Push the limits of performance in the desolate beauty of Baja, Mexico, and find out what it takes to dominate the desert.

Pennzoil Jeep Baja is high octane VR experience developed from the ground up to showcase the unique performance of the Jeep Trailcat and Pennzoil Platinum.

As the brand name for Shell's main motor oil in North America, Pennzoil is one of the biggest brands in US motorsport. Last year the brand secured the top prize in US racing when the Pennzoil car won the American NASCAR championship with Joey Logano and racing giants Team Penske. To capitalise on this momentum, the brand has been heavy active this season with massively successful TV campaigns, and at race events for both NASCAR and Indy car with Penske Racing.

As part of Shadow's ongoing digital work for Shell, the Pennzoil marketing team asked us to create a new VR racing experience to tour the racing circuits during the race season. Working with Pennzoil's US events team Kerry Group, Shadow created the VR game software for fleet of 3 bespoke motion simulators, designing and coding the game experience from scratch. 

Most current, event-based, VR racing experiences repackage selected levels from commercially available racing games like Forza, Dirt, or Gran Turismo, and then just focus on branding the stand and hardware around them. This often leads to experience that isn’t really suited to the brand, it’s core-messaging and show-stand environment, and often is not suitably different to that which a user can experience at home with their own games console. This approach was felt to be insufficient for Pennzoil’s requirements, and the racing pedigree of their brand. 

Shadow’s VR experience was designed from scratch to fit Pennzoil's needs. The team built an entire racing game from the ground-up to tie with Pennzoil’s most recent Jeep 'Joyride Baja' TV spot. Working over an intense 2 month period before the NASCAR season start, Shadow’s in-house designers, animators, developers and programers, scratch built a 2 minute VR piece that was designed to be as jaw-droppingly visceral as possible.

Pennzoil Baja VR

Harnessing Pennzoil’s OEM partnership with Jeep, and tying in with the concept of the Baja desert ‘Black Site’ testing facility shown it the TV spots, Shadow constructed the VR experience in two sections. The first minute is CG, 360º pre-race briefing set inside the facility's holographic briefing room, and is designed allow a new user to acclimatise to VR, ordinate themselves, and at the same time get a in-depth tour of the Pennzoil Platinum product core messaging and CVP. 

The second half of the experience puts you behind the wheel of Jeep’s new 707hp monster concept SUV - the Trailcat. Once in the driving seat, the player gets full control of racing the Trailcat through a specially created VR Baja desert test course, drifting and pluming VR rocks and dust around the open-top Jeep at speeds of up to 100 mph over the harsh terrain. During the race, the game sends custom-scripted motion telemetry to the chair’s motion-base to correctly simulate the vehicle's pitch and roll, making the experience as real and dramatic as possible. All the way through the racing experience additional light-touch CVP is fed to the player to re-enforce message and brand, without disrupting the intensity of the driving experience.

A lot of attention was put into balancing the overall experience, both in creating the CG art assets to depict the landscape and feel of the commercial, and coding to capture the physics handing of such a hugely powerful vehicle. The aim at all times was to make sure that even a novice player can do well, and complete the course in a reasonable time to keep event queues moving. 

However, the run is also designed to be very testing too, as many of the hardcore fans at these racing events are expert drivers. To achieve a really fast time takes both skill and nerve, and the game is positioned to encourage multiple replays with genuine completion between players - so that users return to the stand over a multi-day event to check their place in the leaderboards, and respond to challengers.

Situated inside a branded 18 wheeler truck trailer, complete with a removable side that expands out to created a mobile VR racing arcade, the 3-chair VR experience is now the centrepiece of Pennzoil’s event offering for 2017. The trailer is currently touring the NASCAR events across the southern states and is drawing big queues.