Surgeon Simulator: Experience Reality Review – Reality Bites (PSVR)

December 24, 2016 Written by Blake Grundman

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Have you ever fished a still-running drill from the gullet of some poor unconscious chap? If you answered, ‘yes,’ to this question, you may want to seriously reconsider some of your life choices. For the rest of us normal, non-murdery folks, the new PSVR re-release of Surgeon Simulator provides the perfect opportunity to figure out what it would be like to experience something that bizarre, first hand. The notion of bringing this genuinely interesting world to life with the help of PSVR seemed like a match made in heaven, right? Well let’s just say that if you were looking for its true match, you would need to search a bit further south…WAY SOUTH.

Medical “Practice”

On paper, the concept of simulating cutting someone open and performing complex procedures seems like a perfect use case for the PlayStation VR. Players would get all of the hands-on “education” with none of the pesky bloodstained garments. Unfortunately, Surgeon Simulator: Experience Reality, is exactly the opposite of what the name might imply. Granted, the name has always been meant as a sort of tongue in cheek shot at humor, but in this case it couldn’t be further from the truth. It was always amusing to perform ridiculous jobs on a PC, yet a majority of the appeal was lost in the transition to VR. Oddly enough, most of the elements that led to the title’s previous success is present and accounted for. The primary difference, which in this case happens to be the introduction of motion controls, has left the PSVR iteration circling the drain.

Anyone who has played the launch title Job Simulator on PSVR knows that the Move controllers can be a bit flaky from time-to-time. This is especially the case when trying to track one-to-one movements between the real and digital world. When they work well, it can provide a sense of realism that takes the VR experience to the next level. However, when these same controls are not behaving properly, it can instantly derail a previously enjoyable experience. Despite the fact that plenty of other PSVR games have already provided at least passable Move control implementations, Surgeon Simulator can’t seem to even get started on the proper foot. Hell, their calibration screen alone can be a nightmare to attempt to navigate. The game hadn’t even started yet! Little did I know that this instant frustration was a harbinger of what was to come.

A Little Shaky

For the player’s first procedure, they are tasked with replacing a man’s currently beating heart. This poor sucker drew life’s ultimate short straw, and has placed their life in your extremely incapable hands. From the first moment you attempt to grab an item from the surgical gurney, it is readily apparent that you’d be better off pursuing a career as a professional martini maker. The constantly jerky nature of the Move controllers oscillates between irritatingly imprecise to having some level of control. This is further compounded by an irritating vibration that wreaks havoc on the in-game physics. A perfect example of the vibration’s influence is when I attempted to use a hacksaw on the patient’s chest. The damn thing went flying out of my hand the moment it made contact with any other solid object in the environment! And before you ask, yes my controllers were fully charged and correctly calibrated. There is just something seriously wrong with the motion detection.

Another bizarre element of the game that drove me up the wall was the inconsistent nature of the collision detection. One moment it could be behaving perfectly fine, then the next it would seemingly lose signal for a split second and drive a medical instrument directly through a patient’s body. No, I didn’t say into the patient, I said through the patient. One such instance of this was when I was attempting to use a drill to cut through the patient’s rib cage. This momentary hiccup occurred for the umpteenth time and suddenly I was faced with a scenario where the drill I had been holding managed to clip through solid bone and was still running inside of the body, with the entire rib cage still intact. As you might imagine, this lead to a fairly swift failure, despite not being any fault of my own.

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Flatline

Another key element that is drastically flawed are the physics. The unpredictable nature of how two items will interact with each other will ultimately lead to the most frequent game-breaking frustrations. All it takes is one of the previously mentioned momentary logic hiccups, and suddenly the hammer you were trying to place on a steel table will react as if it were a projectile shot out of a goddamn cannon. To make matters even worse, the limited capabilities of the PS4 camera can also prove to be a rather substantial hindrance. Unless dropped/launched items fall directly in front of you, there is no way to retrieve them from across the room. Ultimately, these sorts of moments prove to be an almost instant fail state, because if you needed an implement later on in the procedure, you’re shit out of luck.

The worst part about Surgeon Simulator: Experience Reality is that I was earnestly trying my damnedest to play well. As something that you drunkenly stumble through amongs friends, this might actually be something that could be considered fun. Granted, this is going to be far more fun for the observers than the player. Unfortunately, if you are stone cold sober and trying to channel your inner Doogie Howser, this lack of any tangible precision will prove to be an instant turn-off. Additionally, the lack of any sort of tutorial, or even logically designed menus only act to further highlight the game’s lack of polish. To put it bluntly, sitting through a Tijuana back-alley dentistry that would be more enjoyable than this disaster. Unless a major patch hits soon, this is a procedure that has graduated from terminal to dead on arrival.


Review code for Surgeon Simulator: Experience Reality provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.

3.5
  • Some of the surgical scenarios are amusing
  • Procedures in VR provide a genuinely compelling perspective
  • The motion controls are terrible at best
  • Does this game even have a physics engine?
  • Bugs should never lead to instant-fail scenarios
  • How can you manage to mess up a calibration screen?