The WipeOut racing recipe isn’t so popular for nothing and quite a few other racing games have tried to recreate this recipe with varying rates of success. With a little ingenuity, it’s quite possible to make a VR racing experience that combines the elements that makes WipeOut great with mechanics that work well for the platform. In fact, developer Psygnosis proved that by bringing their game to PSVR earlier this year. Unfortunately, though, the WipeOut series has always been PlayStation exclusive so that likely means PC VR players will never get the chance to feel that same thrill.
Other developers can and have taken up the reigns, however, and so titles like V-Racer Hoverbike were born. Emulating some of the futuristic racing maps and gameplay that makes WipeOut so popular, V-Racer Hoverbike lets you race against others on sleek hover bikes (if the name somehow didn’t give that away for you). The game tries to emulate life-like movements by having players actually leaning into turns with your whole body and using motion controllers as the acceleration and break parts of the handlebars.
V-Racer Hoverbike from VertexBreakers is available now on Early Access on Steam for HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Windows Mixed Reality headsets at a $19.99 price tag. It currently only offers a single-player mode with optional local co-op. So no racing against other people online, unfortunately. At least until the developers add an online multiplayer mode. I decided to check the game out using an HTC Vive and found the visuals and controls to be very polished but the gameplay feels a little thin right now.
Check out my gameplay video:
V-Racer Hoverbike takes the concept of racing in VR and really makes it it’s own. Surely, the one thing that makes VR so attractive is how much it integrates the game and your physical body to simulate a real experience and V-Racer Hoverbike definitely makes the most of that fact. It is a seated experience but while in the game I never felt I was just on a seat looking at a road fly by. I was part of it and the game achieves this masterfully by making me control the bike by leaning into turns with my whole body just like in real life. Sure, it could still use some polish – like haptic feedback on the controllers to simulate the purr of the hover bike’s engine or the jar of the road/crashes – but the thrill of the experience isn’t diminished by these smaller details.
What does diminish the thrill, however, is the lack of an online multiplayer mode. Yes, the game has just released in early access, but this feels like a core concept that should have been there from the start. As it stands, winning a race is certainly fun, but not akin to the joy of winning a race against actual people. Well, their avatars at least.
Original High-Octane Fun
Luckily V-Racer Hoverbike does offer a good selection of maps (with some to be unlocked and more to be added), as well as four difficulty settings to add to the replayability. The visuals and tracks are also very polished, giving the game an AAA-quality feel even though it was developed by an indie studio.
I didn’t look around much during my time in the game though, since the races are extremely fast-paced and full sharp turns and unexpected obstacles like getting blasted by the other competitors. Because V-Racer Hoverbike also offers powerups that can be obtained by riding over different colored panels set at intervals across the track. These do various things, like give you the ability to shoot your enemies with rockets and leave bombs for them to ride into, as well as less extreme things like shields and speed boosts.
The power-ups are a fun addition to the game that definitely added a layer of excitement without giving any one player too much of an advantage. Firstly because it was hard enough to maneuver the tracks without aiming for a specific spot on them, and secondly because once a racer takes a power-up it becomes unavailable for a few precious seconds.
So overall V-Racer Hoverbike is shaping up to become a solid racing sim and a unique addition to any avid racing gamer’s library. The game is really easy to get into, but the unconventional mechanics level the playing field somewhat, making it a good choice for newbies and veteran racers alike.