Call it a swing in the right direction; the tie-in VR experience for Spider-Man: Far From Home is far from perfect, but it’s easily the best Spidey VR title to date.
Following the disappointing tie-in to Spider-Man: Homecoming, Sony Pictures Virtual Reality and CreateVR take a more ambitious stab at becoming the web-head here. This is, amazingly, the first time you’ll be able to truly web-swing in VR; Far From Home gives you an ‘open’ world to zip around in during its super-brief (~15 minutes) story segment and a free-play mode. To swing, all you need to is take aim at a building with one hand, pull the trigger to shoot at web-line at it, then pull yourself towards it.
Before you know it you’ll be gliding down city streets with ease. It’s not as versatile, effortless or authentic as, say, the recent Spider-Man PS4 game. CreateVR has been fairly liberal with designing for comfort this time around but locomotion still feels closer to Windlands’ grappling hooks than it does truly swooping low and high through the city streets.
Even with these concessions, though, swinging is often breathless and fluid. It carries a weightlessness that often has you imagining the wind rushing through your hair. Hit a wall and you can run up it to gain ground. Shoot two web-lines and you can propel yourself forward even faster. Find a skyscraper and the game will let you jump right from the top all the way down to the streets below. Being given this much freedom in a Spider-Man VR game at this stage is unexpected and entirely appreciated.
In fact, it’s so much fun that you can overlook just how crusty the rest of Far From Home VR is. Even on PC VR headsets, New York City resembles PS2-era visuals, with simplistic, cookie-cutter buildings, heavy pop-in and blurry details like cars and citizens. On PSVR things are even more unsightly and some of those features are even removed.
Controls follow a similar trend. Web-swinging aside, general navigation could be considered tricky at best on a PC VR setup with 360-degree tracking. On PSVR with 180-degree tracking and the cumbersome PlayStation Move controllers, it’s fairly dire. This is, I don’t doubt, the best CreateVR could do with VR’s limited range of options against Spidey’s long list of possibilities, but it can be as finger-tying as VR gets.
That’s especially true of the combat section of the story, which wants you to avoid incoming laser-fire while shooting webs. You end up feeling like a Spider-Man still learning the ropes more than one in his prime. Tom Holland and Jacob Batalon lend their voices to the game’s script, meanwhile, but the dialogue is often stilted and awkward, resembling a shadow of the banter Peter Parker and Ned Leeds share on the big screen.
All that might sound fairly damning, but when you consider this is a free app Spider-Man: Far From Home VR becomes something of a guilty pleasure. It doesn’t have anything like the polish of, say, Marvel Powers United VR but, not unlike the classic Spider-Man 2 from 2004, the swinging is so much fun you can overlook the many technical blemishes. SPVR and CreateVR now have a compelling template down; we can only hope its next step is to refine and expand upon it to give us the Spider-Man VR game we truly deserve.