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DriveClub VR could be the perfect introduction to PlayStation VR and virtual reality

Racing games suit seated VR perfectly, and DriveClub VR is one of the most immersive yet

Driving games are the ideal starting point for anyone looking to experience virtual reality for the first time. Let’s face it – you don’t want to dive head-first into something like Capcom’s terrifying Kitchen, or the equally traumatic Until Dawn: Rush of Blood without testing the VR waters first. Unlike HTC’s Vive, which actively encourages players to move around the room, PlayStation VR works best from a seated position, and a car cockpit is a lot more familiar than a spaceship or battle tank.

This is why I was more than excited to learn DriveClub developer Evolution Studios had been secretly working on a virtual reality tech demo, and would be showing it off to journalists at Paris Games Week. The prototype was split into two sections; a passenger demo and a racer demo. 

The former puts you in the passenger seat of a recorded replay, letting you look around the car cockpit as if you were literally sat there. The car, a Pagani Huayra, was a particularly good choice, as the dials, instruments and absolutely bonkers exposed gearstick is a sight to behold when stationary, let alone when hurtling around corners at speed. While the driver is a fully animated avatar, you’re merely a floating head, so it’s a little disconcerting to look down at the footwell and not see any feet, but otherwise the level of detail is astounding. I spotted dirt accumulating on the windows throughout the race, and you can of course lean forward and explore the cabin in 3D space.

PlayStation VR headset

^ High frame rates are critical for racing games and VR in general – thankfully PlayStation VR delivers

The latter puts you at the wheel of a BAC Mono, racing around one of the India circuits from the main game. Admittedly I was sat in a racing bucket seat, and was using Thrustmaster’s excellent T300 RS steering wheel and pedals, but the sense of immersion was incredible. The ability to look towards an apex of a corner as you approach lets you anticipate the braking and steering points far better than you can do with a fixed camera. Being able to judge distance between yourself and other racers will prove invaluable in racing games with realistic damage modelling too.

The demo is running at 60fps, upsampled to 120fps using a technique called asynchronous time-warp to double the number of visible frames with interpolated ones. For a side-project that has only been in development for three months, DriveClub VR is shaping up nicely. Even game director Paul Rustchynsky joked he was ‘amazed the build hasn’t crashed at all yet’, so omissions like rear-view mirrors, dialed-down weather and cloud systems and a reduction in trackside detail are understandable. Keep in mind that the original game only ran at 30fps.

At this early stage, however, it’s unclear what the long-term plans are for the project. The developer previously experimented with VR in March 2014, when Sony Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida tweeted that it made him sick – thankfully this latest version didn’t do the same to me, so it’s looking good that it will progress to the next level of development.

With DriveClub Bikes having taken up a lot of the studio’s time, I’ve got my fingers crossed Evolution Studios will now turn its attention to VR full-time, as DriveClub would definitely be high on my list of VR titles to buy once PlayStation VR becomes a reality.

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