The best new PlayStation VR game this year mixes Mirror’s Edge with Mario Kart, but won’t have you reaching for a sick bag.
If there’s one thing everyone knows about VR games, it’s that you shouldn’t make anything that involves too much fast movement. That does rule out a lot of obvious game types – if you’re wondering why there hasn’t been a Call Of Duty VR yet – but for most people that would only have them hurling their guts up within 30 seconds, and vowing never to play virtual reality again. Unless, that is, they play Sprint Vector.
Sprint Vector uses something its developer calls the Fluid Locomotion System, adapted from their previous game Raw Data, that means you don’t get sick playing a game that is a cross between Mirror’s Edge and Mario Kart. We still don’t advise you playing it with a full stomach, but for all but the most sensitive player Sprint Vector does represent a significant step forward in the kind of games that work in VR.
It comes at a cost though, not the relatively modest asking price but the fact that you also need the PlayStation Move controllers to play the game. Which, as you might infer, means it’s an almost entirely motion-controlled game. So that also means you also have to be reasonably fit to play it. Sprint Vector is asking a lot of its players, but it does reward that dedication with an unforgettable experience.
Since there’s no reasonable real-world explanation for what you’re doing in Sprint Vector, developer Survios has used the time-honoured excuse of everything being a futuristic game show. We could’ve done without the robot presenter but other than that there’s a minimum of other distractions, as you pick one of the 12 race courses and strap on your virtual rollerblades.
Sprint Vector claims that it can be played while sitting down, but we never managed to get working properly that way. Or at least not in a manner that was in anyway as consistent as standing up and pantomiming the moves as if we were really doing them. This is where the Move controllers come in, as you need to swing your arms up and down in order to speed up, while pressing the trigger button and then letting it go at the end of your swing.
If that sounds too much like hard work, it’s not quite as bad as it seems as a steady rhythm is more important than the speed you move your arms. That, and races only ever last a couple of minutes in total. But, yes, you will be getting unpleasantly sweaty if you intend to have more than one go.
Sprint Vector’s courses aren’t just simple race tracks but complex obstacle courses that outdo almost anything in Mirror’s Edge. You constantly have to jump over and around obstacles, fly over empty chasms, and climb up walls; before learning the double jump and drift techniques that are essential for actually winning.
You’ll recall we also compared the game to Mario Kart, and that’s not just because it’s a multiplayer game but because it also has power-ups you can collect on the way. There’s jump and turbo pads as well, but also heat-seeking rockets and proximity mines to give you that extra edge. You can ignore this aspect if it seems too much for you, but it’s a sign that this is a proper race game, with real depth, and not just a tech demo.
Playing on your own is inevitably not as fun as with other humans, but it is vital to learning the courses. They all have shortcuts to discover and different themes and visuals, so despite their short length it can take a long time before you know your way around properly. But there’s also a range of special challenge maps that take the form of time trials or collectathons, that are extremely difficult but bring the game even closer in spirit to Mirror’s Edge.
Apart from the physical toll it takes on your body, the only real problem with Sprint Vector is the inevitable inconsistencies with the motion controls. They are kept to a minimum, but given this is a game about split second reactions even the smallest mistake on the game’s part can have you cursing its name. Wall-climbing seems to be the most consistently problematic, and you soon learn to be extra deliberate in your actions when that part of the course comes around.
The game could probably do with a few more tracks as well, but overall this is a fantastic achievement in both game design and VR technology. The only downside is that, as far as we understand, the lack of nausea is because you’re mimicking the actions yourself. So the days of running around in a traditional first person game, but in VR, are still some way off. But in the meantime, Sprint Vector offers plenty of entertainment while you wait.
In Short: A milestone in fast action VR games, which solves most of the problems with motion sickness while also being an excellent first person racer.
Pros: The movement system is well thought out and surprisingly nuanced. Course design is imaginative and varied. Plenty of options, including some fun challenge maps.
Cons: The game takes a considerable amount of physical effort to play, and the motion controls aren’t 100% reliable. Could do with a few more tracks.
Formats: PlayStation VR* (reviewed), Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive
Release Date: 13th February 2018
Age Rating: 12
* PlayStation Move controller also required.