By Terris Harned (NWOrpheus)
If you’ve ever seen a toddler learning to walk, it’s kind of an amazing thing. The process happens in a number of stages. First they pull themselves up onto their feet, then they let go and fall on their butts. Then they get to the stage where they hold onto things and shift their feet a little side to side. Next, they take a few tentative steps away from support, and again, they fall down. After a while, they begin taking those cute little bow-legged steps across the floor. Finally, they get walking down and try running. They’re not quite ready for it though, so they sort of lean forward, and their heads cause their center of gravity to shift, and their feet pump beneath their little bodies, trying to keep up. And then they slide across the floor, face first. It’s absolutely adorable.
In many ways, VR games are in the toddler stage. The racing game/arena shooter JetX, which actually offers VR and PC crossplay, is one of these toddler VR games, and it is definitely in that last phase. It’s not ready to run yet, so it puts everything forward, and then pumps to keep up, but inevitably it’s going to fall flat on its face.
You can see, things are pretty easy. I didn’t die until I switched weapons, which I did just to show you folks. The basic brawler is definitely the most reliable imo.
That’s a real pity, too. The game’s premise isn’t terrible: you’re in control of a robotic jet (I think?) doing things in far distant locals. The graphics are bright and catchy, if a bit monotone within their own structure. For example, one of the race tracks is called “Ruins of Raymar”. In it there are these large brown rocks that rotate, and you’re supposed to fly within the gap of the rocks. The problem is, the gap is really small, and the rocks all look like the rocks right behind. Furthermore, you’re going really fast (or trying to, it’s a race after all), and so you really can’t see the gap until you’re slamming face first into the boulder.
The controls aren’t the tightest either. I played the game both on VR (Oculus Rift) and on PC, and feel like the controls were definitely designed more with VR in mind, and PC as an afterthought. For example, there’s no way to look behind you on PC, where in VR your view is tethered to your head. It’s actually tethered to both your head and the thumbsticks, but I couldn’t find anywhere to adjust the sensitivity of the thumbsticks, so they were really jumpy.
In fact, there weren’t really options at all, to speak of. Yeah, there’s a few graphics options, and the PC version lets you adjust mouse sensitivity, but you can’t remap the keys at all on the PC version. You can on the VR version, but there’s only so many buttons to use, so there’s really very little point. The audio options were limited to volume controls and muting other players. I didn’t see any place for push to talk options, either on PC or on VR.
Here the AI is set to normal, and they just absolutely leave me in their dust from moment one, until the very end, when they’re fighting each other.
Not that there was anyone to talk to. I tried a few times to join matches, which I was always able to do, quickly. Unfortunately, this is because the matchmaker will simply drop you into a fresh game or, presumably, whatever game is currently going. This is somewhat troublesome, because if you’re in a deathmatch where the objective is to get 15 kills, and you get dropped into a game where a person has 13 kills, it’s rather unlikely you’re going to catch up. Again though, this doesn’t seem to be much of a problem, as it mostly seems like the multiplayer in JetX is a ghost town.
It’s also a little frustrating that a lot of the content is progression walled. There are seven guns total in the game; five guns for both VR and PC, and then one weapon which is exclusive to each platform. You can equip a different weapon type to each hand (or mouse button for PC) and they fire independently of each other. When you start the game, however, only three of these weapons are unlocked. It seems that the AI only ever use the basic weapon, the brawler, which is generally a sort of fast firing repeating laser.
Then there’s the AI itself. It has three difficulty levels: easy, normal, and insane. It should be: pathetic, insane, and just don’t bother. Easy wasn’t even remotely challenging, especially on PC, even as a new player, but normal was very very tough. I guess it’s for the best they don’t use power-ups, but even this seems like a failure on the part of the developers.
The AI essentially doesn’t miss in deathmatch, and in races they go unerringly towards the target. It’s possible to beat them in races, but basically only by shooting them. The game in fact knows that the AI is too good, it seems, because if you fall too far behind it gives you a magic portal on the track to help you catch up.
One of the better ways of taking AI out is power ups. There’s a decent little selection, from the black hole, which sucks enemies in and damages them, to the homing missile, which delivers a sound pounding. In some ways, it’s like Mario Kart, but without the randomness, and with 3D tracks that it’s very easy to lose your way on.
Sorry I couldn’t get a clearer picture. There’s no way to not lock on that bot.
I’m loathe to simply say to avoid JetX. For all its foibles, it’s a pretty adorable little bit of tech. Playing around in VR is fun, at least for a time, and the game has a pretty low price point. As of the writing of this article, it’s only $14.99. That being said, there’s a certain element to it that makes it feel like it’s Early Release. Not so much that it’s terribly buggy or anything, but it definitely feels like they should have done some market testing before releasing it to fine tune the mechanics. Bottom line is, if you’ve got a VR system you can probably afford to blow $14.99 on something you might get a couple hours out of. Just don’t expect too much, and you won’t be disappointed.
I give JetX 2 out of 5 afterburners.