I can’t help but think of Mad Max: Fury Road meets an epic Indiana Jones chase scene. That’s a hell of an opener, right? Well, that is the best way I can describe Diesel Express VR from Lazylab Games. Before you write this off as just another VR shooter, hear me out.
You are tasked to safeguard trains called Dreadnoughts, as they navigate from one base to another, with a large shipment of diesel fuel. Armed with two pistols and limited cover, you are nestled directly behind the large fuel storage tank. That is the setup, but it wouldn’t be much of a game if everything didn’t immediately go to shit as soon as you left the safety of the bases, now would it?
The gameplay is pretty simple. The bandits that want the fuel are going to try and kill you so they can take it. To do this, they have a wide range of vehicles that will pull up alongside the train and allow them to, you guessed it, blow you away. You will use your cover and return fire, aiming at everything from drivers, to tires and fuel tanks.
Diesel Express is room-scale, so it will pay to have a nice size area to take full advantage of your cover. It is actually a well-designed space in that it provides just enough cover, but not so much that you can just chill in one location for very long. The steady flow of attackers and various types of attacking vehicles, especially the flyers, do a great job of keeping you moving.
Dual Wielding 101
You will have four different options when it comes to guns, but all of them are handguns. In the normal game mode, you have reticles but in veteran they are disabled. You can unlock additional weapons by leveling up your rank. While the game is a little unclear as to how this is done, my best guess is that it is tied into the rankings you get at the end of each mission.
The game tracks how many vehicles you destroy, how many headshots you get, and your overall kill count. It could use a point system that shows how far you are from ranking up. Luckily, this is early access so a little time and player feedback might fix this minor quibble.
Cover Never Looked So Good
Graphically, Diesel Express is pretty darn good. The aesthetic is solid throughout and the setting puts you somewhere between the two movies I mentioned at the start of the article. On the highest setting, the game looks great. It doesn’t take too much of a hit on the lower end settings, so lower end graphic cards should have no trouble with this one.
The audio is equally well done. Gunfire and explosions are pretty difficult to muck up, but the sound of bullets hitting a tanker full of fuel is another story. That sound fills me with dread every time I hear it. That is a compliment. I give those sometimes. But, this joyous sound also brings me to a bit of a letdown in the game.
The Bomb That Didn’t Blow
Aside from outright dying, no other game mechanics are really working against you. This includes the one that’s glaring you in the eye the entire time you’re playing the game. You are on a freaking bomb. I would love to have that fact come into play just a little more. Require some repair work as you fire or, at the very least, have a damage meter to keep track of.
I do understand that the tanker works as part of your cover, but it is untapped gameplay potential that is begging to be utilized. When I first heard bullets pinging off the tanker, my mind kicked into full blown “oh shit” mode. I really thought it would blow up eventually. Sadly, that is not the case. While the gameplay is fun, it just needs a little more depth to it.
Duck and Cover
The controls are simple and are explained for both the Vive and Rift in the staging area of the game. You have a clipboard that will display the details, basically just shooting and reloading. The clipboard has a level select and game options on it as well. You don’t move with the controllers as it is room-scale only, as mentioned above.
The levels consist of various runs of track between two stations. Each range in length and they also vary from desert to a winter wonderland. The game also has a shooting range that will help you get the hang of each weapon type. The staging areas are different depending on what station you are at. This does not have an impact on gameplay but it is a nice touch and makes it feel like you’re actually progressing somewhere.
When the Last Train Whistle Blows
Diesel Express is fun and despite being in early access, the game plays very well. It does come up short in a few areas however. The story is pretty much limited to what you read on the Steam page and nothing is given in game yet. Hopefully some story will make its way into the staging area before release as it would add another layer to a pretty simple game.
I do feel that it could use a few more mechanics in play that work against the player. That bright yellow bomb in front of you is a prime candidate in my opinion. I cannot knock the game for not having what I want, but I will say that it feels a little too easy at the moment.
At the end of the day, or in this case a long haul, I have to say that I enjoy Diesel Express for what it is. It’s simple right now, but still a fun game with smooth gameplay. At $9.99, I can easily recommend it. That said, if you like what you see in the trailer and have a Rift or Vive, go check it out on Steam and be sure to let the devs know what you think.
Title: Diesel Express VR
Publisher: LazyLab Games
Release Date: Jun 21, 2017 (Early Access)