The original Exorcist was a massive influence to the ghost genre in horror, and gamers now have the opportunity to try their hand at exorcism. Although novelist William Peter Batty passed away last year and wasn’t involved in The Exorcist: Legion VR for PlayStation VR, developers Wolf & Wood are clearly interested in honoring the brand and authorial intentions of the series.
In The Exorcist: Legion VR, players take the role of a Boston homicide detective investigating a priest's murder, with each of the game’s chapters represent individual cases. The first three chapters are available for purchase today, either on their own or with a package or season pass. There will be five chapters in total, with each requiring approximately 15-30 minutes to complete.
The Exorcist: Legion VR might seem a little complicated at the start, as it throws you numerous control instructions and even contains an accessible smartphone in your character’s left hand. Rest assured that the gameplay is simpler than it first appears, and the phone does not factor into a primary game mechanic. It’s more of an in-world menu system, allowing quick access to movement options, level restarts, and a hint system.
Players begin in the police precinct, where a private office functions as a kind of hub and level selector, though you can also nose around for bits of supplementary text. Speaking of text, this game has a surprising amount of it, and you’ll discover notes, books, pieces of evidence, and other objects which can all be read. That means no scrolling text but the physical action of reading a three dimensional object. There are few comparable VR games that contain so many readable items, and actions like maneuvering a poorly-written letter under a desk lamp to interpret its words more clearly were fascinatingly immersive. At one point you pick up a clipboard, and the glossy sheen of the attached photograph and the way it actively reflected the ambient light in the room was uncanny.
There’s something to be said about how horror blends with VR; some people relish the feeling of being frightened in a situation where you can’t turn your head or conveniently abort the experience quickly, others find these games disturbing and queasy. The Exorcist: Legion VR doesn’t make the common mistake of relying on cheap scares, focusing instead on a building sense of dread. That often takes the form of environmental changes of varying degrees — wait, was that doll there the last time I was in this corner of the room? Didn’t I close that door? And so on.
In each chapter, you’ll eventually go toe-to-toe with a demon (they make up the “Legion” in the title), and while these encounters are rarely challenging, abrupt and distressing spacial changes ramp up their intensity. The environments you’re given are definitely on the small side — note that Chapter 1 is the smallest, solely containing a section of a church and an office — but there are usually a few interesting secrets to seek out. That means gamers who want to get the most out of the experience will be trying every doorknob, sliding open cabinets, rummaging through drawers, and the like. Adding to the gameplay, players soon find an exorcism kit, which is a set of tools you keep on hand like holy water ampules and a cross (arguably the most important item in the game, which is definitely on-brand).
An interesting detail about this kit is that you can’t move around while holding it. While this is slightly frustrating, it does amplify the stressful gameplay, since you can only hold one tool in your preferred hand at a time while moving. With no pausing to access your inventory, you better be sure that the item you’re holding is what the situation requires, or you’ll be fumbling to find the correct one at an inopportune time.
There are direct movement and teleportation options, and while I found the former very well applied here, the teleportation felt imprecise, making it extremely difficult to figure out how close each click will position you to a desired location, like in front of a doorknob. This is a tolerable quirk, because the free-movement, along with the aperture effect it employs to alleviate VR sickness, worked perfectly well for all three chapters tested.
For the kind of player who enjoys rummaging through creepy environments, The Exorcist: Legion VR comes strongly recommended. You may even find yourself returning to previous chapters to make sure you didn’t miss anything (including hidden item upgrades), a task made simply by using the precinct hub. Bear in mind that a reasonably strong stomach for horror might be a prerequisite for playing, but most of the haunted encounters are well-tuned, with limited use of gore or jump scares.
Chapters 1 through 3 of The Exorcist: Legion VR released today on the PlayStation Store. Another version of the game released last year on Steam for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.