Review: VRFC: Virtual Reality Football Club
The beautiful game gets a kickstart in VR.
CherryPop Games has been making waves in the realm of social virtual reality (VR) videogames, with the studio’s first title, Sports Bar VR (formerly Pool Nation VR) having attracted a significant global audience across Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR. Now offering a second title, VRFC: Virtual Reality Football Club hopes to take that mantle and run with it. Quite literally.
Virtual Reality Football Club is intended to bring the world of football (or rather, soccer, for VRFocus’ North American readers) to VR not for the first time, but in the most complete way. We’ve already had Headmaster VR and its many copycat titles present a stationary target practice style experience, but Virtual Reality Football Club is different; this isn’t just one aspect of football, it’s the entirety of ‘the beautiful game’ adapted and contorted to fit with modern VR hardware.
And ‘contorted’ is probably the most accurate way of defining the experience. Just as the original FIFA International Soccer felt like an awkward interpretation back in 1993, so too has VRFC: Virtual Reality Football Club laid the foundations for VR football videogames to follow. It’s not perfect – not by a longshot – but VRFC: Virtual Reality Football Club is a hugely enjoyable representation of football designed to fit within the limitations of current-generation input devices.
The tutorial sets the pace for what turns out to be a fairly steep learning curve. Deftly providing movement instructions one at a time until you know everything from sprinting around the pitch to shooting on goal, VRFC: Virtual Reality Football Club’s basics are pretty well refined. The player moves by alternating thrusts of the left and right motion-controllers (be it PlayStation Move on PlayStation VR, or either of the proprietary motion-controllers for the PC-based HTC Vive and Oculus Rift) in a not too dissimilar fashion to Survios’ Sprint Vector, while positioning on the ball can be conducted manually (which takes a lot of practice) or in a guided fashion with a press of a button.
While this all may sound fairly simple, taking the ball onto the pitch alters things dramatically. VRFC: Virtual Reality Football Club, much like Sports Bar VR before it, is designed entirely around the idea of being social in VR. It’s a videogame made for online play – in fact, there is currently no single-player gameplay, though CherryPop Games suggest that will be added later – and the addition of human teammates and opponents confuses things extensively. There’s a whole pitch before you and coming up against players who have evolved tactics when in a team that’s disorganised is a sure case for a crushing defeat.
And therein lays the most commendable aspect of VRFC: Virtual Reality Football Club. Within just a few matches the player can begin to understand that it’s not simply a case of thrusting a controller inline with the developer’s input recognition, ala Wii Sports’ tennis, VRFC: Virtual Reality Football Club has some significant depth in not only an individual’s skill but also team work. No single player can win a match by themselves, and by the same stroke no one player is to blame for a defeat.
VRFC: Virtual Reality Football Club is technically a welcome accomplishment. Designed for eight players – with cross-play between PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive included as the standard option – the detailed backdrop and elegant player animation is commendable. So too are the huge variety of comfort options, with three standard settings and an entirely customisable palette for those more familiar with VR.
While the videogame has many issues deriving from the limitations of the hardware upon which it is built, VRFC: Virtual Reality Football Club remains one of the best sports experiences VR has to offer. More than that however, it’s also one of the best social VR experiences currently available, with the tension of competition and the misery of defeat likely to help make new friends (and potentially enemies) across the VR community. VRFC: Virtual Reality Football Club is a welcome foundation for sports simulations in VR, and with the FIFA franchise now surpassing 25 editions (not including the many spin-offs such as FIFA Street and FIFA World Cup), it’s a wonder to think exactly how much of VRFC: Virtual Reality Football Club will remain in VR football 25 years from now.