Radial-G is intense. As an alumni of the WipeOut and F-Zero school of racing, it throws us into antigravity sleds and shoots us down insane twisting tracks, glued to the exterior of wildly crooked tubes that grant us a full range of motion. We'll dodge through fan blades, hurtle over speed boosters and ultimately jostle for position against 31 opponents. The sheer sense of unadulterated velocity is astonishing, even mindblowing.
However, perhaps the most impressive thing about this in-progress indie racer is that it also fully supports the Oculus Rift, allowing you to leap right into the cockpit and immerse yourself in its ridiculously hectic action... without throwing up all over the keyboard.
This is because Radial-G's development team has real pedigree, or in other words: they know what they're doing. They've worked on military-grade simulators before, clearly experienced in mitigating the effects of simulation sickness. Several staffers hail from Acclaim and Black Rock Studios, having previously developed many a racer. Producer Sam Watts even put in a long shift at NCSoft, contributing to Wildstar and other MMOs.
Most importantly, Tammeka Games are only asking for £50,000 to get the ball rolling on Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight - and you can try the free demo right now whether you have an Oculus Rift or not. PS4 owners should pay attention, because a certain Mr. Yoshida has also given it both thumbs up with Morpheus in mind.
If you're tired of waiting for Nintendo and Sony to get their act together, Radial-G is shaping up nicely.
The premise is simple and straightforward: race, jostle, cajole and boost your way through some treacherous tracks in streamlined ships. Gun the accelerator, occasionally brake for effect and hold on for dear life. However, the tracks themselves break the mold by resembling tubes rather than flat planes, allowing you to spin around 360° a la Sonic Lost World, as if a traditional road has been curved and folded to form a cylinder. This tricky tube loops, swoops and plunges over the infinte gulf of deep space, peppered with speed boosts, gates and hazards.
As such, there's plenty to think about even without factoring in weapon systems, traps and powerups. Not to mention Virtual Reality, which ought to be a poisoned chalice of the first degree by conventional logic.
Considering the outrageous track geometries, breakneck speed and constant sensory bombardment, I fully expected Radial-G to become a virtual vomit comet when experienced using an Oculus Rift headset. The truth, however, is that once again racing games and simulations prove themselves to be perfect VR material. The detailed cockpit gives you a constant frame of reference that anchors you in the world, cutting down on conflicting signals to your fickle inner ear, and granting you a real sense of perspective and place as you gawk around the impossible floating track.
More importantly, Tammeka Games have also slaved over the visuals, delivering smooth 1080/60 (minimum!) action with no appreciable latency, which is absolutely key when it comes to fighting the effects of simulation sickness. The net result is one of the most solid and exciting VR prototypes I've tried, and a very real playable game as opposed to a passive tech demo.
Mind you, Radial-G is still a prototype, and Tammeka need your help (and pledges) to get the job done. Planned features include 32-player races, a progression system with a variety of ships and weapons, a singleplayer campaign, multiple tracks and eventually several race modes including Endurance and Elimination races. Stretch goals will grant more features and polish, alongside a PS4 Morpheus-enabled version at the top tier.
I'm not going to tell you how to spend your money and crowd-funding should always be approached with caution. But if you're excited about the concept, why not download the demo, check out the Kickstarter and think about eyeballing the Steam Greenlight campaign? The goods are there to see and try even at this early stage, and Tammeka have put their money where their mouth is. Will gamers do the same?
Stay tuned for our interview with Sam Watts!