Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Pinball FX 2 VR is a perfect example of how virtual reality can take an already excellent experience and make it even more fun. I have been a huge fan of the different Zen Studios pinball games in the past, having played them on a variety of differing platforms: PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, Vita… you get the idea. Essentially, the tables are pretty much the same regardless of platform. Here on the Oculus however, we have something different and even more engaging.
Certainly, the difference is in the visuals here. The tracked motion controls are cool and all, but this is a game just as easily played with a gamepad. However, in VR these tables pop in a way they never could before. Certainly different platforms created some level of differentiation. The Vita has a small screen but portability, the PC offers more methods of input, there are tables found on the PS3 that can’t be found on the Xbox platform and so on. However, fundamentally things play out the same way.
Of course, Pinball FX2 VR still plays like pinball. The basic objective remains the same – stay alive as long as you can by not running out of balls and try to rack up the highest score possible for leaderboards. Regardless of platform, this still holds true here. We even see the return of three classic tables now from Zen Studios: Secrets of the Deep (very good), Mars, (pretty good) and Epic Quest (one of my favorites). Right off of the bat, I like how instead of just a series of menus to work through, you have a sort of virtual play space to experience your tables in.
Now admittedly, the VR bump here primarily about the visuals. There is some motion tracking to be had so you can space your hands out (I recommend taking breaks, because I was so addicted to playing this that I gave myself one considerable crick in the neck by standing ‘over’ the table looking down for… god knows how long. Most VR games have you focused forward with some movement in a variety of directions, but here it is mostly downward and as such, a strain along the back of my neck without breaks). And usually I am not a big fan of VR only being used to pretty things up, but here it reminded me of actually playing pinball, something I grew up with as a kid.
When my dad and I would go to the arcade, I was more of an equal opportunist. My quarters found themselves into games like Elevator Action and Double Dragon over the years, but also a wide variety of pinball tables. My dad pretty much stuck to the pinball. Sadly arcades in general and pinball machines in particular are something of a dying breed and not commonly found anymore. Pinball FX2 VR helps to address that with an incredibly realistic presentation that I really could not get enough of.
Of course, Zen Studios has long since mastered the ability to take pinball to a new level in the digital age, because while their physics engine and table design are convincing in their authenticity, Pinball FX2 VR reminds us yet again that these are digital representations of the real thing. There are some cool tricks and mini-games often built into these tables by Zen Studios that can only really be accomplished in a video game, yet they are still a lot of fun. Some of the tables can trigger very cool effects in VR around the table and they add a layer of ‘wow factor’ to the titles that is lacking in the 2D console versions.
This in turn actually has an impact on how I play these games. On console I tend to zoom out as far as I can. I want to look at the entire table at once. I feel it offers me a competitive advantage to the various zoomed and dynamic views that follow the ball around. It is fun, but those titles are nowhere near as immersive as this. I am up close and personal to the table and they perform wonderfully.
That is of course going to be the sticking point for some people. Zen Studios has been incredibly generous with their cross platform support in the past, especially on the PlayStation where I buy my tables (I own all of them) on a PS3 and if the table(s) exist on Vita or PS4, I get them for free. As someone with all three platforms, that is a tremendous value. However, there is no discount or cross acquisition for those who owned these tables in a previous form, and being asked to pony up for them again on VR might seem somewhat off-putting. Let me say that there is enough difference here and value that I can recommend doing so to pinball fans. This is one of my favorite VR titles so far.
As I noted earlier, Pinball FX2 VR comes with three tables. There is some DLC available and they add a lot to the experience. The smallest of the DLC items is a table for The Walking Dead. This is a really sharp table and one I spent a lot of time playing on the PC in the past with the base, non-VR version of the game. In addition to this, there is a Season 1 pack that adds the following tables:
Wild West Rampage
I listed these tables out from my favorite to least, from top to bottom. The thing is, even Earth Defense, a somewhat odd table that can be harder than some, with moments where in the 2D version I found it challenging to locate the ball depending on just where on the table it was located. Imagine my surprise when I found that the VR version of the game made it far easier for me to track the ball, improving the experience for me.
All five tables have their good and bad points, but mostly good – and let me say Castlestorm is my favorite. I personally find it to be colorful, fun and very well-balanced. These offerings have me excited to see what Season 2 will have in store for Pinball FX2 VR. Basically tables work out to be about five dollars a pop. Considering how many dollars I have plunked into my favorite pinball machines over the years? I feel like that is a pretty solid bargain right there.
Pinball FX2 VR is an outstanding collection of tables when you acquire the entire package, and it makes great use of virtual reality. It actually changes how I play one of my favorite game series and has become one of my go-to Oculus Rift titles so far. Easy to recommend to any pinball enthusiast.Score: 9 / 10