The next aspect of the virtual reality world I am most anxious to explore is driving simulation. I am a humongous fan of PlayStation’s Gran Turismo series, but since there is no PlayStation Vr version of that yet, I am stuck trying out Drive Club VR. Being a GT snob, I don’t often revel in other companies’ driving games. None of them seem to match Gran Turismo’s precision or options. Many games, such as Need for Speed for instance, create a more cartoon-like experience for the gamers, which is great for people who aren’t into cars or lack knowledge of them. Mostly they just want to drive fast and crash into things. I held no delusions that Drive Club VR would be any different. I may have to eat my words, a little bit.
The virtual reality experience for driving isn’t all that different from standard driving games: track, car, and race. But the first thing I noticed in the game was the 360 degree view. My preference when playing these games is to use first person point-of-view, so that I can experience being behind the wheel like I’m actually there. Now, in VR, when I’m driving in the right lane and I want to see if someone’s in the left lane, I can turn around with my head– just like I’m in my own car. No fooling around with the mirrors, no switching the POV, I simply turn my head. I like that.
The steering and controls are adequate, not too fussy, but not as precise as Gran Turismo or as easy as Need For Speed. Somewhere in between. Which is good. Drive Club VR is trying to fill the gap between these two games. The driving simulation is smooth but always a twitch away from going out-of-control.
There are some customization options, but not overwhelming, like Gran Turismo. If you need a custom paint job, the choices are there. I don’t mess with that stuff.
There is also an online mode to race other gamers, but I was happy just trying out the Tour Mode.
Tour Mode takes you from circuit to circuit with various challenges to complete: longest drifting, quickest average speed, best cornering, as well as winning the race, of course. The more challenges you complete the more points you earn to unlock other cars.
The cars are plentiful. The designers did fine work rendering them. There a nuances to each brand– the BMWs have that tight hard suspension, the Ferraris have a looser suspension, etc. I loved the variety: Fisker, VW, Mazda, Lotus, Maserati, and on and on. Some really rare ones too. I appreciated the Mercedes 300SL (Gullwing), one of my favorites.
One of the real drawbacks to Drive Club VR is the resolution and background rendering. It is grainy and quite blurry. When you’re in the Swiss Alps it feels more like a painting than a photo when driving. Sitting still looks a little better, but the attempts at realistic light, shadow and sparkle just aren’t there. It feels a little cheap.
The sound is adequate, but nothing innovative to speak of. I’m uncertain why they didn’t take advantage of the 3D surround more. I was hoping for more attention to detail, a rock hitting the windscreen or a roar overtaking you from behind. I wanted a jolt here and there to intensify things.
I’m also undecided how much I really needed a VR driving experience. It doesn’t play all that differently than the regular experience. As a novelty it was interesting but I think we need to have a more immersive experience; I want a steering wheel, pedals, shifter, the whole lot.