Death Lap is the latest VR outing for Anshar Wars developer Ozwe Games and it does its best to channel the spirit of Twisted Metal into a relatively standard lap-based racing game. Read our full review to see how it fares!
Based on the footage I’d seen, the art work, and the way the game has been marketed, you probably thought it seemed like a Twisted Metal-inspired car combat game. I think that’s a reasonable assumption to make. In reality, it’s much more like a grungy version of Mario Kart.
Let me explain.
Twisted Metal is hardly a racing game. It’s actually more of an arena combat game that just so happens to pit vehicles as the main characters set across a variety of torn up and run down cities awash with rubble and broken streets. The focus is on evading and engaging in vehicular combat, not so much racing to the finish line. On the flip side, Death Lap is entirely about racing. Your objective is to finish three laps around the chosen race track as quickly as possible to land first place and bask in the glory. The weapons and gritty setting are just backdrops.
Since the Oculus Quest is sorely lacking in the racing game department Death Lap is arriving at a good time (just ahead of Radial-G: Proteus later this month) but its execution doesn’t really match up with its marketing too well.
Just like in Mario Kart you’ll run over boost arrows, hit ramps, drift around corners, and pick up power-up boxes to supercharge your hunks of metal. The main difference is that each vehicle is also equipped with unique close-range and long-range weapons as well. For example, my favorite vehicle has a giant drill on the front that shreds cars I sneak up behind or ram into, while also packing a powerful rocket launcher mounted on top. Using my right hand to aim and my left hand to steer, I’m free to blast my opponents away while drifting across the finish line.
It’s a good concept that packs some serious thrills. One of the levels (shown below in the GIF) takes place across an enormous pinball machine, similar to the casino levels in Sonic the Hedgehog. There’s another level focused on “Sin City” and yet another featuring a flaming clown roller coaster (again, “Hi, Twisted Metal!) to drive through.
Level variety is decent then, but there are only 5 tracks and a handful of vehicles to pick from. Nothing left to unlock after about 20 minutes of playtime. No upgrades, no customization — just a few tracks and a few cars. Supposedly the draw here is the leaderboard and competitive online multiplayer, but there isn’t enough depth to really keep people coming back from what I’ve seen.
As a package Death Lap isn’t as feature-packed as I’d have liked to see, but it’s still a lot of fun to play when everything is clicking. Leading your shots to blow up cars as they drift around obstacles in the distance is super satisfying and the weapon variety is actually pretty great. Other than the rocket launcher cars are equipped with mini guns, mini missile launchers, a laser gun, and one even has a rail gun style beam.
Visually it leaves a bit to be desired, even on Rift. Environments look a little muddy and textures are extremely flat, even in the vehicle cockpits. You can tell this is clearly a Quest-first game, which is fine, but it doesn’t compare to the same quality of other Oculus Studios-published titles in terms of production values.
To steer the default method is just using the left analog stick like any non-VR racing game would do, but you can toggle an alternate method in the main menu settings that has you twist your wrist to steer instead. I’d prefer a method that lets you actually reach out with your left hand in 6DOF space, like you do with your right hand to aim, and actually grab onto the wheel itself. Neither of the included methods really felt appropriate to me but I did prefer the wrist twisting.
Although this review was conducted primarily using an Oculus Rift version of the game, we have played it on Quest too. The main differences are in the visuals, as the Quest is a bit lower quality as expected. Gameplay and content are unchanged and it supports both cross-play for multiplayer and crossbuy for Rift and Quest.
To be honest I’m hoping Ozwe returns to the Anshar franchise and either delivers a brand-new game or at least ports Anshar Online to Quest since it’s already on Gear VR, Go, and Rift.
Death Lap Review Final Verdict:
This isn’t the ultimate VR racing game by any means, but it still manages to deliver the fun of competent combat racing in spurts. With a small offering of tracks and vehicles, no real progression system, and no customization it’s a bit bare bones, but the thrill of seeing explosions and drifting around a giant pinball machine salvages a lot of the intensity.
Final Score: 3/5 Stars | Pretty Good
Death Lap is now available for Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift headsets at the price of $19.99.
This review of Death Lap from Ozwe Games was conducted on an Oculus Rift S using two Touch controllers. You can read more about the new five-star scoring policy here.