I picked up my bottle of beer in a fit of rage and threw it across the room. It smashed against a wall, causing the chap playing skree to turn away from his game and investigate the source of the commotion. I was unstoppable. I threw a stool at the patrons mingling by the bar, then I lined up a dozen or so beer bottles on the pool table before smashing them to pieces. No, this wasn’t my legendary piss-up in Cardiff, this was me playing Sports Bar VR in my living room, sort of sober.
That’s the genius of Sports Bar VR: you’re free to either behave yourself and play a civilised game of pool, darts, or even air hockey, or you can be a total dick and ruin it for everyone else. In my defence, the guy I was playing with was obviously cheating somehow, and the fact that I’d polished off the better half of a bottle of Penderyn Welsh whiskey should not factor into the equation at all. Honest.
Sports Bar VR is what it says on the tin: a sports bar in virtual reality. Obviously it’s a bring-your-own-booze situation, but the game does a good job at providing the entertainment. There’s virtual pool, virtual darts, virtual air hockey, and virtual skree to play, though the developers may be adding more mini-games in the future. Now, not all games are made equal, and not all of these mini-games are as good as each other.
For example, virtual pool requires you to utilise two PS Move motion controllers to line up and take your shot. It’s fiddly at best and a downright pain in the arse at its worst. It’s not that it doesn’t work, it’s just a little fiddly to get accustomed to the controls; as I rushed through the tutorial screens (which have since been updated to help you a bit more) I didn’t have a clue how to lose the pool cue in my hand. I wanted to go and have a mooch around the pub without the bulky cue in my way.
Back to the actual pool, then. You can play online against others, offline against the A.I, or you can play by yourself. Ha. Billy no-mates. Actually, freeplay is probably the best way to get acclimatised to Sports Bar VR’s various activities before going online. You’re free to take your time and play as you please without XxXMotherHuggerXxX throwing stuff at you in an effort to hasten your play. That bastard.
Virtual Darts is perhaps the biggest let down of the bunch. I tried my best to play it in a way that sort of resembles the real sport. I even took the famous posture from Dave the Dart Champion from Cardiff, but alas, it wasn’t to be. The motion controls just don’t play well with the darts. See, you bring the PS Move controller up to your head – as you would in real life – and prepare your shot by drawing backwards and then thrusting forwards, releasing at the sweet spot to get the perfect trajectory. That doesn’t happen here. Instead, your digital hands will spaz around and you’ll launch your pointy projectile at the ladies chilling in the seating area. Ouch. I can’t be 100% sure, but I think it’s the camera having a wobble with the PS Move being in close proximity to the PSVR headset; this is something I’ve found to happen in a few VR games on the system.
Air hockey is by far and away my favourite of the current selection of games. I’m a big fan of air hockey in real life (if only to try to break the fingers of my foes), so it was nice to feel the natural movement of my hand working in tandem with the in-game hitty-thingy-majig. You know what I mean, the thing you hold that’s shaped like a butt plug.
Smashing the little plastic puck around the table was good fun for a while, but then my mates joined in and ruined it for me by chucking anything and everything they could get their virtual hands on. Bastards. I can’t say I was too annoyed, though, as it’s all a part of Sports Bar VR’s appeal.
Lastly, virtual skree. This is another one that’s a bit of a fiddle to get right with the PS Move controllers. If you’re not familiar with skree, that’s probably because you didn’t know it’s called that. I didn’t… It’s the game in the arcade where you get a set number of balls to throw at the circular targets at the end of a small range. If that rudimentary explanation wasn’t enough, here’s a picture:
At first I tried throwing them like I’d throw anything: in the most manly fashion possible. Turns out that doesn’t really work so well, and instead you’ll need a little finesse to get any points on the board. It’s still annoyingly fidgety, but not quite on the same level as the virtual darts, which for me was borderline unplayable. Naturally, you can play alone, or you can compete against some mates and post scores on the pub’s leaderboard.
Being that Sports Bar VR first game to life on the PC via the other VR headsets available on the market, notably the HTC Vive with room-scaling, it’s quite an achievement what the developers have managed to do to translate movement to the PSVR. It’s not perfect by any means but it’s a solution that works rather well. Where you’d walk around on the original PC release, the PSVR lets you teleport to different parts of the bar. Or, if you want to move around without the lurch through space and time, you can swim your way across the room. By holding both PS Move controllers out in front of you and holding the move buttons on both, you can drag yourself through the pub. Honestly, it’s a little weird at first and I did feel a wee bit dizzy as I wiggled the controllers back and forth – which causes you to spin on the spot – but after a bit of trial and error I was easily swimming my way through the pub. Like I said, it’s not an ideal solution, but it works.
The pub itself is nicely detailed, though some of the stock patrons do look a bit south of proper. Faces are bleurgh and though there are a few different charcter models, each seems to have identical movements. It’s not a big deal as these folks aren’t the focal point of the game but it did stick out a bit. The rest of the pub is surprisingly detailed; there’s a colourful old-fashioned duke box you can fiddle with (or throw) and the bar even has proper beer taps, though they seem to be running dry.
It’s a decent looking game, that’s for sure, and I reckon, with time, Sports Bar VR will be the perfect place for lonely losers to sip their digital beers and attempt to sweet-talk oOGamerGurlOo who is actually a middle-aged man, a la Bruce Willis’ awfully awful Surrogates movie. We’re one step closer to making that world a reality.
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