Pinball FX2 VR Review
The title that Zen Studios bestowed on its game Pinball FX2 VR may be a touch confusing to PS4 gamers. Pinball FX2 is the name of their pinball game on Xbox One, but the PS4 equivalent is dubbed Zen Pinball 2. Pinball FX2 VR is indeed the VR version of Zen Pinball 2, in spite of the name switch. If you've played Zen Pinball 2, then a lot will be familiar to you here. The tables in Pinball FX2 VR are now full-fledged pinball machines, but each one is a recreation of a table available for Zen Pinball 2. They are full VR versions of those tables, but they play the same as before. However, the tables are not cross-compatible between the two games, so you'll have to repurchase the VR versions of the tables that you already own.
When you first start the game you'll find yourself in a large game room surrounded by large picture windows that look out at an impressive view. Select one of the machines and you'll have the option of playing it or a couple of other tables that you own, but not all of them. You can use the game's configuration menus which are found on a big screen television in the middle of the room to assign your tables to one of the four pinball machines in the game room, but you can't launch anything directly from that menu. Once you assign the tables to machines, you'll just have to remember where you put each one. Three tables come with the game, Epic Quest, Mars, and Secrets of the Deep, so until you buy more tables it's not a big deal, but as more tables are released (there are six additional tables available at the time of this writing) the game will need to add a better method of table organization and navigation.
When you start to play one of the tables, the game room and the scenery outside of the windows go through a complete transition to match the theme of table. Play Mars and you'll see the dunes of the Red Planet outside the windows while a dust storm blows across the surface, while inside asteroids float about the room. Switch to Secrets of the Deep and your game room will be deep beneath the ocean while sharks and jellyfish swim about the room around you.
You'll have to enjoy the change to your surroundings in between balls, though, as you'll need to keep your eye on the ball while playing. This being virtual reality, while playing you'll spend all of your time with your head pointed down so that you can see the table. In real life this is easy enough to manage, but in VR you have a headset weighing down your head and extended play while looking down the whole time can lead to some neck stress. I tried to look up and press the SELECT button to skew the view center point so that I could play pinball while looking forward, but the VR headset wouldn't let me do that and I was only able to change the angle from looking far down to looking not so far down.
Playing pinball and watching the ball move around the table is of itself not a fully immersive experience - after all, you're looking down the whole time. However, the VR headset does turn the pinball gameplay into a 3D experience. The bumpers look like you could reach out and grab them, ramps rise up and above the table surface, and the 3D characters which roam the edges of some of the tables actually look like 3D characters. Since you're primarily looking down and not moving your head that much while playing, the screen door effect is more noticeable in Pinball FX2 VR than in other VR titles, but this is more a limitation of the hardware than the fault of the game.
The actual pinball play itself is every bit as good as that in Zen Studios' other pinball titles. Pinball games live or die based on the quality of their physics model and Pinball FX2 VR nails it. The ball feels like it is has weight to it that impacts its momentum, and the bounces and ricochets taken by the ball as it moves around the table look completely natural. I could have done without the trailing streak that briefly follows the ball when it comes off of the flippers, but it's more because it feels a little gimmicky than anything else. The tables all have a number of special modes and objectives which add more depth to the games than simply trying to keep the ball in play. Starting and completing those modes can be a little tricky and hard to figure out on your own, so it's recommended that you spend some time reading the instructions for each table if you really want to maximize your scores and have a shot at a decent position on the leaderboards.
Overall, Pinball FX2 VR delivers an enjoyable pinball experience. I can't really say that you absolutely have to upgrade to VR if you already play Zen Pinball 2 on the PS4, especially if you've invested in a lot of extra tables for the game. Conversely, it's one of the more enjoyable titles I've played on PSVR, so if you're looking to expand your VR game library it's definitely worth a look.
Final Rating: 85% - The pinball experience is authentic, all the way down to standing still with your head bowed forward.