It seems like a logical progression for PSVR to have a comedic, arcade style racing game far removed from the virtual reality simulators like Driveclub. As we don our VR helmets and accelerate in the world of VR Karts, though, we find ourselves wondering whether it can hold up against the other racing games already out there.
Like many drivers starting out in racing, you'll spend your time off the track in some form of motor home. VR Karts is no different and a small caravan is used as your home hub, which is navigated via a combination of head movements and controller. All the usual options are available, each depicted as items found inside your caravan.
In terms of visuals, the game is given a vibrant cartoon style that's simplistic yet effective, as bright, bold colours adorn everything you see and help give the game a real sense of fun. Character and kart customisation are simple too, really only allowing two-tone paint colours and small cosmetic changes to your helmet. Unfortunately, though, there's no upgrading your kart to increase handling, top speed, or weapons, which would have been a welcome addition to the game.
There are three race modes available as well as three championship tiers and an online race mode. Practice, Turbo, and Time Trial are where you can hone your skills as a driver, because nailing start boosts, drifting round corners, and learning the track layout will give you quite the edge over your AI counterparts when competing in the Championship races.
The three Championships tiers stick to the standard formula, as you complete a series of races over different tracks to earn points for your finishing position, tally up your points to top the leaderboards, and win the championship. Finishing in first unlocks the next tier of difficulty, although we found no real difference between them, and many of your wins, or losses, can be put down to pure luck rather than actual skill. There isn't a huge number of tracks, but there is some variety between them that will give you some options for different driving styles.
From your hub you can also select your choice of steering, stick, or tilt. We assumed that tilt would work well with the DS4 and response would be akin to a Wiimote, but we found it lacking and having to hold the controller at an almost vertical angle to maximise our turning made playing this way uncomfortable.
Control over your kart using the analogue sticks is excellent though, as it feels responsive and smooth, and getting a boost drift round a corner just right is hugely satisfying. Get it wrong, though, and you can kiss your race goodbye. Clip a wall, cut the wrong corner, or even collide with an opponent and you'll find yourself grinding to halt or pinging across the track, leaving you with little to no acceleration to get back into the race. The AI racers don't help either, frequently driving into you with no care or attention.
Driving a clean race won't always guarantee you a win, either, as you'll need to utilise a range of weapons that you and your counterparts can pick up on the track to get you to the chequered flag. Run through one of the item pickups laid around the track to collect a random weapon, which range widely from basic mines and spike strips to slow the karts behind you, to rockets and electricity bolts that will temporarily halt your rivals. There's even a beehive to throw which will give the targeted player severely limited vision. Aiming your projectile weapons is done using your headset to look directly at your opponent and get them in your crosshairs before unleashing your attack. As easy as firing is, dodging the incoming attacks from the other karts is incredibly hard to do. Giving you little to no warning both audibly or visually that the strike is imminent, the game hints at using your rear view mirrors to gauge your defence, but we sadly found this pretty much ineffective.
There's an online multiplayer race mode in the game too, and when we were able to find populated lobbies and play against real players we really began to have some fun. There's no in-game chat but communication with your rivals can be done in the lobbies via predetermined text. Get into a lobby with friends and start a separate party chat though, and then the rivalries can really begin.
While the game is fun and easy to play, it can also be equally frustrating and repetitive. Lack of content and any form of progression or levelling really hinder what could be a great multiplayer racer. That added to the high price tag, unfortunately, make it feel like something is ultimately missing.