Pinball FX2 VR PS4 Review
With VR gaming giving us the limitless opportunities to visit any place and experience any sensation within the comfort of our homes and the confines of our plastic headset, playing a pinball machine probably doesn’t rank very high on the list of virtual simulations. Games like Sports Bar VR have gained appeal in their attempts to recreate physical past times with semi-accuracy, but while games like pool and ping pong tend to require various body movements and adjustments of angles, pinball is a much more stationary experience.
To that end, Pinball FX2 VR does succeed in replicating the pinball playing experience; Zen Studios already earned a name for themselves in perfectly capturing the spirit of many of the most popular pinball tables that have graced many bars and arcades over the years; their repertoire of original pinball machines also include tables based on licensed properties, from Marvel to Fox, and with the meticulous attention to how pinball games traditionally look, sound and feel, from the perfectly timed bumper shot to the dreaded tilt penalty from excessive table shaking. With so much legwork already done, it wouldn’t be much of a task for the developer to bring their pinball recreations to the VR space….but the real task would be how to make the VR concept interesting.
Though not titled as such, Pinball FX 2 VR is really just the starter pack of the pinball collection. This purchase includes three tables: Secrets of the Deep, Mars and Epic Quest, with an additional pack of tables released under a “Season 1” add-on purchase. Right off the bat, the price barrier can prove off-putting, as previous versions of Pinball FX included a free starter pack with individual tables as optional purchases. For the PSVR version, the only standalone table that can be bought is The Walking Dead, a pinball game built around Tell Tale’s adaptation of the hit comic-turned-TV series. As aesthetics go, each table has its own unique visuals and sounds, but aside from a few configuration differences in their layouts, they all follow the tried-and-true rules of pinball: launch a ball, use the bumpers to keep that ball in play to rack up as many points as possible until it falls into the hole. Rinse and repeat, and aim for that high score.
As for the additional immersion brought forth by VR, they are rather paltry: the game only features one default viewpoint, and that is requiring players to stand up and tilt their head down at the virtual table sitting below them. It may be an authentic recreation of the typical pinball-playing perspective, but it is disappointing that they couldn’t have introduced more alternative angles to shake things up: a Marble Madness-inspired viewpoint that puts players directly at the ball’s point of view would have been interesting, for example. While Pinball FX2’s forced perspective is not an uncomfortable one, it also would have been nice to include a sitting option for those who prefer lounging back for extended sessions (ironically, this is precisely what previous console versions offered).
The actual bulk of the VR effort goes to the various background effects that surround each table; each pinball table features its own VR gimmick in the form of background elements that surround the player’s perspective as they play. These include a galloping knight in Epic Quest, various aquatic life in Secrets of the Deep, and a horde of zombies threatening to burst through the windows of the main hub world in The Walking Dead. All of these are amusing distractions that quickly grow stale after the handful of canned animations play out, and they cannot be turned off for players who want a more focused pinball experience.
Overall, Pinball FX2 VR does exactly what is advertised, and it does so adequately. It’s just unfortunate that there aren’t more viewing options, not to mention the costly requirement just to own a handful of tables that don’t even include the more popular licensed games beyond The Walking Dead. Only the most hardcore pinball players will truly appreciate the recreated table perspective with required standing, while more comfortable (and cheaper) alternatives are available with previous console iterations.