As a kid did you ever grab toy cars or planes and whizz them around the house pretending they were racing? Well, that’s what it kind of feels like playing XOCUS’ new virtual reality (VR) videogame Z-Race – minus the screaming parents – a futuristic racing title that will immediately make you think of WipEout yet offers a very different gameplay experience.
Z-Race immediately stands out thanks to its visual style, the anti-grav vehicles looking awesome thanks to a mixture of F1 and spaceship inspiration. While the tracks tend to be mostly tubular in construction there are moments when they open up, providing stunning views among the clouds or racing through icy, industrialised terrain.
For its Early Access launch on Steam for HTC Vive, Valve Index and Oculus Rift, you’ll be able to pilot 10 vehicles split across three-speed grades, three in grades three and two with four ships in the fastest grade one. Gaining access to the next grade requires upgrading one vehicle to the max, which you can only do by collecting coins on the track or by winning. These are split down into Acceleration, Top Speed and Nitro sections, each with three upgrade slots. So each race is a careful balance between keeping that perfect line or trying to collect those coins.
When it comes to the tracks there are 12 in total, split across Bronze, Silver and Gold cups. Unlike the variety found in the ships, the tracks only have four terrains, so by the time you enter the Gold cup they can feel somewhat repetitive. XOCUS does try to mitigate some of this by increasing the number of obstacles, so not only do you have other opponents flying around you there are red cylinders that will instantly slow you down – they’ll even ricochet if someone in front hits one – and red walls to thread through. In some of the tighter tunnels, it can be quite the challenge trying to feed your way through everything.
To help in these scenarios you have slow-mo and nitro to use, the former can only be used three times per race whilst nitro appears as blue orbs on the track. So far this all sounds like a blistering sci-fi racer – albeit without any weapons – offering face-melting speeds and intense competition.
However, if you’re a fan of VR racing games you’ll know inside the vehicle is where the action is, it’s the only true way of feeling that sense of speed. Z-Racer doesn’t, in fact, as its entirely third-person. There aren’t any actual options because of the control mechanics XOCUS has employed, great for comfort, not so much for speed. As VRFocus alluded to earlier, Z-Racer’s controls are like holding a toy in your hand, the controller becoming the ship. It’s a similar format to Shooty Skies Overdrive, all you need to do is move your hand around the track.
While this may not sit well with racing fans it does mean a generally comfortable experience even with all the undulating track design. It does take a moment to get used to but it provides a different experience to more conventional titles like Radial-G: Proteus.
As for the competitive aspect, Z-Race doesn’t offer your standard multiplayer where you have to wait for other players. Instead, the only mode currently available is Asynchronous Racing, where there are other racers on the track who represent other players times. The benefit of this system is no wait times, just dive straight into a race, and you do get that pseudo-competitive feel even though you know no one else is competing at that moment.
Currently, the content available means you’ll see all Z-Race has to offer in under an hour, going back through each course once you’ve supped up the best ships to gain a prominent leaderboard position. Yet Z-Race is an Early Access title and XOCUS’ plans for more content could radically change the experience. An actual head-to-head mode is planned for Q2 2021 which could really add some much-needed depth to the gameplay. Far more radical is the proposition of a cockpit mode. This idea is being looked at due to player feedback and if implemented would completely alter the control scheme, likely two very different racing modes.
For now, though, Z-Race offers a very average racing experience. It’s enjoyable for that initial hour then begins to wain unless you really want that number one position. There’s plenty of potential to be unlocked as the quality of the graphics and smooth gameplay already set a high, premium bar so hopefully, the studio has plenty of content updates planned. Should that cockpit mode arrive then VRFocus will be revisiting Z-Race.
GamesBeat’s creed when covering the game industry is “where passion meets business.” What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you — not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it.How will you do that? Membership includes access to:
Newsletters, such as DeanBeat
The wonderful, educational, and fun speakers at our events
Special members-only interviews, chats, and “open office” events with GamesBeat staff
Chatting with community members, GamesBeat staff, and other guests in our Discord
Solaris: Offworld Combat is coming to PSVR this June with a physical release from Perp Games. According to a First Contact Entertainment representative, the digital version is planned to release a month earlier in May.
Perp Games on Twitter: “We’re not finished just yet. Solaris Offworld Combat is the next game to be getting a physical box release. Coming in June to global markets! Will you be buying it? https://t.co/5sphrqsh10” / Twitter
Solaris: Offworld Combat on PSVR
Originally, Solaris was coming to PSVR late last year around the same time as the Quest and PC VR version of the game but got delayed. Now, it’s slated for release in just a couple of months.
The latest VR shooter from First Contact Entertainment (creators of Firewall Zero Hour) is a sci-fi competitive VR shooter that feels a bit like Quake in VR due to its speed and intense arena levels. It’s a very breezy, fast-paced game that’s accessible and easy to quickly jump in and out of. The closest comparison is probably Hyper Dash.
Soalris is a notable release because other than Firewall Zero Hour, there really haven’t been many options for shooter fans on PSVR. Alvo is coming soon too, but the headset is on its last legs at this point.
The PS Aim Controller continues to be one of the best things about the PSVR platform, so I’m all for seeing more games support it, but it’s a shame games like this didn’t hit PSVR earlier in its life cycle. Hopefully PSVR 2 on PS5 is backwards compatible and it can give late-life cycle games like this one new life when it releases.
Solaris is coming to PSVR very soon with a planned digital release in May and physical release from Perp Games in June. For more on this game make sure and read our Solaris: Offworld Combat review and stay tuned for all the latest in VR.
The VR fitness genre is still relatively new, all things considered. Even though the space is still somewhat niche, it’s absolutely growing at a fast pace as seen by the number of games and players that continue to spring up. How did we get to this point though, you might ask?
Microsoft won a large US Army contract to supply advanced AR headsets for frontline soldiers, based on the HoloLens platform.
The US Army’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) program aims to equip infantry with AR helmets for situational awareness and convenient display of sensor outputs.
The contract is worth up to $21.88 billion over 5-10 years. While the order has been widely reported as 120,000 units, a US Army statement to Breaking Defence suggests that is the maximum, not a fixed quantity.
Early evaluation units based on HoloLens 2
In 2018 Microsoft won the $480 million evaluation contract for just over 2500 units, based on HoloLens 2 with some modifications and an extra sensor.
The current, ruggedized, upgraded IVAS
The evaluation found the hardware not rugged enough for military use, and identified problems with the sensors at night. Since then the hardware has been significantly upgraded. It’s more ruggedized and houses many more sensors.
The field of view has been significantly increased from roughly 40°x30° to 80°x40°. That’s significantly wider than any other see-through AR headset on the market.
Reported use cases for the headset include:
overlaying icons on friendly units, objectives, threats, and points of interest
built-in night vision & thermal view modes
live picture-in-picture feeds from drones, including the Soldier Borne Sensors (SBS) personal drone
simulated weapons & enemies for training exercises
scanning nearby people for high temperature (COVID-19)
facial recognition for hostage rescue situations
The Army is also testing integrations with vehicles, such as soldiers being able to see-through the walls of the armored vehicle carrying them. That means on dismounting they’ll be situationally aware.
Some Microsoft employees have protested providing technology for the military, but that’s unlikely to have any effect given the enormous potential value of the contract.
IVAS is still in the late testing & evaluation stage, and the scale of deployment will depend on future budgets. But if things go to plan, frontline soldiers could be equipped with these game-changing AR capabilities by the end of the decade.