Curfew Put Me In VR's Most Comfortable Car Crash


curfew join the race vr rewind

I’ve had my fair share of VR crashes. I’ve rolled down the side of Lydden Hill in Dirt and smashed into every corner in Project Cars. I don’t have a driving license, so don’t judge. But, for all your cinematic expectations, crashing is usually one of the most awful, suddenly sickening sensations you can experience in VR. But not in Curfew – Join the Race.

This short piece, the latest from UK-based Rewind, is set to release next week. It ties into the upcoming Sky TV series of the same name and was produced in partnership with Endemol Shine. In the show, the UK has been infested with a zombie virus. For one reason or another, this pits a series of survivors in a vicious race to escape the country. Each episode hones in on a different character. This VR entry is like its own self-contained episode in the series.

You find yourself somewhat cramped up in the passenger’s seat of one car, sitting next to a silent driver named Eduardo. As you race for first place, you’ll be in contact with a woman named Helena over the radio.

Rewind has some neat ideas here. Creative Director Daryl Atkins told me that the studio had a surprising degree of autonomy over the piece’s script and development. You’ll see cars and characters from the show, but the events of the experience are largely separate.

You communicate with Helena using a handset mapped to Oculus Touch’s buttons, which feels seamless and natural. Rewind explained that, to keep the pace going, many of the game’s light interactions are optional. At one point you’re asked to hit the boost but, if you don’t, Eduardo will eventually reach over and do it for you. It’s a clever way to keep the experience flowing without allowing for unnatural pauses between commands and actions.

It’s that crash that’s the star of the show, though. Inevitably your journey gets a little hairy and you find yourself spinning offroad. But, instead of a stomach-churning stop and mind-breaking corkscrew, Rewind makes some clever sacrifices in order to retain a sense of coherency and comfort. The screen fades to black and, when it comes back, you’re mid-air in slow motion. Items from the car glide past your face and Eduardo seems frozen in time. The screen fades out two more times, with the entire sequence lasting around 20 seconds.

Perhaps not the most realistic sensation, then, but in a weird way it mirrors that sense of time slowing as you, say take a bungee jump or do something equally nerve-racking. More importantly, though, it never once made me feel ill or disorientated. It was, oddly enough, VR’s most comfortable car crash yet.

When you land you find yourself upside down. It’s initially confusing and requires you to gather your bearings. Again, I sort of imagine that to be like getting into an actual car crash, though I’m fortunate enough not to be able to verify that personally. Then the zombies come and well, yeah, you know how that can be. Suffice to say I felt safer in the car crash.

Curfew – Join The Race launches on the Oculus Rift for free on February 22nd. A 360 version of the experience will also be coming to Oculus Go. It’s definitely worth a look if you like your virtual driving to include a little catastrophe.

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