Note: This review is based on the PlayStation VR version of the game. Surgeon Simulator ER is also available for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.
I'm alone in a sterile operating room, a cut-open patient lying in front of me. I see ribs, lungs, a liver. I didn't train for this! Should I use the bone saw or the hammer to get through the ribs? The hammer is closer — I'll use it.
As I bash in my patient's ribs with a claw hammer, I look to my right and see his blood count dropping. I remove a lung with my other hand to get a better look at it. Is it punctured? That answer lies somewhere above my knowledge. This is my first surgery — I wasn't treated to a tutorial — and, needless to say, I've killed my patient in record time.
If you've played Surgeon Simulator on PC, you're familiar with the inherent wackiness that Bossa Studios injects into their games. But does their gory VR title, what they've appended Experience Reality, hold up on PlayStation VR?
The tracking SNAFU
Upon release, players found that using the PlayStation's Move controllers was pretty much impossible — tracking was that bad. Bossa Studios quickly announced that they were working on a fix (props to them for that) that would give the game default 1:1 tracking amongst a few other changes to the in-game hands.
As it stands now, following the patch, tracking is still the worst I've experienced in a PSVR game. Long-time fans of the series are quick to point out that inaccurate controls are part of the fun; I agree, but using the Move controllers is, for the most part, just plain frustrating.
For example, picking up tools and attempting to use them on a patient often sends the tools flying out of your hand and out of reach. If you've already completed the task required it's not a big deal, but if your dental hammer immediately flies away before you've removed a tooth, you're kind of screwed. Again, this is part of the game — a scalpel that falls on the floor shouldn't be used on a human — but should it fly away when I'm in the process of picking it up off the table?
The game is forgiving when it comes to precision, so cutting veins or removing eyes can still be done, which is a good thing since that's the premise of the game. The skeleton hand that shows up when you've put your hand into a spot it shouldn't be still appears at random times. Maybe it's my inability to hold a scalpel steady, but it seemed to bug out at weird times.
You can also use the DualShock 4 controller with this game, but it's best to just forget entirely that it exists. Those of you prone to nausea should also note that the game will move you around unexpectedly every once in awhile; I played in the near-dark to see if sunlight was the issue and I found the same problem.
If you can get past the tracking situation — let's hope it is further improved in the next patch — Simulator Surgeon ER can actually deliver a good bit of fun.
Gory, goofy gameplay
Everything about this game is over the top. When the Move controllers are working as intended, you can still only be best described as a doctor who was called in from a party late New Year's Eve. Bashing a patient's ribs in with a hammer and removing the bone fragments with my other hand had viewers (living room, not operating theater) laughing and expressing their concern for poor Bob on the table.
Instructions aren't very clear off the bat; at the receptionist's desk (not sure why I'm answering my own phone — I'm a doctor, dammit!) is a clipboard with a piece of paper on it. This serves as your mission-select menu. Each piece of paper has a faulty piece of human equipment circled in red. That's it. It's up to you to figure out the best cut/bash/saw/pull combo right in the OR. The lack of a tutorial, in my opinion, makes the gameplay better — if you knew how to do this stuff, there wouldn't be much of a challenge.
My first successful surgery involved blood squirting from multiple wounds as I managed to jam the guy's new heart into his chest cavity. As I moved through victims...err...patients, it became evident that I would be playing the same five surgery scenarios over in a couple of different settings — the standard OR, a moving ambulance, and a spaceship. If you can strongarm your way through the surgeries like I did, it should only take a couple of hours. Thankfully there's a heavy grade system that you can chip away at, and the number of trophies will keep hunters satisfied.
Is Surgeon Simulator ER worth it?
In its current state, unless you're starved for PSVR games, Surgeon Simulator ER should probably be avoided; even more so if you've played the non-VR version on PC, as a lot of the gameplay has been recycled.
I'd be lying if I didn't say the gameplay can be a lot of fun and will elicit laughs and groans from both you and an audience; however, that enticing gameplay is massively overshadowed by frustrating, inaccurate tracking.
- Fun gameplay shines through
- Party game — keeps viewers entertained
- Bossa Studios listens and responds
- Tracking will frustrate you