Radial-G summons a certain brand of nostalgia, firstly for the early days of pre-consumer VR in which it appeared a bold pioneer, shortly followed by the stomach-churning twists and turns of its sci-fi racing. It was a game ready to jump off the starting line well before PC VR headsets launched in 2016, paradoxically coming off as a little dated by the time that finally rolled around.
Heading to Quest next month, Radial-G: Proteus offers a welcome tune-up to some of those aging elements, but is it enough?
Right off the bat, the game’s fresh coat of paint goes some way to suggesting it might be. The original’s labyrinthine tracks were meticulous in detail, but the one-note color palette often gave it a tinge of asset store-style cutting and pasting. Now the game boasts a cel-shaded art style that’s much easier on the eye, dotted with vibrant oranges and the red glare of space. It may be true that these changes were made to fit the game onto Quest, but it’s come out the other side looking much better.
Proteus also includes a motion control scheme that some players might well feel is more immersive. Closer to Star Wars-style podracing than simply relying on a Touch analog stick, you push two levers back and forth to steer. There’s a touch of futurism to it that compliments the setting quite nicely, though it’s undeniably less responsive than sticking to sticks.
Crucially, this option is in need of player customization; things like being able to choose which lever steers you in which direction or where the levers are located. With those features, I’d probably prefer to play the game this way.
These are meaningful, robust changes and they go some way to making Radial-G feel like a 2019-ready game. But there is a hint of the archaic to this. Proteus still packs the satisfying rush of sci-fi speeding, but the repetition we touched on in our 2016 review of the game is also present and accounted for. It’s a memory game, where learning the precise locations of boost pads and breakpoints is key to topping the leaderboards, and there’s fun to be had there. But the game can’t match up to the complexity or thrill of, say, PSVR-exclusive Wipeout: The Omega Collection. Publisher Things3D will no doubt benefit from having one of the only cockpit racers on Quest, but how long into 2020 it holds that advantage remains to be seen.
Still, there is value here. Proteus comes with a full career mode in which you’ll unlock new ships by rising through the ranks. The original multiplayer element won’t be ready for launch but I’m told it’s coming via an update. I’m quite keen on the idea of getting a few Quests in the same room for some local VR multiplayer without the risk of bumping into each other. That’s a pretty rare opportunity in the current landscape.
I probably won’t be racing my way back through Radial-G’s career mode, then, but you could do a lot worse if you’re looking to scratch the racing itch on Quest.
Radial-G: Proteus races onto Oculus Quest in December.