Hands-on with Jected Rivals: A Battle Royal with vehicles?

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We go hands on with the Early Access build of the innovative new driving game to see if cars are a good fit for this popular gaming genre.
Jected Rivals Review

What do you get when you combine the vehicle destruction elements of Wreckfest with a popular gaming genre like a battle royal?

Well, you end up with a game called Jected – Rivals.

At least, that’s what it’s trying to be. Jected was released into Early Access on Steam 4th May 2023, and I have been playing it to see if the racing industry can also join into the battle royal genre. 

How does Jected – Rivals Work? 

The game is based on an elimination-style model. Each game starts with 18 players and consists of four rounds with the game cycling between different maps and game modes. These range from normal races, long jumps, and even Wreckfest-style demolition game modes. At the first round’s end, the bottom six players will be eliminated while the remaining players move to the next round.

This format repeats until you get to the fourth and final round. Called the Grand Finale, this race will test players with driving, shortcuts, and even flying with whoever finishes first being crowned the winner. And that’s the format, rinse, repeat. 

In between games, you’ll be dropped into the Hub practice arena. Think Forza Horizon festival design, with a Rocket League practice-style arena.

Here you can rehearse your driving and gameplay mechanics with unlimited boost and time. Once you’re done practising and want to enter a race, just hit the start button and select the mode you want. At the time of writing, you can only play in a solo mode that pits you against other random players, however, there is a squad mode coming soon that should allow you to team up with friends. 

Game Mechanics  

The first thing that you are thrown into when you load up the game is the tutorial. While most tutorials can be skipped as the mechanics are usually the same from game to game, in Jected this is definitely a tutorial you need to pay attention to.

I realized that once I got through it and into my first lobby, I didn’t pay enough attention and felt myself figuring it out as I went. Luckily, a lot of others seemed to have done the same thing as me. There are three main mechanics that you need to master, or at least understand to be competitive and get the most out of the game. 

Driving 

This one is pretty simple and something that we have all come accustomed to. Use the triggers as your throttle and brake with the joystick being how you steer. You also have a handbrake that will help you drift the car into tight corners, and nitrous to boost to get you out of the slow corners. The mechanics of driving are simple and one that you should be able to wrap your head around pretty quickly. 

Ejecting 

Now we are getting into the mechanics that make this game unique. When driving you’ll come up across obstacles that block your path or you’ll see shortcuts that can’t be reached with your car.

This is where the ejecting mechanic comes into play. Ejecting is achieved by holding down the ‘A’ button on an Xbox controller, ‘X’ button on a PlayStation controller, or the left mouse button if you are playing with a mouse and keyboard.

When holding down the button you’ll see an arrowed line appear at the front of the car. The longer you hold the eject button, the higher the line goes. This will control the ejection angle from the car. If you’ve ever played any golfing video game where it shows you the line of your shot, think of it just like that, but for your avatar instead of a ball. 

Flying and Nudging 

The next mechanic is flying and nudging. After you’ve ejected from your vehicle, you’ll find yourself in the air with two tools that control how you fly.

You have a jet pack that will lift you vertically to reach higher places but won’t take you far horizontally, and you have the glider that will allow you to traverse longer distances.

You switch between these two items when walking, or when you’re in the air by using the bumpers on a controller, or the scroll wheel if playing on a mouse and keyboard. 

You do have to be careful though, as both use boost which must be acquired by driving or flying into boost canisters placed around the map. If you run out of boost, you’ll find yourself walking around or falling to your death to then be reset. If you do run out of fuel when in the air and are coming close to the ground, you can hop back into your car by pressing ‘B’ or ‘O’ on a controller.

Nudging goes hand in hand with flying and is just as important as gliding. When in the air all you have to do is tap the ‘A’ or “X’ button while holding a direction on your joystick to air roll in that direction. Now if you time it right and nudge when you are close to the ground you can get a speed boost and some bonus points as you chain them together.

Nudging is a great way to get more distance while avoiding the use of boost. You still need to be cautious though as you only get so many nudges which are indicated with a small number at the bottom of the screen. Just like boost, they can be replenished from the boost canisters.

You’ll be using these mechanics a lot so getting used to them is key in this game. Knowing when to fly, and when to drive will give you huge advantages when racing against other players. 

The Vehicles and Rivals 

There are three starting vehicles that you can choose from when you first get into the game. You have the Beanie 1 which is a Mini Cooper facsimile, the Notobu SR which is a sports car and the Big Bull which is a pick-up truck.

They do offer additional vehicles but those are paid DLC.

  • The ‘Starter Pack’ will include three additional vehicles for $6.99
  • The ‘Supporter Pack’ will add an additional two vehicles for $12.99

Rivals are your avatars in Jected. The base game comes with two rivals, Roberto Fabrizio, and Emiko Abe. Just like the cars, the “Starter Pack’ will add two additional rivals, whereas the ‘Supporter Pack’ will add three more choices. 

Vehicle Balance 

Vehicle balance was always going to be key in a game that tries to make a battle royal-type driving experience, which we suspect is harder than balancing a character. In my first few races, I was racing in the Beanie 1. My initial impression was that it was slow and it didn’t turn very well.

