First Impressions: Jetborne Racing
It was quite surprising to see, that almost out of nowhere, VTOL VR's developer BahamutoD released a new game: Jetborne Racing. This was a very unexpected release; not only because of its timing but because of what it is. This is, to my knowledge, one of the only modern flight games on the market that is solely focused on racing! Initially, I was a bit shocked at the premise. Not because it was strange or anything of the sort, but because it is such a logical game idea that I am in disbelief that no one had done it in recent years. Sure, there are some flight racing games from back in the day, but nothing like this, even less when you consider that it was made with VR in mind. AUDIOVISUAL DESIGN Visually, this game is very similar to VTOL VR if not identical to it. Very simple textures that do not have any kind of embellishments. This has a performance benefit for VR users as the game does not have to load 4K textures with roughness and bump maps, which would need to calculate light reflections on them. This should make sure that the game will run flawlessly on many systems out there. Despite having a minimalistic style, Jetborne has very interesting map designs. From the simple yet elegant wooden tunnels of Mountain pass to the craziness of Moon Base Alpha and the narrow tunnels of Underwater, this game has variety. Take a look at the small gallery bellow so you can see the examples I mentioned. Additionally, the cockpit design is minimalistic. No bells or whistles here, all the information you need is displayed right on the Heads-up Display (HUD) or right bellow it, such as your total and split times. I find this to be beneficial as it makes it easier for you to focus on your flying and what is happening outside of your canopy instead of looking around the cockpit. Audio-wise, the game does have some very good aspects to it. The sound you can hear as you pull Gs and the audio deafening effect as you black/red-out is good. But one area in which I feel there could be some improvement are structural sounds such as the wings swinging back and forth, a louder afterburning sound, etc. In a game that has you constantly pulling over 10Gs I would consider these to be crucially integral to judging your aircraft's attitude while on tight corners. GAMEPLAY Here is where Jetborne shines. It has the same level of polish as VTOL VR, which is one of the best VR experiences out there. It might not have the interactivity and system operations of the former but it does not need them, at all. The flight model is not realistic, but it feels grounded. Taking turns feels exciting and every single time in which I crashed, it was because of my own fault, some exceptions applied. It has been a blast to go through every single circuit, both in single and multiplayer. The best I have to describe it is that it feels like a more realistic Ace Combat-like flight model, don't mind being able to pull 14Gs without consequences. After all, you don't have blood in VR. The best way I have to show you what I mean is with this video I recorded of myself running one of my best personal times in East Bay Loop. I uploaded it to the Skyward Twitter account. Music in the video is courtesy of Cindego (Kubson#1138 in Discord). Very nice stuff all around! Maps feel like they are laid out in such a way that turns flow into one another, but of course there are some maps that are a bit better at this than others. Beginner-level maps are very easy to finish but hard to master. That run I have on the video was a 1:56:858, which is more than a second slower than the world record. It took me a solid day of solely playing this circuit to figure out all the best angles for my level of skill, including the "blind corner" that is the last turn, which leads me to my only complaint.
To get the best times on tracks such as Moon Base Alpha or East Bay Loop, you will have to rely on taking corners while blacked out. This means that you will have to memorize the angle of the turn, your bank angle and the number of seconds you will have to keep turning until you can straighten out. While being able to do such a feat is impressive on its own, I can not call it a good game mechanic. Being able to control the aircraft after you black out should not be possible, there should be some kind of penalty for doing so.
The rest of the game mechanics are fun. The spectators, which can move from platform to platform, have their own way to affect the race by shooting at the racers. This can be either hilarious or really annoying, at least it was prior to the damage reduction that the spectator guns received. Races with objects, á-la Mario Kart, are really fun as well. FIRST IMPRESSIONS CONCLUSION This is a really, really fun game. It is unique and brings things to the table that no other game has, at least in the last decade or so. It has that VTOL VR polish to it, making it run smoothly on almost any machine. But I do fear for its longevity. Sure, record hunting has been a blast during the release period and it has been exciting to get into a track just to try and get back into the top spots of the leader board. But for how long can that excitement last? How many times can I do a run over and over again on the same map until I get worried. The game has eight maps as of the time of writing, so this feeling only grows more each time I play them.
I would recommend this game to any of those who want to race with their friends, VR or not. It is a great game as it is, but I hope that it will get expanded with more maps at some point. About the writer: Santiago "Cubeboy" Cuberos Longtime aviation fanatic with particular preference towards military aviation and its history. Said interests date back to the early 2000's leading into his livelong dive into civil and combat flight simulators. He has been involved in a few communities but only started being active around the mid 2010's. Joined as a Spanish to English translator in 2017, he has been active as a writer and content manager ever since. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034