This review was originally created in November 2018 for HTC, targeted to their Vive/Vive Pro (VIVEPORT). It is reproduced here without alteration.
As anyone who owns a good virtual reality headset knows, there’s no better way to immerse yourself in a great video game experience. The sense of “being there” and directly performing actions is unmatched by any other form of digital play. And when it comes to horror, virtual reality can both delight and terrify in ways that even the scariest and most well-crafted movie experiences can’t even think about matching.
Of course, as with anything, there are clumsy virtual reality implementations that stumble in important areas like visuals or in maintaining terror, relying, for instance, on too many jump scares that eventually lose their impact. Fortunately, having previously developed the well-received A Chair in a Room: Greenwater and The Harbinger Trials, the team behind The Exorcist: Legion VR are certainly no strangers to what goes into a good, sophisticated virtual reality fright.
Set in the world of William Peter Blatty’s famous The Exorcist series of novels and movies, which dates all the way back to 1971, The Exorcist: Legion VR, casts you as a Boston homicide detective tasked with investigating a series of ritualistic murders. Each of the game’s five chapters can be played individually, or as part of a larger story.
While The Exorcist: Legion VR is one of the pricier virtual reality titles, at least if purchased outside of Viveport, you do get all five chapters, rather than just one, for the complete experience. Since each chapter lasts less than 30 minutes, you’ll have around 2 hours or so of total gameplay, or the equivalent of a particularly long horror film. Each chapter, which includes First Rites, Idle Hands, Skin Deep, Samaritan, and The Tomb, offers its own unique setting, secrets, and demonic boss enemy to confront, preferably when armed with the right artifact.
In First Rites, you investigate a blood-covered place of worship where you find a notebook filled with writings of demonic possession and the ritualistic murder of a priest. In Idle Hands, you visit Lucie Moss, a mentally ill school teacher whose dabblings in the occult have made her a victim of a malicious entity. In Skin Deep, you investigate a wave of infant deaths that appear to have a supernatural connection. In Samaritan, you investigate an unknown plague in a failed quarantine zone in Haiti. Finally, in The Tomb, you’re transported deep into the mountains of Upper Mesopotamia to face Pazuzu, a demon who will put all of the skills you learned from the previous chapters to the test.
Designed for Vive, Vive Pro, or Oculus Rift owners, The Exorcist: Legion VR is a room-scale experience that can be played seated or standing. While you have lots of options, the most immersive way to play is standing, armed with both Vive controllers and the default control scheme. With this setup, you can more easily investigate your surroundings and find and use the right equipment against the various demons. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that this setup gives you the illusion of more control and freedom of movement, which is a big plus in a game that can wear down even the heartiest of constitutions with its truly terrifying theatrics.
The Exorcist: Legion VR‘s audio-visual quality is top-notch. Detailed, realistic environments and ambient lighting come together to create one of the better-looking virtual reality experiences, topped off with demonic character models that give even the most iconic movie monsters a run for their money. The sound design is arguably even better, with genuinely creepy ambient sounds and positional audio that will send chills up your spine and have you constantly looking over your shoulder, if not completely turned around in terror.
While The Exorcist: Legion VR suffers a bit from shallow gameplay, where your biggest challenge is managing and using your inventory at the right time, if you’re looking for a good fright, the journey is still well worth it. While it would have been nice to have more than a few hours of total gameplay, even accounting for its optional puzzles and alternate objectives to achieve a 100% rating in each chapter, this relatively short length does help keep the virtual reality experience more comfortable for those of us who literally have trouble stomaching lengthier play sessions. And it’s especially hard to fault each chapter’s concise nature when the terror is so expertly crafted, never giving you a sense that any part of the experience is filler.
Score: 5 out of 5 stars.