With virtual reality you can make your wildest dreams come true – you can become a secret agent, a space marine or a knight in a fantastical realm fighting dragons and ogres... or perhaps you want to become a football mastermind instead?
There isn’t a game out there that’s going to give you the natural talent of Ronaldo, Neymar or Messi – apparently that takes thousands of hours of training, an incredibly convoluted diet and more dedication than just playing a game – but VR can help you learn some of those skills.
If you own a virtual reality setup, there are some games you can play to help you feel like a professional soccer player for the duration of the World Cup 2018 and beyond.
Below we’ve put together some of football games that you can play on a variety of virtual reality systems. It’s unlikely playing these alone will gain you entry to the World Cup in 2022, but it can at least make you feel like a soccer superstar for an hour.
Bear in mind that not all games are available on all VR systems though, so we’ve noted where you can play it under each one so you’re not too disappointed.
Final Soccer VR
Ever wanted to shoot that nail-biting penalty that’s set to change the fortunes of your team at the World Cup? This may be the closest you’re going to get with Final Soccer VR offering one of the best penalty simulators.
Unlike a lot of other virtual reality experiences, you can actually kick the ball in Final Soccer VR. Because you’re always standing in one space when in the headset, it makes the experience of taking a penalty possible through VR.
If you’re using a HTC Vive, you can attach one of the trackers to your foot – be sure to strap it down well so it doesn’t fly off and hit something fragile - and then take the penalties within your own home.
It may not offer the experience of a full match, but Final Soccer VR will give you one of the most nerve wracking virtual reality experiences you can find when it comes to sport.
How to play it? HTC Vive is the best way where it costs $19.99 or £14.99
VR Soccer Header
Don’t have an expensive virtual reality setup? This one can be played with your mobile phone and a cheap (or sometimes even free) Google Cardboard headset. While VR Soccer Header is a very limited experience, this is a fun app to try out for a few minutes during half time.
The head tracking on VR Soccer Header isn’t the best we’ve seen – you’ll see that game further done this list – but it gives you a 360 experience of a virtual reality stadium and crowd sound effects when you’ve scored or missed a goal.
It’s a very simple game that just asks you to header the ball towards targets, but it’s a bit of fun you can play quickly and it’s a great way to introduce your friends and family to VR in the middle of the next big World Cup match.
How to play it? You’ll need a compatible Android or iPhone with Google Cardboard or Google Daydream headset.
Football Nation VR Tournament 2018
Football Nation VR Tournament 2018 is one of the most daring virtual reality football games on the market. You won’t be kicking with your feet, but you do play as a single member of your team and you’re using your arms to simulate running around the pitch.
You play online as a team with a stadium of fans (albeit NPCs) and you’ll be working as a part of a team to try and win the game. You can play alongside 16 other people – we don’t know why the game didn’t opt for full football teams – or you can play offline against AI instead.
You’ve got the choice of lots of pitches to play on, while you can join an international league or just have a five-a-side game with a couple of your mates if you want something a little more relaxed.
How to play it? HTC Vive or Oculus Rift with it costing £10.99 or $14.99.
There was only one way to end this list – it’s Headmaster. This game is a firm favorite in general best VR games lists, so it had to be here considering it’s all about football. It’s one of the few perfect soccer games you can get for PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
While it won’t offer the same experience as FIFA 18 does on your console, it does what it sets out to do perfectly. The aim of the game is to become the best at headering the ball – there aren’t any feet in this one – and the extraordinary head tracking tech in the top-end VR systems means it feels the closest you can get to the real thing without hitting your head against an actual ball.
It’s all set in what the game calls the Football Improvement Centre and you’ll find yourself headering balls into goals to score points. It begins to get wackier as you have to start navigating obstacles with your hits like boxes, piñatas and other players too, but Headmaster if great fun for anyone football and VR fan.
How to play it? You can play it on PS VR, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive for $19.99 or £14.99
What’s the future for VR and football?
More and more virtual reality titles are coming to the market and that means we’re seeing the introduction of lots of sports games too.
It obviously depends on the tech you’re using so you know how immersive the experience can be, but we’ve already seen teams using the HTC Vive to help keep players in the game when they’re injured.
Earlier this year we wrote around the second generation of Vive trackers that are even more complex than the original ones allowing you to steady a virtual football, stop it with your feet and then kick it into the goal.
You obviously don’t get a feeling of connection when you ‘hit’ the ball, but it’s much closer to the real thing than anything we’ve experienced in sports games before.
This isn’t something that’s currently commercially available, but it may be one day and it’s already tech that has interested Paul Scholes. HTC Vive is setup and ready to go in Manchester United’s training academy right now too, so VR and soccer have a relationship that’s set to run and run.
While we don’t currently know exactly how football virtual reality experiences are set to be improved, we do know that VR is getting better and better so we’re sure to see further expanded game worlds in the virtual space in the near future. Perhaps by the 2022 World Cup we’ll be playing an even more realistic football game on our new headsets.
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