality.
A PS4 code of VR Karts was provided by Viewpoint Games for this review.
- The game is aesthetically charming
- Using the VR headset to aim weapons is intuitive
- Kart racing is always solid
- Bare bones offerings for modes
- You've seen one race, you've pretty much seen them all
- Weird kart physics sometimes
- Continues VR traditions of a steep price tag
- Lack of variety
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