Pinball FX2 VR Review – PlayStation VR

When Zen Studios brought pinball to the consoles and PC back in 2006 who would have thought it would all culminate in a virtual reality arcade being beamed into my brain on the new PlayStation VR? Two generations of consoles, the PC, and more than 70 tables later, here we are back at the beginning with two classic pinball tables that started it all and a third newer table, but being played in a way you would have never thought possible.

Pinball FX2 VR is the next evolution of the endearing pinball franchise from those pinball wizards at Zen Studios, and there must certainly be some black magic at work after experiencing what I have been playing for the past week. I can almost remember the first time I played a Zen Pinball 2 table on the PS4 on my new 3D TV – the smile on my face as my old flat game magically sunk down into the screen creating the illusion of 3D. But I assure you, I will never forget the first time I played Pinball FX2 VR on the PSVR. The illusion of 3D is now replaced with the reality of those pinball tables actually existing right before me – so convincing you wanted to reach out and start mashing the flipper buttons.

You get that same depth of the table where the rails rise above the surface and the bumpers and targets become tangible objects, but now you can lean down and put your nose to the glass and examine these tables inside and out. Perhaps the most significant addition to the experience is you can now see the back vertical panel of the table.  This alone adds so much to the immersion of reality to the pinball experience when you can look up and see your score and other info on the digital display that had previously appeared as an insert in non-VR pinball games.

From the moment you launch the game in VR you are magically transported to a modern game room inside a beachfront condo.  Located through the room are three pinball tables that act as placeholders for the growing library of tables available now and coming soon.  In the core game there are three tables; Mars, Secrets of the Deep and Epic Quest, and if you have been playing Zen Pinball in the past you are probably familiar with all three. As you peruse the room using the look-n-click interface you can check out other menu options, view earned achievements, and review your standings on the worldwide leaderboards.

Previous Zen Pinball games have offered numerous views in which to play the game, but now there is only one view; the view you would have standing before the machine if it really existed; which it convincingly does. Moving my head around I was able to examine the exterior side panels or get down inside the actual playing area and check things out up close.  Leaning forward you can view things previously un-viewable at the top of the table, and all the while you can still look around the game room to switch tables or access other interactive areas of your pinball palace.

Each table comes with its own virtual set dressing. Mars has these little robot spiders than crawl around the pinball machine and asteroids slam into the floor when you lose a ball.  Epic Quest has a creepy knight who skips around the table on a pogo horse and a giant ball-eating plant that swallows lost balls.  Secrets of the Deep is perhaps the most immersive as the entire table appears to be submerged in the ocean while sharks and other aquatic creature circle the machine and a mini-sub whizzes by on occasion.  I was afraid all of these “features” would prove distracting from the game at hand, and early on they did, but I soon learned to tune them out, or at least not look at them while the ball was in play.

The thing that stuck with me the most was just how “real” all this seems. After only a few minutes you will forget you are playing a video game and actually believe you are playing real pinball.  Even the audio adds to the realism with great 3D position effects for both the set dressing and the speakers located at the top of the table.

You still play the game with a DualShock 4 which is perfect for this game with its super-sensitive triggers and zero-lag response time. On my first day of playing I was in the top five of all the leaderboards.   That alone is a testament to just how much the illusion of reality can enhance your gameplay.  And now that you can see the entire machine, it is also much more intuitive to nudge the table without tilting when trying to prevent drains down the side. VR just makes you a better player.

Pinball FX2 VR is currently available for $15 and gives you the three tables mentioned above as well as what I’m assuming to be the base platform for future table DLC. For those who already own these tables on one or more previous versions of the game and are worried about buying them again; rest assured you have never truly experienced these tables or even played video game pinball until you have done so on the PlayStation VR.  Prepare to set some all-time high scores because pinball has never been this real.

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