BlazeRush review: micro-races in VR are funny!

Today I’ve decided to exploit the BlazeRush free weekend to give a try to BlazeRush, a racing game by russian studio Targem Games and I had some fun with it.

Blaze Rush is a game that is available both for VR and for standard flat screen (e.g. it is a PS3 compatible game); the game is surely not new, since I’ve found on Youtube some gameplays from 2014… but they’ve recently made the porting for VR. You can download it on the Oculus Store.

So, what this game is about? It is a micro-racing game, in pure Mario Kart style. You are in a track against some opponents and you have to win the race. To win you have to be fast, but can also use some weapons and powerups to get rid of your enemies. So, for example you can pick up a machine gun and fire with it a bazillion shots to the car that is in front of you. There are no rules, just the one of finishing first. The real difference with Mario Kart, apart from the environment of the game, is that the visuals of the game are all in third person and not in first one.

I have to start this review telling that this is surely not my favourite game genre… I’m more for action games… if I had to try a racing game, I’d play a first person one… not a micro-machine one. Furthermore, I don’t really get the idea of why they made a VR porting of this game. I mean, as I always stress, VR is great for creating emotions, to feel really immersed inside the game and this is not a game genre worth a complete immersion. Seeing cars racing all around you doesn’t add any emotional component to the game, it makes you just feel as you have a micro-cars track around you… nice, but, ehi, not that important. The fact that this game started as a standard game is a clear sign that they had a game and wanted just to make a porting for VR because VR is cool.

In fact, this is the first impression I had when the game started: “Ah, this is the game genre… why VR?”. I mean, experiences like The Price of Freedom or Dear Angelica would have no sense without VR. Robo Recall would just be a random shooter. BlazeRush can be played exactly the same way on a PC with a gamepad… it is a bit less cool (because VR makes everything cooler, we all know it), but it’s the same game.

The second thought has been: “Why VR controllers?“. I used Oculus Touch to control my car and at the beginning I had a really hard time in using them. Oculus Touch thumbsticks are really little, furthermore I didn’t get how the commands got interpreted. My brain always tried to give commands relative to the car frame of reference (so, I pushed the thumbstick forward to make the car to go forward in the direction it was facing), while in the end I realized that I should give commands relative to the world frame of reference (so, thumbstick forward to make the car go in the direction forward, as seen by my point of view). I needed a bit of time to get accustomed to this kind of control schema… in the end I got it and started even being good with it. So, not the best choice IMHO, but it is actually a non-issue, since in the end it is easy to be learned.

The third thougth has been: “But… motion sickness?“. Yes, motion sickness… as always. The camera moves to follow the car along the track… and while this is a non-issue on a flat screen, it is a motion sickness inducing mechanic in VR. It is not a strong sensation of sickness, it is slight, but it is present… and in the end, while I’m writing this article after having played for one hour, I don’t feel my stomach as completely alright.

In the end I questioned the bad point of view. The game should be played seated, but Oculus setup forced me to stand up because otherwise I would have seen the track from below. Futhermore, sometimes, during jams, I had difficulties in understanding clearly what was my car and what was the ones of my opponents.

After having had all these bad thoughts, I started playing and having fun. Because yes, even if technically the game is not the optimal VR experience, the game is damn funny. And games’ purpose is to be funny and if a game is funny, then it is a successful game. So this is a successful game.

BlazeRush racing in virtual reality
Some stats of my averall playing… aren’t I cool?

Why did I find it so good?

First of all, it is a well made game: graphics are polished, sounds are awesome and so on. It is not just a game experiment, like the one I’m doing in these days, it is a full-featured game.

Then its difficulty is well calibrated: even when I was clearly in the lead position, in the end my opponents reached me. The game has always been able to challenge me, I’ve never find a goal too easy or too hard. So the game is never boring and never frustrating. This makes it very very playable. Furthermore every mission of the game is about a challenge: or you challenge yourself (in time missions) or you challenge your opponents (in standard races). So you always feel yourself challenged and this is something that makes you motivated while you play.

BlazeRush racing in virtual reality
In the end I’ve won my first race! W00t!

The game is also never the same: as I’ve said, some races are standard races (you against some opponents), others are time races (you have a lap-time to beat), some others have another innovative playing mode (like one where you have to run away from an enormous machine that wants to destroy you all and get points if you get destroyed the last). Different game modes means that the game never appears as repetitive and this ensures a long time fun. Even when the game mode is the same, there are different modifiers that make the experience different: some tracks have some weapons, some others have other weapons; in some tracks you have faster opponents, in others have more resistant ones. Also there are different enviroments for different tracks: some tracks are in the forest, other are in the desert and so on. And this environments are really well-crafted.

BlazeRush racing in virtual reality
This is an in-game screenshot: from a third-person visual, you see all the mini-cars racing. Notice from this picture how the environment is amazing

Another thing that I’ve appreciated a lot is that the player is guided all the time inside the game: at the beginning of each race there are instructions that will explain the mechanic of that race. The program starts with a simple race and then each time they add some elements (for example in the first race you just run and boost, in the second one you also find machine guns and can shoot other cars), the initial explanations will tell you how to handle this new situation. There’s no actual game tutorial, just some instructions before every race, so you learn the game while you play and this is awesome.

BlazeRush racing in virtual reality
As you can see, there are instructions that give you very informative details about the race you’re going to participate in

At last, the game offers every standard method to make it durable: achievements, cups, points, unlockable tracks and cars and all these stuff. Maybe these things are even too many (!!), since after each race you’ll see a bazillion info about cups, achievements, points and such while you just want to play the next level.

BlazeRush racing in virtual reality
Achievements won in one of the races I’ve played. There are achievements for almost everything… I even won an achievement for having lost the lead in the last second of the race!!

I’ve just played the “Career” mode, where you play in single-player mode, trying to win a long tournament of different races of different types. The more you win, the more you unlock, until you end the game. There’s also a multiplayer mode where you can play against other people online! Wow, cool!

BlazeRush racing in virtual reality
A screenshot of a multiplayer match… from all these explosions I can guess it is surely a lot funny

My final word about BlazeRush is that maybe it is not the best game to be played inside virtual reality (because in my opinion VR doesn’t add that much to the game), but the game is actually very fun. If you like this genre of Mario Kart-like game, my advice is to buy it, since the game is really well-crafted. After an initial moment of skepticism, I had spent a great time with BlazeRush and I had my head and controllers all covered in sweat! If you’re interested, you can find it on the Oculus Store.

Hope you liked this review… see you at my next post!

 

Skarredghost

AR/VR developer, startupper, zombie killer. Sometimes I pretend I can blog, but actually I've no idea what I'm doing. I tried to change the world with my startup Immotionar, offering super-awesome full body virtual reality, but now the dream is over. But I've still not waken up...