Virtual reality game Wrench is the next-best thing to real-life mechanic work

Wrench fully built car

The new virtual reality game Wrench allows gearheads to realize a life-long dream−work on cars within the comfort of their living rooms. This virtual reality experience equips you with a set of shop gloves and sends you off to assemble race cars. Only a computer and a VR headset (Oculus Rift and HTC Vive) are required to build your virtual racer.

We played the Wrench demo and couldn’t put it down. Every car part comes with an on-screen guide complete with assembly instructions. Ratchets automatically populate the proper socket, and each piece assembled fits in place with ease. It’s quite frustrating that real-life is so much messier.

A cutaway view allows you to look through the engine block to see how the internals move. Twist your crankshaft and watch the pistons travel to your heart’s content. And while the game doesn’t yet possess the detail of rusty bolts or goobered threads, Wrench serves as excellent practice for those looking to familiarize themselves with the detailed anatomy of a complete car. Think virtual reality snap-together model.

So far, the Bauer LTD Catfish and the Exomotive Exocet are the only two licensed cars in the game. The real-life Catfish is powered by GM’s 3.6-liter V-6 LGX. Fingers crossed the game will soon give access to work on the Cadillac spec engine. The only drawback is you can’t drive your creations. We wanted to give the beans to the Miata engine we built in the demo, but could only watch it sputter on the stand.

Those who scoff at this type of simulator or writing it off as a waste of time with nothing tangible to show for it in the end, are looking at it all wrong. This is a practical replacement for real-life wrenching, geared toward those who don’t have the resources (storage/time/etc) for the real deal. Playing Wrench will provide a slice of what it’s like to build an engine from the ground up, similar to the way other games give players interesting experiences that they might otherwise never be a part of, and maybe a few youngsters will get hooked on the real thing in the process. I know a couple shop teachers that would love to have a resource like this.

Wrench gameplay screenshot
VR Hands
Wrench gameplay
Missing Digit

Last week I found myself lying in a pool of 30-weight on frigid concrete, struggling to turn a ratchet beyond two clicks in a space the size of a matchbox. Back in spasms, dogs barking, fingers frozen. I forgot what heat felt like until the socket slipped off the bolt and my knuckles smashed into the smoldering exhaust. I missed my bed. Yes, this is the type of pain that comes with the pleasure of driving my classic out of the garage in the spring. But given the opportunity to wrench from my couch, wrapped in a warm blanket, I might elect to play Wrench (at least until I regain feeling in my feet).

For a less immersive experience, gamers can play Wrench as a traditional PC game. December 19, an early access beta-mode for Wrench is available for download from Steam.com. The game’s developers stated, “We are choosing early access to involve the community in developing Wrench.” A full version of the game is slated for release in six to eight months.