When it comes to horror movie properties, I have to admit that The Exorcist is one of the last I imagined would make the jump to the realm of video games. Not that I’m not a fan of the franchise; William Peter Blatty’s 1971 novel and the film it spawned are without question horror masterworks that still manage to deliver gut-wrenching terror more than four decades since they first debuted. That said, while I was unsure how a game based on the property would hold up (The Exorcist: Legion VR happens to be canon with The Exorcist III), I was more than a little excited to slip on my Rift and explore the supernatural nightmare that developer Wolf & Wood Interactive had in store for me.
If there’s one area where The Exorcist: Legion VR succeeds it’s the atmosphere. From the moment you step into the precinct that serves as your base of operations, it’s plain to see just how lovingly crafted each environment is. The world is filled with little details, like case files littering your office and other office clutter that give it a convincing, lived-in feel. It’s easy to invest way too much time into soaking up the atmosphere poring over old cases and toying around with the odds and ends scattered around the office, but eventually, you’ll need to get to answer your radio and get down to the grisly task at hand.
What an excellent day for an exorcism
The Exorcist: Legion VR‘s debut chapter, “First Rites“, tasks players with investigating the brutal murder of a priest in Boston’s St. Vincent de Paul Cathedral. From the moment you step into the chapel the sense of dread is palpable. Like I said at the outset of this review, developer Wolf & Wood has done a stellar job of laying the atmosphere on thick. This is thanks in no small part to the game’s detailed, believable game world and superb audio direction that makes every supernatural encounter a pulse-pounding affair. There’s nothing quite like hearing a disembodied voice suddenly whisper in your ear, only to look over and see the room’s layout completely rearranged by a supernatural entity. Likewise, jump scares are plentiful and will keep you strangling your Oculus Touch controllers in a death grip.
While future chapters promise a blend of investigation and demonic exorcisms, we only get a real taste of the former here, as you’ll uncover the dearly departed padre’s cache of demon exorcising gear in this introductory episode. This makes sense, mind you, but I have to admit it’s a bit disappointing not to see any of these mechanics put to good use. Instead, you’ll spend the duration of this episode, which clocks in at about 20 minutes, simply looking over documents, listening to audio recordings, and, if you so choose, completing a single optional puzzle to collect a special item.
That’s not to say it isn’t an enjoyable experience – it’s far from it. But with so little to do — the chapel itself consists of just two rooms — it’s hard not to feel like “First Rites” would have better been served as a standalone prologue than an actual numbered episode in The Exorcist: VR Legion’s story. Simply put, there’s just now a whole to do here. I actually fired up the chapter a second time to see if I missed anything, only to discover I’d already gotten a hundred percent completion in my first brief playthrough.
The power of Christ compels you!
Despite its brevity, I still found myself eager to see where the game’s story goes. After ending the chapter with a veritable demon-purging arsenal, I wanted nothing more than to see how the tools I’d managed to gather, which included a salt spray, crucifix, holy water, and torch, actually work. So while this episode was certainly light on actual gameplay, I still felt (perhaps supernaturally?) compelled by The Exorcist: Legion VR‘s demons to see where the story goes next.
One thing I really appreciated about the game is the number of control schemes available. Whether you prefer free locomotion or teleportation, smooth or snap turning, or a mix of both, The Exorcist: Legion VR has you covered. Interacting with objects in the environment using the Oculus Touch controls feels precise and responsive. And occlusion never became an issue, even when playing seated with a two-sensor setup. However, it is worth noting that I occasionally encountered a strange issue that made me occasionally need to tap the stick twice in one direction to rotate on numerous instances. Here’s hoping that kink gets ironed out eventually. Thankfully, this never managed to pull me out of the experience too much.
While admittedly fleeting, First Rites does a good job of setting the stage for what’s to come. It plays to the strengths of the VR medium by providing a great sense of presence and immersion that makes the horror feel intimately oppressive. If future chapters manage to capitalize on these strengths, The Exorcist: Legion VR could be a real treat for horror fans. As it stands, this debut isn’t the perfect introduction, but it’s a terrifying teaser that armchair exorcists will want to keep an eye on.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: Oculus Rift (Reviewed), Vive ; Publisher: LegionVR ; Developer: Wolf & Wood Interactive Ltd ; Players: 1 ; Released: November 22, 2017 ; ESRB: N/A ; MSRP: $4.99 (per episode)
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of The Exorcist: Legion VR provided by the publisher.