Football. Kicking the old pig skin. It’s a time-old tradition for many a British kid. Kicking a ball is the natural next step once a British toddler has mastered the basics of walking with their tiny little legs. My own boy, Charlie, is kicking a ball – and other toys – around the house, and I fully expect him to go on to be the next David Beckham. If that doesn’t come to pass, I shall be sorely disappointed.
Alright, I know the likelihood of him becoming a real-life football superstar is low, but there’s a chance he could make it in the not-real-world. If VRFC is a sign of where VR is going, I can’t see why not. He’ll just need to ditch school, spend 12 hours a day in his VR headset, and he’ll be a made man.
VRFC is a strange one, for sure. It’s the first proper football (or soccer if you say it wrong) game that is fully playable in VR. Like, proper playable. You don’t control a little man from a God-like perspective, you are the player. It’s all played in first-person and… it’s confusing as hell. Initially, at least.
VRFC, being a VR game, requires a PSVR headset. Alternatively, if you’re reading this review but are a part of the PC crowd, you can play using a Vive or Rift. Better yet, you’ll be able to play with the other VR platforms, no matter which headset you play with. Given that VR is still something of a niche, cross-play should help greatly in keeping the player base alive. If it doesn’t, the game may as well go in the bin; there’s no single player aspect to the game as of this time, but more on that later.
First, let’s kick off with the controls. They are weird. You’ll need two PS Move wand controllers to play VRFC, and no, your DualShock 4 is not good here. Don’t even ask about the Aim controller. Using two PS Move wands is how you’ll play the entire game. They’ll control your movement, passing, shooting, and just about everything else that isn’t connected to your head. You can head the ball by using, well, your head. Simple, innit?
There is a learning curve in VRFC, no matter how many West Ham tattoos you have all over your hairy back. You can’t just assume that because you watch Match of the Day evening Sunday that you’ll be able to pick up and play VRFC with ease. It’s hard work and you will be testing your brain as well as your upper body.
Movement is handled in a similar fashion to Sprint Vector on PSVR. You take a Move wand in each hand and waggle them up and down to start running. You can sprint by holding down the triggers, but this wears down your stamina bar so you need to use it sparingly. Dribbling with the ball is, at first anyway, really bloody difficult. The Move controllers control your feet, so you need to keep an eye on how your feet are positioned. The oddity here is that you’re using your hands to control your feet and it does take some getting used to. I won’t lie. It took me the better part of two hours before I was playing at a level that could be described as passable. But if you stick with it you’re in for a treat. If you don’t, well, it’s only your own money you’ve wasted…
The face buttons on the Move controllers are in charge of everything. You’ll hold the triggers on the back to decide which foot will be used to shoot at goal. You’ll use the face buttons to turn left and right. There’s even a handy snap-to-ball button that’ll automatically make you face the direction of the ball. It is complicated but there are numerous options. It’s highly recommended that you give the different options a whirl and also make use of the assisted dribbling feature to help get your VRFC-legs in order.
It’s handy, then, that before you take to the pitch online that you can do some basic training by yourself. There isn’t a fully featured single player campaign, but there are numerous training drills to play through. I say play, but this is proper training. If you neglect to learn the basics then you’re going to be wandering around the online stadiums like a muppet, much to the dire of your team mates.
The training drills will take you through the basics of locomotion, passing the ball in different ways, and shooting at goal. The biggest omission, though, is the complete lack of goalkeeper gameplay. Like… We’ve got better use of our hands than we do our feet in VR, so it’d kind of make sense to have goalkeepers be an option, would it not? Apparently not, but who’s to say it won’t happen in the future.
Once you’ve gone through training and made your way online, this is where VRFC shines. It’s not because it’s an amazing football game (FIFA is far more user-friendly and anyone can play) but because it’s so social. Much like Cherry Pop Games’ previous VR outing with Sports Bar VR, VRFC is a social game. I guess that explains the lack of single player, but whatever. Communication is key when it comes to playing online. Much like the beautiful game in the real world, players will need to shout out to each other, get themselves into attacking positions, as well as make defensive runs. This all comes together much better when you’re actively talking with your team. No man (or woman) can win a game by themselves. And no single player is responsible for a loss. It’s a team effort and that’s something I really appreciate.
The social aspect isn’t just a gimmick either. It’s integral to the gameplay. But do you know what else it is? It’s genuinely useful for new players. The first game I joined was a disaster for me. I wasn’t ready, despite having played the training drills to death. I fully expected my team mates to start telling me how much of an idiot I am. I waited. It never happened. They wanted to help me. They gave me tips on how to better pass the ball with the techniques they had learned. They would shout out for me to make a run towards goal so that they could whip in a low cross to my feet, setting me up for a moment of glory. I fucked it up, obviously, but they still managed to leave my mother out of it. I can’t say this will be the same experience for every player in every online match, but even if it’s just a small percentage of players who show this much maturity in a video game, I reckon VRFC could have a long and healthy future.
The gameplay may be a little stiff, the graphics may not be mind-blowing, and it is definitely slower-paced than your traditional footy games, but with a decent team that’s not just playing to fuck around, you can have a surprisingly decent game of football whilst being sat in nothing but your knickers. I was often given a bollocking by my parents for kicking a ball around the house when I was a kid. These days it’s the Mrs that dishes out the bollockings for kicking a ball around the house – my own bloody house. From here on in, the bollockings* can cease. I have seen the light. I have played VRFC.
*Charlie is two years old. He cannot use a VR headset. He will be getting many bollockings.
VRFC PS4 Review
It’s definitely rough around the edges and it’s not comparable to FIFA or PES, but that’s not a terrible thing at all. It’s a completely new way to experience the beautiful game from the comfort of your living room, and new things always come at a cost. If the player base for VRFC can stay alive, I can definitely see VRFC being a permanent weekend fixture in my house.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Slim.
Chris has been writing about gaming news for far too long, and now he’s doing it even more. A true PlayStation know-it-all, Chris has owned just about every Sony console that ever existed. Trophies are like crack to this fella. (Bronze trophies, that is – he only has one Platinum.)