VR is at its best when it makes you forget you’re in it. There are many things a game can do to make you feel this way, but sometimes it’s the simplest things that make it the easiest. Sports Bar VR does a lot of “simple” things in such strong ways that it’s created the most immersive close-to-real-life PSVR experience yet.
You start off by choosing your handedness and height, and then you are immediately placed inside, well, a Sports Bar. Navigating is accomplished by using the Move controllers to enter “Hulk Mode” (a name that doesn’t really make sense to me), which adds a grid around you that can be grabbed and manipulated to change your viewing angle. This is actually one of the best examples of orientating yourself in VR I’ve ever used. It was a little dizzying at first, but once you “get it”, it’s an incredibly fast and efficient way to move around in VR. I actually wish they’d let you adjust your elevation/height in this mode as well, since it’s buried a few menu levels deep. Moving larger distances can be done by “teleporting” around, much like other VR games.
Once you’ve gotten used to traversing the space you can play a variety of classic bar games, which include pool, air hockey, darts, shuffle board, skeeball, chess and even checkers! Most of these control exactly how you’d expect, but some of them control way better than others. Skeeball and shuffle board were particularly challenging, but I probably could just use some more practice.
The game I played the most was easily air hockey, which is so well done it’s scary. I played it both against AI and other players. Everything from the visuals to control to sound feels just like you’re playing air hockey in the real world. Again, this sounds simple, but it’s surreal how good it feels. Especially when you put tons of beer bottles on the table and shatter them with the puck.
Wandering around the bar and playing games on your own is fun, but where this game really shines is online. Seeing other players interact with you and the environment was surreal and impressive, it’s surprising just how much you feel like you’re really alongside people even though they’re only represented by a floating PS VR headset and two Move controllers.
After spending some time playing the game proper, it’s telling that we almost all immediately began just messing around with different props and being plain silly. I tossed a football around with another player, and immediately recognized his hand movements signaling me to “go long”. I teleported to the other end of the environment and caught the ball after his toss. VR is awesome. At one point I teleported behind a bar and served players drinks, but not before we smashed tons of bottles together. Interacting with people in this game is its strongest feature- the developers have not only created a fun set of games, but an environment that is fun to play around in.
Despite all of this being great, the immediate potential for griefing people in VR became very real. At one point, two players came up to me and shoved props into my face, blocking my vision and keeping me from seeing the environment. I’d teleport, they’d teleport. This isn’t the game’s fault, but a telling reminder that VR adds an entirely new dimension to trolling.
Overall, Sports Bar VR is a great experience if you’re new to VR or want to understand some of the social implications of the platform. At $20, you might find it slightly light on single-player content – but if you’re looking for a place to meet up with friends or random players in PlayStation VR, I haven’t seen a more compelling option yet.
A PlayStation 4 / PSVR code for the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.