VRFC is a strange beast. To get anything from it you need to be able to embrace its lunacy. It might not be a true-to-form example of the beautiful game, but it sure is fun. That is, after you get past the steep learning curve, at least.
For the first couple of hours, VRFC is a baffling experience. There's a tutorial that walks you through the controls, but their complexity confounds. This is partly caused by the limitations of the mandatory PlayStation Move controllers, but strange design choices harm it further.
Wielding a wand in each hand, you move by lifting and dropping your arms as though you yourself are running. You’re introduced to this the first time when it asks you to run through the tunnel onto the pitch. There’s no crowd, but it’s a good feeling nonetheless as you look around and prepare for the match.
Strafing requires the same action while you hold the central Move button on the respective controller. Holding both buttons allows you to peddle backwards. Aside from forward momentum, all of these actions feel unnatural.
As does snap turning, achieved with the push of the correct face button in the hand of the direction you wish to turn. It would be a far more intuitive system were you to change direction by turning your head. Shooting, meanwhile, requires a pull of the trigger and a swing of the arm – each arm controls the respective foot.
So how about dribbling? You need to keep an eye on the ball at your feet because it’s finicky and you can easily run right past it. There’s a dribble assist button which snaps your focus onto the ball, but that forces you to reposition yourself should you need to shoot or pass. It essentially leaves you waggling your fingers all over the face buttons as you attempt to make even the most basic of actions.
With such a system, you’ll often lose sight of the ball which encourages you to keep your head down. We found that this often leads to matches being something of a free-for-all as players realise the most effective way to play is to keep the ball and leg it towards goal. Passing between teammates is simply too much hassle; this isn’t Paul Scholes in his prime, it’s more erratic like an overly-eager Paul Pogba. It’s perhaps closer to Rocket League than FIFA.
At no point do these controls feel natural. You get better with time, and it took us a few hours of play to get to grips, but you’ll never feel comfortable.
But here’s the rub: these curious limitations contribute to the game's entertainment. We had some genuine laugh-out-loud moments while playing online. Watching players stop, strafe, and waggle around a stationary ball in an attempt to align a simple pass or shot at goal is a highlight that never gets old, and you’ll soon lose any self-conscious tendencies once you join the herd. The inevitable chaos that ensues when players realise the best way to play is at full-pelt in a survival of the fittest scenario is bonkers but admittedly fun.
It’s an outrageous and often befuddling game, but it’s some of the most fun we’ve had with strangers online for quite some time. And that’s probably for the best since, aside from some brief tutorials and a free-play mode on an otherwise empty pitch, you’ll be playing with others online in a five-a-side game.
VRFC is not a good representation of football, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Like the table-top variety, it doesn’t need to be accurate to be entertaining, and once you embrace the insanity there’s fun to be had. VRFC is flawed and disconnected, but also spontaneous, amusing, challenging, and fun. At this budget price, we can think of worse ways to spend a weekend.