It could take a bit of a beating for its size, but it always felt like I was just falling behind others in faster cars. It left a lot to be desired, and I couldn’t wait to get into something different. 

In my fourth race, I switched to the Notobu SR. Immediately, I was more competitive. At the starts, I would pass every Big Bull and Beanie 1, and it did not even matter if I started at the very back. I could instantly send them all to gapplebees. It felt like I had speed hacks turned on (I didn’t just to be clear), but that’s just how drastic the speed difference was.

To make it even better, the Notobu SR felt even better in the corners compared to the others. The only downside of the Notobu SR is it felt like driving on ice in certain types of slow corners. It also couldn’t take as much damage as the other two vehicles, but that didn’t matter, as I was so far ahead of the slower cars that even if I did crash it, it wasn’t a big deal. 

The Big Bull was also just as slow as the Beanie 1. The only time I found myself wanting to be in the truck was during the demolition game mode as it’s bigger and would hit harder, and take more damage overall. However, once we got back to normal races I immediately found myself being slow again. 

I think this needs to be looked at ASAP, and I suppose this is part of the growing pains in Early Access. I didn’t get a chance to test out the paid DLC cars but hopefully, they don’t go down the route of making this a pay-to-win system.

Maybe the development team needs to take a page out of Rocket League’s playbook and have three or four different types of vehicles that have the same mechanical numbers but with different shell bodies. This would still give players choices while also allowing the game to level the playing field between different class vehicles. 

Controls 

We’ve already touched on the controls but now we are talking about how they feel. The driving of the vehicles seemed good when at higher speeds, it was only when you got to slower-speed corners that the cars felt sluggish and frustrating. If you got spun and had to reverse or spin the car it takes too long to do so. It feels like the cars have no torque when accelerating at lower speeds. 

Next, we have the brakes that don’t seem to work on any car and are probably the worst brakes in any driving game that I’ve ever played (I know, that’s a big statement).

It didn’t seem to matter what speed I was driving at, I thought getting the car to slow down was way too difficult. The best way to describe it is that the car was aquaplaning whenever you went anywhere near the brake pedal. Didn’t matter if you slammed it or tried to be more gentle, you got the same lack of stopping power 

You then might say, “that’s what the handbrake is for.”

While that is the next logical solution, the handbrake was very finicky and was the most unreliable control I used during my races. Sometimes it would barely turn or stop the car, while other times it would shoot my car off to the side. I could never figure out if tapping it was better or if I was meant to hold it, because every time I tried I received a different result.

Out of the ten or so races I competed in, I was only able to complete a successful handbrake turn without hitting a wall or coming to a complete stop two or three times. To me, it just felt like the handbrake and the car were disconnected and I never knew if the car was going to drift or just keep going straight into a wall. 

I hope Pow Wow Entertainment uses this phase of development to really focus on the driving mechanics.

As for flying and jetpacking, I was at first pretty frustrated with trying to learn them. Having to switch between the jetpack and glider was difficult at times when you ejected out of your car. I didn’t know which one was set to be the primary item, because when you are in the car you can’t see which one is equipped. It is only when you are out of the car that you find out and then start frantically hitting the switch button. 

However, the more races I did the more I got used to those mechanics. I found myself learning when to keep driving instead of going for a shortcut since I was low on boost, and when I had plenty of boost it was fun to fly and take those shortcuts.

It was very satisfying when you nailed all of them in one race. I could see this becoming even more advanced as more people start playing it and understanding the maps more. 

Other quirks and features 

Some other issues I had when playing were frame rate stuttering and the occasional glitch out of the physics, although, once again, this is in Early Access.

Occasionally, when coming down from flying and switching back to the car it would bounce and start flipping. It’s not like I hit a rock that flipped my car. It was more like the car was clipping through the ground and was slingshot to get it released. This didn’t happen too often, but when it did it was incredibly annoying, especially if you get knocked out because of it.

There were numerous times when driving that the car felt like it just got disconnected from all physics and felt like it was floating. It’s hard to say if this is more of a physics issue, or if it’s server lag, but whichever it is, it still needs to be addressed and fixed to allow for a more consistent gameplay experience.

These are issues that come with the game still being in the initial stages of early access, however we still need to point them out so they can be fixed. 

Verdict so far

I think this is a good first attempt at this type of game. When you try something new and something that nobody else has done before, there will always be teething problems.

For me, the biggest challenge with the game at present is the vehicle balancing. The bugs and physics glitches can be fixed, but having cars that outclass others will just leave players frustrated and feeling like they are forced to drive certain cars to stay competitive.

Does the game have its issues? YES. Does the game have potential? Also YES! There’s a good baseline here to build from. Once you get used to the mechanics that the game has, they become very rewarding to use and are quite fun.

I think it’s worth giving Jected – Rivals a go if you have a PC. It’s free-to-play, so why not! Now, is it worth shelling out the money for the DLC? As of right now, I don’t think it is. Maybe once they sort out balancing issues and get farther into development, it might be.

Will you be downloading Jected – Rivals? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll keep track of its progress throughout the year.

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