Without any arcades near to where I live, my experience with pinball has been limited to the world of videogames. My earliest memories are of these are from 3D Pinball on Windows and its Space Cadet tablet, while the rest has come from trying out some tables in Zen Pinball. I’ve never had the real life experience of standing in front of a pinball machine and hitting the ball with flippers, but Pinball FX2 VR feels about as close as you might get without doing so.
There’s three tables in the base game of Pinball FX2 VR – Mars, Secrets of the Deep, and Epic Quest – but these can be bolstered by purchasing more tables individually or grabbing the full Season One Pack, which adds a further five tables in the form of CastleStorm, Wild West Rampage, BioLab, Paranormal and Earth Defense. Each of these eight tables has unique features to them and different ways to rack up the high scores.
Some of the tables are more basic than others, with Mars feeling quite sparse and almost devoid of many score multiplying opportunities, while BioLab and CastleStorm feature a lot more obstacles and places to score points.
When you’re up close and personal with the tables they look almost indistinguishable from those you would see flashing away in arcades. The control system is simple using the Dualshock 4 with the left and right triggers mapped to the the corresponding flippers, while you can also tilt the table if required using the D-pad.
All of the tables are housed in what appears to be the living room of a millionaire’s ocean view home. A wall length window looks out to a sea basking in the light of the sun, while a large TV sits in the room with a large curved sofa in front of it. As you look around you’ll see three tables placed around the room and can choose which to play just by looking at it, or change the tables on display by pressing R1 or L1. Look to your right and another room contains a giant screen which hosts the leaderboards for Pinball FX2, allowing you to compare scores for each table against friends and the wider world.
Start playing a table and things get more interesting though. They don’t sit in some sterile environment, but have objects and creatures that match the themes coming to keep you company. On the Earth Defense table for example there are spaceships floating above the action firing at each other, while BioLab has little creatures wandering about with one even hanging off the table’s edge. These environmental pieces don’t distract much from what is going on in front of you, instead providing some decent scenery to check out during breaks.
While Pinball FX2 VR is a great representation of what is possible using the hardware it isn’t completely without fault. I noticed some drift with the tables and found I’d need to recentre them quite often. This may have been down to the head movements I was making which in turn caused the table to try and recentre automatically. While the table doesn’t drift too far from centre it is noticeable, though it didn’t feel like this had too much impact on my performance. Another small gripe is with some of the voicework on a couple of tables, in particular Earth Defense. Obviously voice work isn’t too important for a pinball game, but it felt like it had been phoned in.
Playing pinball in VR almost feels real. It’s such a simple way to show off the capabilities of VR, and while everyone will have their own table preferences – not all are that amazing, to be fair – there’s such an immersive quality to Pinball FX2 VR.
Version tested: PSVR with base PS4