PAX West 2017: Sprint Vector is the VR Game that Forces Real Effort

When I last experienced Survios’ action racer, Sprint Vector, I ran through a map solo. Featuring plenty of walls to climb, sharp turns to navigate and plenty of shortcuts to explore, it was a VR concept like no other on the market. It left me sweating like my wife just caught me in bed with Boss Hog. The experience is uniquely physical, requiring speedy pumping of the arms, quick turning to navigate and more than a little persistence to post the best score. I had also not seen anything yet. At PAX, I was given the opportunity to face off against another player in a basic one on one race to the finish. While waiting, I observed my competition. He was smaller and in much better shape than I, but I had the advantage of having played the game before. This was in the bag, I thought. If you heard a giant booming laugh at around 1 PM PST on Saturday September 2, that was simply your deity of choice mocking my hubris. I lost by twenty seconds.

It’s not like it was a difficult track. This new course was covered in snow in a manner that utilized the game’s unique art style to striking effect. It also featured mostly gentle turns the eased into the straightaways naturally, allowing the player to keep pumping their arms to maintain top speed. The track was also littered with plenty of easy to identify shortcuts to utilize and lots of weapons pick ups, so I was able to keep trying to slow the fading distant dot that was my opponent. It’s an extremely well-designed course that covers pretty much all of the basic mechanics besides wall climbing.

Upon my humiliating defeat, I spoke to the developers. I made two mistakes. First, while my arm movements were enthusiastic and rapid, they were much too short. The way it works is that the player lifts there arm up, grips the trigger on the Vive controller, then bring it down to their side and release the trigger at the right time. I knew this, but wanted so desperately to win that I forgot the information in the heat of the moment. I was basically working twice as hard for less speed as I wasn’t using the proper gait length. The second mistake was playing against a dude who was doing a run and getting right back in line for a chance to try again. The booth was having a promotion, and he wanted to win it. Buddy, if you are reading this: I hope you did. It would certainly make me feel better about myself.

So, after my attempt, I took the time to speak to a couple of the developers, praying that they wouldn’t be too offended by the ham leaking from my pores. Billed as an adrenaline platformer, this is a game that can effectively be divided into two parts. The first comes in the form of multiplayer races. Many players can get together at the same time to compete in death races to the finish. Using weapons, cunning, and pure physicality, players will face off in a quest to be the best. The layout and feel of these is similar to a VR running take on a popular kart racer. The developers themselves admit to drawing inspiration from a certain multicolored road of great fame. The second half lies in Challenge Maps. These are meant to be difficult to complete, with multiple ways to fall off of the track and otherwise meet an unpleasant doom. Finishing many of these challenges is meant to be extremely difficult. Finishing with a low, record setting time will be even more so. As someone who loves working my way up a leaderboard, I’ll probably be spending an unnatural amount of time here.

What’s more, there are apparently advanced techniques that I haven’t even discovered yet. One example is drifting, which doesn’t make sense in a running game until the speeds that the player obtains is witnessed. Holding up an arm perpendicular to the body while pumping the other allows the player to take drastic turns without sacrificing speed, which is something that will be necessary as the competition heats up. Proper jumping, great timing while players fling themselves up walls, and getting the basic gait down to reach the best speed are all skills that will need to be practiced. This is why I was pleased to learn that there will also be a practice lobby where players can chill and trade tips on proper form.

Sprint Vector is a game that literally makes me sweat. It’s also a ton of fun. While it doesn’t look the best in screenshots, the design makes sense once the player sees the world in VR. This is a game that anyone can play but features a high skill ceiling, utilizing the player’s actual body. While I still contend that Survios’ own Raw Data is still the best overall VR title on the market, Sprint Vector is a close second, closing the gap and looking confident.