I’ve always been a fan of The Exorcist and The Exorcist III. Frankly, the franchise probably has the highest “watchability” factor for me out of any 20th-century horror film and was one of the primary reasons I acquired an Oculus Quest when it launched in May 2019. Any time there’s an opportunity to get my scare on with William Peter Blatty’s famous characters, it’s hard to resist.
The new game is called The Exorcist: Legion VR, based loosely on Blatty’s 2012 novel, Legion. It uses five stories from the book as its narrative scaffolding, not necessarily chronological but intermeshed enough so you won’t have trouble following who did what where/when.
The stories in question are: “Ginger,” in which a teen girl goes missing and when later found, has given birth to a dark entity; the background story of the Gemini Killer (from The Exorcist II ), including his relationship with an evil priest and their demonic pact; “Pazuzu,” in which we learn more about the cursed painting from the first film; “Amanda,” concerns a young woman possessed by her dead twin sister after buying said painting on eBay; and finally, there’s “Father Paul” who struggles with guilt over not being able to save Amanda.
Each of these accounts takes place within locations depicted in the movie–the MacNeil house, Georgetown University Hospital, etc.–and faithfully recreates bits of story dialogue nicked from the movie. The recreation of iconic scenes is highly comprehensive, so much so that if you’re familiar with the movie, it’s pretty easy to call out many of them–the Gemini Killer’s mask, in particular, is way too easy to spot in “Pazuzu.”
This being a VR game, each chapter contains some interactivity at points. For example, you can look away while someone is writing on a chalkboard in one scene and come back later to find that they have added something peculiar or frightening. There are also small tasks littered throughout that must be done correctly in order for the story to progress. None of these interactions is particularly difficult but I did get stuck once (in Chapter4) and had to resort to a walkthrough. In particular, I wasn’t able to find an individual who was supposed to be standing in a certain location.
There are also times when you’ll have conversations with other characters–sometimes even multiple characters at once–and it’s important that you look at the right person so they’ll know you’re listening. Sometimes this isn’t obvious, but after a few seconds they may give you a cue as if they were speaking directly to you (e.g., “Now where were we?”). Then again, sometimes your listening cues don’t seem reliable either; for example, there was one instance when I saw two different people talking at the same level regardless of which direction I looked in.
One thing I do like is that the game never makes you feel like it’s taking control away from you to show something important. For instance, if someone you’re speaking with suddenly looks to one side, chances are good there will be another character off-camera (on your left) saying something pertinent. It’s nice being able to hear what both speakers have to say rather than just watch an off-screen cutscene.
As far as motion sickness goes, this game features a “comfort mode” that lets you choose your preferred amount of rotation/positioning within a scene–basically whether the camera stays put in one place or moves around with you so you don’t have to turn much. By default, comfort mode is set up as “rollercoaster-y” (which is to say, there’s a lot of independent movement). But if you don’t like those options, you can choose the more basic “90/180/90” (meaning 90 degrees on each axis), or even turn it off entirely. I found that switching up the comfort mode helped to reduce motion sickness for me; by default, it was pretty nauseating but turning on 90/180/90 made it bearable.
Even without this option, though, the game wasn’t too bad in terms of discomfort–certainly no worse than some other VR games I’ve played. And while Legion does try to scare you with jump scares and creepy imagery (like some poor lady getting sucked into Hell), it’s not on the same level as some other horror games I’ve played (e.g., Outlast ). It was more annoying than anything else–especially when I fell off a ledge or landed too hard after being dropped from high above (ouch).
Concerning gameplay, Legion is pretty basic with just three actions: walking around, looking at things, and interacting with objects. Being that this game is made for VR, most of these interactions are done with motion controls rather than buttons. They’re easy to use but I did sometimes run into issues where my hand would drift away from what I wanted to interact with so it would turn red/remind me I couldn’t interact there yet. This happened most often when trying to pick up something small like a lighter or keychain, requiring me to get my hand in just the right position.
However, I did find it harder to control detailed interactions with straight-up motion controls, i.e., when you have to match two circles together or rotate something around its axis. So if an object was smaller than what one hand could feasibly hold without drifting away but too close together for both hands to grab simultaneously, these types of actions could be frustrating at times–especially when trying to put objects back into place or grab things that are already rotating. At least there wasn’t anything that required pixel-perfect precision (ahem * Resident Evil 7 *).
The only other issue is remembering where you are in the game because whenever you load up a scene you’re automatically dropped in at the beginning. This can be confusing when you have to walk around so you can find the right spot, especially since there are no directional cues pointing the way. You’ll just have to wander around until you see your current “chapter” highlighted on-screen (like when you load up Netflix).
But besides these things, Legion VR is mainly about finding clues and listening in on conversations–and it does this well enough. Most of my time was spent wandering around semi-open areas listening in or reading memos/notes I found lying around. Because the game didn’t always give me clear direction where to go next, I ended up spending a lot of time aimlessly crisscrossing back and forth between rooms trying to figure out what to do. But when I did eventually get where I needed to go, the game was still enjoyable enough that I didn’t mind the backtracking (even if it did feel like filler material).