When I heard that the perpetually silly Surgeon simulator would be making its way to Virtual Reality platforms, I was excited. It seems a natural fit for the platform, especially after playing games like Job Simulator. Doing mundane, rote tasks – the stuff people habitually call work – within virtual reality gives it a new life, and makes that sort of humdrum oddly enjoyable.
I’d though that operating on poor old Bob again, just within a VR world this time, would be a jolly good, terribly silly time. I was wrong. It was just terrible. It’s not that the idea doesn’t translate well, rather just that it’s been implemented horribly.
It should have been simple to translate Surgeon Simulator’s imprecise controls to VR, using the already sometimes wonky Move controllers to great effect. Somehow, in translation, everything’s gone through to the wrong extreme. Controls – whether you opt for the pair of wands, or a single DualShock 4 – are frankly horrible.
Surgeon Simulator’s never been accuracy or precision, but the implementation of its controls in VR is often such an impediment that it can make the game wholly unplayable, detracting from its whimsy. With both control schemes, you’ll have to depress buttons on the controller to activate specific fingers – so holding something firmly in your hand requires the sort of squeezing you’d imagine would feel natural. You’d imagine it would feel like you’re wielding the hammer you’ll use to smash open a ribcage. Or it should feel like you’re bunching a scalpel betwixt your thumb and index finger to allow for precision slicing. But that’s not the way it actually works.
It can be a nightmare just to pick up a tool, let a long try to use it. Scalpels, tweezer and other small instruments are sometimes impossible to grasp. Worse is that the game’s odd collision detection continually fights against the player. If part of your hand happens to come in to contact with an in-game solid object, it becomes skeletal and floaty, so you have to pull back before trying to go back in. While it could be reasonably argued that it’s all part of Surgeon Simulator’s quirky core design, this takes it to absurd levels. It only becomes worse with the DualShock, which relies on the sometimes obscured light emanating from the controller.
Once you come to terms with how shoddy its controls are, and how to get around them rather than try to work with them, the game is as silly as it’s ever been, delivering on its promise of comedic surgical mishaps. We’ve already said the joke’s worn a bit thin now – and here, within VR, it’s stretched to the point of transparency. There’s nothing really new in the way of content, so it’s all really the same operations you’ve possibly already done.
“Surgeon Simulator isn’t exactly brain surgery, although players do get to do actual brain surgery during the course of several operations. What the game is in essence, is a sandbox experience where players can fool around in the chest cavity of a victim patient, curing whatever ails them with good ol’ blunt force trauma and an endless supply of anaesthesia. And when you’re tasked with removing and transplanting organs, precision isn’t exactly a necessary tool in your operating room.
As the disembodied arm of Nigel Burke, players have to move around using the left stick, while controlling the hand and its fingers with the right analogue stick and the bumpers, or the motion controls of the Dual Shock controller to control hand angles. Sound easy? It’s anything but easy. Take for instance, your standard Kidney transplant surgery.
That’s an operation that requires several very precise cuts on the intestines. The only problem however, is that simplified controls or not, you’ll still be moving Nigel’s arm as if it were tied to an exposed electrical outlet. What that means, is that blood will flow, your first surgery will most likely result in you inadvertently drugging yourself with groovy effects following and you’ll wondering who left a small laser to spin around the room and burn all your equipment.
In essence, there’s a lot of trial and error going on here. Surgeon Simulator is all about precision. Precision that is tempered by spazz hands, which results in one hell of a challenge. And that’s the gist of the game. No one will ever complete a surgery successfully on their first attempt. Instead, it’s up to you to figure out that using a bone saw to remove ribs isn’t exactly recommended and that a circular saw is a better tool for the job, while Bob suffers from your Frankenstein experiments.
Once you’ve mastered not murdering Bob within the first five minutes, that’s when you actually attempt to do the surgery properly. Or scream at the TV when you botch it up. These two ideas aren’t mutually exclusive. Besides the standard surgeries which have you misplacing hearts, kidneys and brains, there’s also new eye and teeth operations, stats to track and new environments within which to apply your bloody trade.
For its part, developer Bossa Studios has said that it’s messed up the controls and are working to fix them, but for now this is a VR game you definitely want to avoid.
Last Updated: January 4, 2017