While I’m far from being considered an expert on VR horror, I do consider myself a bit of an aficionado when it comes to the spooky and scary inside virtual reality headsets. From A Chair in a Room: Greenwater and The Brookhaven Experiment, all the way to Resident Evil 7 and Paranormal Activity VR, I’ve reviewed my fair share of VR horror games. And let me tell you: few can measure up to the absolutely overwhelmingly intense sense of terror I experienced while playing The Exorcist: Legion VR.
From Wolf & Wood (that’s the same team behind A Chair in a Room, for what it’s worth) comes a slow-paced, exploration-focused, atmospheric VR experience set within the iconic horror universe popularized by The Exorcist film. As a detective in the Boston P.D. you’re armed with a crucifix, holy water, and an assortment of other Godly tools to investigate a series of murders and strange occurrences. Naturally, it doesn’t take long for stuff to get really, really creepy and demonic.
The Exorcist VR is split into five distinct chapters that all take place at very different locations and last about 30 minutes each. All together it’s around 2 1/2 or 3 hours long and tells a complete story that would have fit in perfectly as a film in the franchise, except this time you get to experience it first-hand.
A big part of what makes VR horror games so overwhelmingly immersive is an absolutely convincing sense of presence. A Chair in a Room nailed that feeling better than most and it shows that they put that experience to good use here once again. Whether I was peering around a corner trying to get a glimpse at what lies in wait or feeling my body tense up in fear as I slowly turn around to see what’s behind me, from start to finish in The Exorcist VR I never once had trouble suspending my disbelief.
In fact, the strongest part of The Exorcist VR may very well be the excellent sound design. You can hear voices in your head and surrounding you through the use of powerful 3D spatial audio and the low rumbling sounds of grunts and high-pitched squeals echo in your mind as twisted, terrifying warnings of what’s to come.
Each of the five episodes are self-contained with mini stories and arcs that feel satisfying to play in short bursts or all at once. I played all five over the course of two sessions and jumping from one to the next is a great, seamless experience since they’re all accessed from your office back at the precinct.
The first episode is at a church, followed by a jail cell/psych ward facility, then someone’s clearly haunted house, a morgue, and finally an ancient underground tomb. I would say that each is more terrifying than the last, but truthfully, I think it peaks on episode 3. There’s lots of creepy voices, moving mannequins, a possessed baby, and a dollhouse in that single episode. It checks off pretty much every one of my horror game triggers, all condensed into a single 30-minute package. I’m getting chills just thinking about what that baby does.
In light of all the things The Exorcist VR does so, so right, it does falter in a few ways. For starters, the actual interactions themselves aren’t great. Every episode basically boils down to wandering around, picking up things, and backtracking a bit until you trigger the next scripted event like a voice whispering, spirit appearing, or something rushing at you. When you boil it down to its core like that it’s not overly inspired and the puzzles aren’t very complex, but it more than makes up for that lack of ingenuity through the sheer quality of its pacing and presentation, which is all that truly matters in a good horror experience.
The Exorcist VR feels like a horror title that just simply couldn’t exist or wouldn’t be worth playing without VR. Games like Resident Evil 7 are clearly designed with both in mind, but this one just wouldn’t have been the same outside of a headset. The sense of presence and complete, utterly suffocating atmosphere are what sell this one to your senses. Removing the HMD would completely ruin the effect.
I still don’t think any VR developers have really and truly embraced the power of roomscale tracking in the horror space, but we’re getting closer. Once wireless and/or standalone technology becomes more ubiquitous we should start to see more ambitious projects requiring players to really move around a lot, but until then The Exorcist VR sits very close to the top of the VR horror pile.
The Exorcist: Legion VR is without a doubt one of the best VR horror experiences available. The slow-building tension is expertly paced, each and every scare feels visceral and dangerous, and the sheer sense of terror you feel while methodically exploring the richly detailed environments is staggering. It honestly felt like I could hear the voices inside my own head and I could feel the heat from my crucifix as I stared down the faces of demon and eradicated the evil within. The Exorcist: Legion VR will turn even the most hardened horror fans into whimpering piles of fear.
The Exorcist: Legion VR is an episodic experience split into five chapters. As of the time of this writing all five chapters are available in a bundle on Steam for Rift and Vive, while only Chapters 1-3 are available on PSVR with 4 and 5 coming soon. However, you can buy the season pass now to get instant access once they’re available.
If you want to see our full playthrough of the game, you can watch Part 1 (Chapters 1 & 2) and Part 2 (Chapter 3-5) at the corresponding links there. And check out these official review guidelines to find out more about our process.