It might not rival FIFA just yet, but VRFC is a small first step towards the future of football video games.If you are under 40 and love football, chances are you’ve played a fair few hours of the video game FIFA in recent years.
From its humble beginnings as a 2D-scroller of sorts to the beautiful behemoth it is today, football fans and gamers alike have been hooked upon the EA Sports franchise for some time.
Despite its long-term advancements however, the yearly release of FIFA has become stale in the eyes of some who yearn for a deeper, more immersive experience. Cue VRFC, the inaugural first-person football video game in the realm of virtual reality.
Football goes virtual
While virtual reality itself has been around for years, it’s only recently become a consumer item courtesy of devices like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Playstation VR.
And it’s only with VRFC, released in late February, that the beautiful game in full has even been attempted to be transferred to the technology.
Previously there have been smaller attempts that focus purely on goalkeeping or shooting, but VRFC isn’t settling for a tap-in and has instead attempted a long-range banger with this game.
However, as is the case with the majority of ambitious shots in football, VRFC doesn’t quite hit the target but is a game worth experiencing and its developer CherryPop Games deserves praise for at least getting the ball rolling.
From the outset, the very fabric of football is turned on its head considering you control your legs with whatever handheld controllers your VR device uses (in my case a HTC Vive).
With your right hand controlling your right foot and vice versa, VRFC is very much like learning how to play football all over again.
The learning curve is steep and admittedly quite frustrating.
Moving by pumping your right and left controllers in unison, you then shoot by holding down a button on one controller and swinging. Sound hard? Well that’s because it is.
It took me a good hour before I could develop any notion of control.
Running and shooting is particularly difficult as you really do need to keep an eye on your virtual feet to time it right. Something which goes against everything I’ve learnt as a real world, admittedly park, footballer.
That said, shooting can be surprisingly satisfying as you can generate considerable power and curve onto your efforts. That empowerment is taken away somewhat though with the goals themselves quite small and the statuesque but sprightly keepers making it quite difficult to score one on one.
Passing, again done by holding down a button on a respective controller, works a bit better than shooting as your efforts aren’t as wild but is again made tough by the fact you really need to look down at your feet rather than your target when passing.
Perhaps thankfully, there’s no real mechanism to defend just yet in VRFC with the emphasis really on just getting the attacking aspects of the game right.
Annoyingly, you can only play games online with a notable lack of an AI game mode which would be a far better way for players to hone the difficult mechanics.
To make up for that, there are a number of mini games that not only help with the controls but are quite enjoyable as you attempt to beat your previous times. Though the learning curve is steep, my time within these modes really did suggest that once I got over that initial incline, improvements come quick enough.
As with most games in virtual reality, VRFC is best played in small doses. Unlike FIFA, you physically and mentally can’t play this game for long stints.
Speaking of FIFA, I think it’s safe to say VRFC won’t have EA Sports shaking in their boots just yet.
Much like a rookie footballer, VRFC is still very much finding its feet and requires some serious patience from those who play it. But rather than admonish its ambition, VRFC deserves a pat on the back for aiming so high and giving gamers a taste of what’s hopefully to come for football in virtual reality.