Football is a big game, both in reality and the virtual word, Cherrypop games are trying to push that onto the next level with its new title in VRFC, which I received a review code for here. Are they up to that challenge?
One the biggest challenges with VR at present is movement and connection from the virtual world and the real one. Walking or running is still not intuitive i almost all titles and the PSVR does suffer more with its tracking options that some of the PC competition, although all are far from the level required to make this totally immersive. This obstacle is something that limits these types of fast paced, action titles i addition to the sickness and motion issues that VR brings across all formats. A brave choice to tackle this so early on with this title and to commend the team they have added a host of customisable options to enable the best set of choices for all and ease of us
You can adjust the Vignette edge of the screen to help reduce sickness as you run, how the camera and turn function works. Locking to always run forward when facing the camera, helpful as you quickly loose orientation in VR with your reality and after some runs, turns and flicks you will have no idea where you are facing. This may work for some, but I struggled with it as it made turning and targeting the ball more difficult as you have to flick the view using the controllers to line up with your chosen path.
The other option is to leave the camera and movement free, tracking your head and turning, this is far simpler to accustom to, as you simply run where you are looking and was my preferred selection in play, again the choice is very welcome though as it may not suit all. In addition you have a pass button that can call your AI team mates to pass you the ball when possible and these are all mapped to the face buttons on the move controllers, which brings me to a small gripe. The game only supports dual Move controllers for play and although you can start the game without them, once in the main calibration of your location you are left with a screen to press X and nothing more. As this is a digital download title it would be nice to have a note here stating that Dual Move’s are required otherwise you cannot progress past this point, a small niggle but may hold some up from starting the title.
The reason for this? These are your means of locomotion in the game, swinging them back and forth as if running causing your character to run in your chosen direction, the faster you swing (and hold the triggers) the faster you move, which again makes the calibration important so you have to be clear of any obstacles otherwise you could smash the wife’s vase or worse, the TV, be warned. Your hands (complete with an in vogue fit-bit to log your virtual cardio) are mapped to these and with the trigger buttons are also used to swing your left or right foot appropriately to shoot the ball, the other face button for pass is used to reduce the force of your kick. The tutorial section is a necessity, without it you will struggle in games and I do not recommend it, I insist it.
This combined control system has you swinging your arms to run and then lining up a shot and a strike at the ball to pass or hit the back of that net. If you are lucky enough to see the ball up high, you can also header it and try and snag a glory goal, I was not able to achieve this mind, not for want of trying. With the combined skills and movement system the team have called Agile Locomotion you can run in one direction while looking around yourself at the same time, which is a success and the tracking of your head and hands rarely causes issue once you have set-up the required space, which is more than the norm needed for your standard VR title.
The 8-player matches can be yourself and AI for opposing and friendly teams, online which can be region selected to offer the best choice of games and speeds or private online matches with your friends. It also supports cross play with PC VR players, lobbies allow you all to talk and get some pre-game banter in, but once playing only your own team can be heard. The core aspect of this is to play as a team, no lone wolf heroes here as the play mechanic is difficult to master and takes a great deal of effort to get right. This is the titles biggest asset for me, options, as you can tailor your player looks, team colours, play style, camera system and game types among others, I think a must for VR titles to offer the widest comfort and enjoyment options, but I still feel that some parts are missing from this which could raise the games enjoyment, fun and, above all else, skill factor.
Dribbling is a core function of football, but here, it seems to have been forgotten with you simply running at the ball and then trying to turn slowly and not lose the ball from your feet. This is made worse by player collision being non-existent, you run through players from front and back, which of course cannot be resolved in a VR word, but what should be, is the ball being taken from you by someone running through you from behind, ghost style. Against the rules of football and raises the frustration factor of some games. The counter-argument of course, is the game is designed for tip-tap, fast passing football but due to the lack of precision on passing and receiving even that is far from as fluid as hoped.
A simple fix for this, or at least improvement, would be to lock the ball to your feet, allowing free running once you have the ball. This could be automatic or require a press of a button once received to lock it to you. Then tackling could be the need to run at the player with the ball and click the trigger to take within a small time-frame i.e. distance from player, rather than automatic. My issue with this is that in many games I felt helpless, running around like a headless chicken at players to get the ball and when I did I would lose it trying to turn around, or simply hoof away. The invisible walls of the pitch edge keep the game constant, a nice inclusion mind. The other option was to lead a player up for a run, but the AI on your team always seems less aware than on the opposing side. Goal hanging will not work as your team rarely get up to the side and if they pass, it is just a hoof up pitch. The result is I became frustrated with this lack of control, playing with humans on your team does improve this massively and is where the games core target is aimed, they need to factor in the 2 styles of play as even online is not always full of premier league stars.
They have picked a strong engine in Unreal Engine 4 to power this and although VR requirements will always limit the potential, the image quality is good in the headset, likely 1080P on the PS4, maybe higher. The details are adequate for the aims and player models have that Xbox Avatar like quality, simple skin maps, expressions and low polygonal surroundings within this Urban based Football pitch deliver a convincing arena to play within, with enough detail to allow your eye to wander when you await your next chance at glory, even for VR titles they do not stand out, but as I say serve the purpose. Colours are bright and the collection of options and customisation give you the chance to tailor your model or team just as you wish. Frame-rate is great, no issues at all with its native 90Hz update here on the PS4 and PC version, meaning you are never hindered by judder or interpolation artefacts from motion or lateral movement, it helps give the game a clean if bland look and leaves any sickness down to your personal disposition and length of play. A word of warning though is be careful when standing up to play, which is advised, as with the turning, running and faster movement, I did almost stumble a few times from disorientation, but again your mileage may vary.
I commend the team for taking on the challenge of a First Person Football title, and in many ways that have over delivered on that score. It is let down by the weak AI, difficult to impossible dribbling and lack of precision required for such a title. As the team are still updating and tweaking the game and taking feedback on-board some improvements as I have mentioned and more I have not I am sure would help elevate this to a level that would really make it a worthwhile single player title. Multi-player is where it works best, but like many online titles that level of fun and enjoyment will fall to your luck of finding games and the quality of your fellow squad, not everyone playing is the next Iniesta, myself included. Right now as an online, team driven, fun experience this really hits the mark aside some minor control issues that could be improved, but it delivers enough fun and laughs to get my recommendation. However, if you plan to play this as a single player sport title, the AI and control scheme weaknesses become far more apparent and need more work to make that side as fun as the online portion, you could say it is a game of 2-halves.