Introduction to FPV racing with Liftoff: Drone Racing

Forget rollerball or blitzball: the real sport of the future is drone racing. There is nothing more cyberpunk than a lifeless human in a plastic chair with virtual reality glasses controlling a drone that speeds 120 km / h in an obstacle course. Fortunately, the future is now.

But at $ 1000 a drone, it’s quite a big investment, knowing that it’s entirely possible to blow your race vehicle up in a tree within the first hour. This is why it is recommended that you test Liftoff Drone Racing first before embarking on this new expensive hobby.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from testing this game, it’s that controlling a drone is a lot harder than it sounds. MUCH more difficult. To the point where you will have to practice for dozens of hours if you want to finish the races with a decent time.

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More difficult than you think, the drone race

In truth, drones are controlled with two joysticks. The one on the left adjusts the elevation on the vertical axis, then the rotation on the horizontal axis. The right joystick rolls the drone on itself whether on the sides (barrel roll) or forward.

To move the drone forward, you need to tilt the drone forward slightly (so that the angled propellers push it), while controlling the altitude.

The turns are even more complex, since it is not simply a question of turning left or right: it is done on 6 axes, like an airplane. You can combine a lateral rotation by tilting the vehicle to the side and a vertical rotation.

Then there is the drift. The lack of traction on the ground (no tires that respond instantly) requires planning ahead for turns, which is probably not part of your reflexes. They must be developed.

Finally, the camera on the drone may be upright on its base, but remember: in order to move forward we have to tilt the drone forward! The image you will see in first person will therefore be affected!

Start slowly

Fortunately, a game like this is a great tool to help your learning by going step by step. Is it worth all that effort? Yes, since unlike any futuristic racing game, the skills you develop here will be transferable into real life! Here is what I suggest to you.

Start in third person view. I know FPV stands for “first person view”, but the particular movements of drones are sometimes difficult to understand and downright dizzying when you start. It is much easier to negotiate the bends when we have a good overall view of the environment. Most of all, it helps you see how the drone is affected by your controls.

Use the triggers to accelerate. While this is not a realistic way to control such a device, it will help you master the turns first, without being discouraged by 6-axis control. You can also select the option to maintain altitude, to avoid having to juggle the two Y axes.

Then after several hours of practice, we can remove the control aids one by one, like removing the training wheels on a child’s bike when it’s ready for the next step.

The PC version of Liftoff allows you to plug in a real drone controller. Once trained, all you need is your little propeller vehicle!

Virtual playgrounds

Since drones fly, the circuits offered are not as fixed as in your standard racing games. They are rather 3D playgrounds, with a multitude of paths that use the environment differently. There is for example a construction site, an underground parking lot, a farm, and many others, offering a lot of replayability. To be honest, I had a lot of fun with the free flight mode, just to have fun trying to master the controls.

The career mode with a series of championships will keep you busy, while the workshop will attract the more DIY players. The drones are 100% customizable, as much by the choice of parts as their look, as the adjustment of their statistics.

This is not the only drone simulator on the market, there is DCL the game, The Drone Racing League Simulator. On the other hand, Liftoff manages to stand on the fine line between the simulator that will appeal to the professional, and the perfect introduction for beginners.

Liftoff Drone Racing is available on PS4 / PS5, Xbox One / Series X and S, and PC via Steam.

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