For the purpose of transparency, this review was completed using a review code provided by Bossa Studios UK. The use of a review code does not affect my judgement of this product.
Surgeon Simulator made the jump to virtual reality on the Playstation VR, in form of the standalone game now labelled Experience Reality. If any game, you’d think would suit the use of virtual reality it would be games like this. But, does the use of virtual reality really help out the game?
Firstly, if you are unsure of what Surgeon Simulator is, it’s what I would say is a computer game version of the popular board game Operation – and it’s still as frustrating, but missing the annoying beeps. The game loads you at a reception desk in the hospital, this is where you can complete the operations and see your ratings, or chose the operation you want to do after you have unlocked them. Although there is other activities you can do at the reception desk, like trying to write on the pad, and also trying to throw things into the bins in the waiting area, these will not keep you entertained for very long.
The game consists of five operations in the form of a heart transplant, kidney transplant, brain transplant, eye transplant, and teeth transplant. These five operations make up fifteen levels in total, as you have to do them if three different locations – these are in a hospital surgical theatre, the back of a moving ambulance, and then in an outer space setting. Meaning where the operations are very similar, they’ve tried to make them more difficult giving the differentiating circumstances you’re carrying them out in.
Visually the game really isn’t that bad-looking, but also no the best I have seen on the Playstation VR. It does give a good sense of the environment you are in, and all the tools, body parts and organs you can mess about with all look like they should. So, where it is not really 100% fully realistic visual wise, they’ve done a good job with what they have, and one that gives you a feel of what the game is trying to offer.
As mentioned previously there is a number of operations available, and this is essentially what makes up the gameplay element. The operations will also vary in difficulty, and can sometimes become frustrating, but this isn’t normally down to the operations more the controls; which I will come to soon. In order to make it more realistic in the operation side, you do have to carefully select the tools you will use to complete the operation, as the wrong tool could result in death for your patient. To keep you on your toes you are given a monitor that will show the patients blood level, if you see this rapidly dropping you will need to use one of the injections available to stem the blood flow, or again it will lead the a failed operation and the untimely death of you patient. At the end of the operation you are given a rating for your procedure, with the highest you can achieve being A++ – but this is difficult at times, I found I did score this on my first play-through of some of the operations. In order to get the higher ratings it takes into account time taken and blood level loss, which you will find sometimes this is taken out of your control.
Adding to the gameplay element and aiming for the higher grades, is sometimes hindered by the over whelming urge to mess about. Which it seems has been meant to be an element of the game by some of the trophies on offer; for example throwing the brain in the skull on the brain transplant. I found I liked to throw the organs as I removed them – as you don’t need to put them back after replacing the part on the operations. Also, trying to make the rib cage look like a facehugger (from the Alien movie franchise), or even just slapping the face of the patient saying stay with me, or trying to make a tune from the slap noises.
Now lets touch on the controls, this is where the game can become very infuriating. They have kept the same control type as the non-VR version of the game, where different parts of the hand are controlled by different buttons. I played this using the Playstation Move controllers mainly while playing it, on this you controlled the movement of the little finger to the middles finger with the Trigger on the back of the controller, and the pinch with your index finger and thumb with the big Move button on the center of the controller. So, this was fiddly and lead to dropping items quite regularly – be it into the patient or on the floor. The main issues being, if it was into the patient it could lead to deaths, depending what you dropped and if it got stuck. But, if you dropped the item you needed onto the floor, the control would go out of the view of the camera and would cut out, meaning if you dropped the all important tool for the operation it was basically a forced restart. Mixed this with the fiddly controls it soon became quite frustrating.
This was also one of the first games I have had issues with the control tracking, meaning it randomly cut out, and as mentioned above this could cause issues where tools are dropped – but this time it is 100% out of your control. The tracking cut out happened quite often as well, which adds to the frustration, and really takes away and affects the experience while playing the game.
Surgeon Simulator: Experience Reality offers a number of surgeries, it’s a shame it’s the same ones in the non-VR release, and don’t change between each different circumstances. Meaning, if you played the normal release it is the exact same game just in VR – making it feels like more of a game bolt on than a full release.
Surgeon Simulator: Experience Reality could offer more than it does with the virtual reality. The experience is let down with the lack of operations, which could have been easily resolved if the operations were different per location. Add this the frustration of the control system, mixed with the tracking issues, its hard to find a reason to go back and try to get top grades on the operations.