Developer: Cherry Pop Games
Publisher: Cherry Pop Games
Release Date: Out Now
Format(s): PlayStation VR (Reviewed), HTC Vive, Oculus Rift
After bringing a vast array of pub sports to PlayStation VR headsets with Sports Bar VR, Cherry Pop Games are back again with a new release that also embraces sport and its social side – this time it’s taking on the ‘beautiful game’ though, with VRFC: Virtual Reality Football Club offering the first real attempt at bringing football to virtual reality.
Ok, so whilst VRFC is certainly embracing the sport of football, it’s a pretty condensed version. The maximum amount of players you’re going to get on the field is eight (not including the A.I. goalkeepers), whilst there are no throw-ins, corners, free kicks, or penalties… in fact, the rules are pretty limited to ‘who can score the most goals in five minutes wins’. So yeah, this isn’t the most accurate representation of football that you’re going to play.
That doesn’t mean it’s not fun though. VRFC is very much its own unique little experience, and it’s one that both fans of football and fun multiplayer games are going to be fond of.
VRFC’s controls utilise two Move controllers, with each one representing one of your feet. It might sound strange, but it works – maybe not perfectly, but it functions well enough.
Pumping your arms as if you’re actually running allows you to run in-game, whilst holding down the triggers will put you into a sprint. You can quickly change direction with a button press, or even press a specific button to automatically turn your direction towards that of the football. It’s an easy enough way to get around and it ensures that you’re always able to get right back into the action with ease.
When in possession, you’ve simply got to keep track of the football and ensure that your feet keep hitting it as you run. You’ve still got control of the direction you hit the ball in, so it only takes a nudge with the Move controller to sweep the ball around opposing players. There’s a decent little ‘dribble assist’ function in place which allows you to maintain your direction to stick with the ball too, so it’s pretty accessible for the most part.
That doesn’t mean it’s not fiddly though. When manually turning, it’s at fixed angles which don’t always necessarily point you in the perfect direction. You can toy about with the turn settings though and the aforementioned ‘dribble assist’ and snap-turning to the ball do help, but there’ll be plenty of occasions where you’ll lose the ball simply because it’s hard to maintain the correct running direction.
The same goes for shooting and passing. Since your Move controllers are allocated to your feet, they control the direction in which you hit the ball. Passing just requires the pressing of a face button to perform, whilst shooting requires you use the trigger button – this could be slightly awkward when dribbling with the ball as the triggers are also used for sprinting, but you do get used to it. Still, the fact you’re at a fixed position on a certain angle with the ball means you’ve got to line everything up just right, and can’t necessarily always find that perfect spot to hit it. You can strafe around the ball a bit but with no full 360-degree body manoeuvring, you’re often not given much room to work with.
It’s something you get used to the more you play the game though, and after a few hours play I quickly found myself adjusting to VRFC’s fiddly control scheme. In fact, it almost added to the fun at times – everyone is using the same controls, so seeing players awkwardly trying to get around or pull off shots is actually a bit of fun. It makes scoring goals all the more satisfying too, and believe me, you can score some screamers in the game – the A.I. of the goalkeepers isn’t always the best, but it means you can score some stunning Cristiano Ronaldo-esque beauties from your own half. You can also head the ball to score a goal, which is a lot of fun when a high ball is played to you. Don’t try bicycle kicks though… it’s a recipe for disaster.
Of course, football is a team game, and VRFC certainly allows you to co-ordinate attacks with other players. However, I wouldn’t always recommend it – setting up passes and pulling them off is satisfying, but with a bunch of players chasing you down and trying to kick the ball from your feet, sometimes it’s easier to just run and hope for the best. There are times when crossing to a team mate is the best option (especially when approaching the box down the flanks) but the most functional way to play is by being greedy and simply sprinting and shooting. On the flip-side, smashing the ball against the invisible wall of the touchline works too, and I set up a surprising amount of goals for team mates that way through sheer luck.
That being said, there’s a big social aspect to the game, so you’ll always be in communication with your team mates – whether it’s to try and set up attacks or to simply hear each other gasping for air after an arm-pumping sprint. It’s more than possible to play as a team and work together well, and the game promotes it by giving you full communication with those around you. From my experience, you shouldn’t expect Liverpool and Manchester United fans to work enjoy playing together though…
The social aspect also shows with the fact that VRFC is primarily a multiplayer title. There are single player options, but they’re mainly there in the form of tutorials or small challenges – there’s nothing for solo players to really stick their teeth into. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it’s in multiplayer that the game is truly at its best, though that does mean you’ll be depending on other players to be online to actually play the game. I haven’t had too many problems finding other players so far and VRFC does support cross-play between different VR headsets which is a big plus, but the game’s long-term appeal will come down to how active of a community it maintains.
The most important thing about VRFC is that it’s just a hell of a lot of fun to play. I’ve put hours into it with friends now, and whilst that’s been agony for my arms the following day, the time has always been full of laughs and footballing fun. You’re not going to find a perfect re-creation of the sport here, but you are guaranteed a good time with other players – what more could you want?