Training, Tuition and Virtual Hubris
Systems: Cardboard, Daydream, GearVR
Reviewed on: Cardboard
In what could possibly be considered the single most self-indulgent VR experience yet, the captain of Chelsea Football Club, John Terry, has unveiled what press releases claim is “the first ever virtual reality football academy”. On the basis of this experience, we can only hope it is the last.
There is nothing new about footballers endorsing new technological experiences. A lot of major stars have appeared in some kind of tie in material, from basic endorsements like Michael Owen’s World League Soccer to bizarre cultural artefacts like Peter Shilton’s Handball Maradona, a goalkeeping game hastily tying in to the shocking quarter-final in the 1986 World Cup. While not the first football experience in VR (a few matches have been filmed in 360 video) it is the first VR experience to be endorsed by a footballer.
Developed by 360 Video and VR production house infinite360, the VR “experience” designs itself as being the start of a virtual educational journey from jumpers to goalposts to major competition. Apparently this is by way of science fiction, with the main interface of the app taking place in a hilariously rendered technodrome.
“Virtual Monument to Ego”
This self-indulgent virtual monument to ego is probably the highlight of the experience as a whole, containing a lot of hilarious little touches that seemed to be all the range in 1990s multimedia. Conspicuous CG, holographic FMV hosts and brushed, curved, gleaming architecture is the norm here, and it is hard to stifle laughs when the holographic receptionists warps into view.
This is all essentially a shiny, expensive front end to a few 360 videos. There are thirteen so far, and although expansion content has been promised on a regular basis, although none of the press material has made it clear whether this content will be paid for or whether there will be any more monotonous monologues in Terry’s trophy cupboard.
The videos themselves fare a little better, mostly because they are filmed in slightly more mundane locations like John’s Kitchen, John’s surprisingly cramped trophy room, and what appears to be the default stadium from Rocket League, with a real pitch awkwardly edited into the footage. Like a lot of VR experiences, content is a little thin on the ground, with many of the clips being less than a minute, and fairly mundane outside of the monstrously overdesigned vignettes.
There is the option to either stream or download each clip, and there is a big reason for this. Every time you try to load a video, more time will be spent starting at a big progress bar in front of your face and in front of anything I could have any reason to look at than is spent actually watching the video.
Training, Nutrition and “Motivation”
The content is split into three areas. The first and most populated so far is “Training”, which is a series of tips and exercises for learning to play football. Outside of taking place in a bizarre CG stadium, most of the advice is fairly mundane and rather accessible. Terry, for all the ludicrous bluster and hubris that led to this app existing, is not a terrible football coach and the advice is concise and shown rather well.
The next is nutrition, which is five videos shot in John’s kitchen. It’s really rather awkward and the simple approach taken with the football training does not translate into lifestyle and nutrition advice.
The final, and most awkward section of all, is called “Motivation”, and is John Terry showing you his trophy cabinet. When not on the pitch, Terry’s presentation of the content leaves a lot to be desired. He is flat, monotonous, and that can be a serious problem when he is talking about how he cried when his careers teacher said he would never be a footballer.
Virtual Reality? What Virtual Reality?
There is head-tracking and gyroscope action but you will never need it; everything you could possibly need to see in every single video is within your peripheral vision. Perhaps this is to support hardware that cannot handle gyroscopic tracking, but it raises the question of whether this entire experience even needed to be in VR and needed the futuristic stadium menu.
The Chelsea centre-back promises that people who purchase the app (currently £3 on Google Play and Apple’s App Store and £2.29 on Oculus) will be “JT’s Trainees”. Quite what that means beyond being on a mailing list is left as an exercise for the reader. On first using the app you are invited to sign up for a mailing list. This requires typing an email address. In VR. With no controls. Of all the ways to start a game, awkwardly waving your face around to point at letters is not the best start to any virtual reality experience.
It is a virtual reality “experience” in name only. It does support Cardboard, Daydream and GearVR, but does not take advantage of any of this. The “360 videos” add very little outside your peripheral vision and the only section of the app where there is genuine reason to turn your head is to face the FMV receptionist or look down at the walk of fame stars on the floor. Even at £3 it is difficult to recommend to anyone who isn’t a die-hard John Terry fan. The tuition tips can be found in plenty of other places, the interface is clumsy and unintuitive and there is a distinct lack of any real use of virtual reality. It succeeds as an ego trip but completely fails as a virtual reality experience.