Some times ago I’ve been able to try “KFC The Hard Way”, an experience by KFC that you can find on the Oculus Store. This application was anticipated by all the major magazines for a long time, so I was really interested in trying it, but I have to admit that after having played with it I came out pretty disappointed. Let me explain you why.
For months there has been this recurring news of a VR app developed by KFC: and as a VR enthusiast, the fact that a big and tasty company like KFC is entering the VR field was surely a good news, so I was excited. At first, it was teased as a “training experience for all new KFC workers“, then it the articles started talking about a mix of a game and a training experience that KFC workers had to try, then it was an escape from the room game… the anticipations were very confused. After having tried it, I can say that it is a bit of everything and almost nothing of the above definitions.
“KFC The Hard Way” is a little VR game developed for marketing purposes by KFC: it is an escape from the room game that you play in room scale in VR and that in 15-20 minutes you can easily finish. The game theme is all around KFC, its delicious fried chicken, and Colonel Sanders. It’s way too easy and short, so I don’t think it can be really considered a game. And the various conundrums, while all related to the fried chicken, didn’t teach me how to work inside a KFC restaurant… so I don’t think it can count as a training experience. So, it’s just a marketing game. And since all the attention it had on the various VR media outlets (and I’m talking about it even here!), it can be surely considered a successful marketing operation.
The game theme is very simple: you have been trapped by the super-evil Colonel Sanders inside a room and to escape from it, you have to prepare some fried chicken, some deliciously fried drumsticks in the same way KFC does them. The colonel will instruct you on what to do and will provide you all the tools and the ingredients: you will start from a bag full of raw chicken meat and then you’ll have to verify the quality of the meat, coat it in breadcrumbs, fry it and such. You’ll have to follow exactly all the process that KFC employees do to prepare the fried drumsticks, using some machinery that is somewhat similar to the one used inside the restaurants. That’s why it was considered a training experience. But actually, you just learn the various basic steps… everything is hyper-simplified and different from what really happens in a kitchen: for instance to verify the quality of the meat, I had to virtually put it inside my mouth to taste it. I really hope that in KFC kitchens the employees don’t really lick all the meat pieces… I would find it really disgusting.
The colonel doesn’t give you the exact instructions on what you have to do. He for instance just tells you that you have to check the quality of the meat and then you have to solve the enigma of understanding how to perform the operation by yourself. Considering the fact that in the room-scale area you can only access few tools and interactive objects, usually understanding what to do with some trial and error is fairly easy. Years ago I’ve played Monkey Island… and I can assure you that that one is a game with enigmas where you find stuck without no single clue of what to do (just to discover later that the solution was really a non-sense one that you tried only for frustration). With KFC, I’ve only got a bit stuck at the beginning, when I had to verify the quality of the meat and only because it required me to make a virtual element to interact with my own body. I solved all the other stuff in little time. This meant that I absolutely didn’t felt challenged by the game and since a game revolves always around a challenge, I think that from a game design standpoint, this experience is disappointing.
Regarding the interface: you just interact with your Oculus Touch controllers to grab objects or activate them using the standard interaction mechanics. The game is a room-scale one, but you just move a little to go closer to the various parts of the kitchen… you can play it even with a rather small play area (so you don’t need hacks to enlarge it). What I really appreciated of the experience is the graphics: very well made, with cool animations. Also, the atmosphere of the game is well made: you feel really closed inside a dark environment until the end. Someone has also highlighted how he was “shocked” by seeing the Colonel Sanders being so evil inside this app… an image completely different from what he has in all other KFC public media. So, I can surely say that the experience is well crafted in this sense.
In the end, when I finished the experience, I got my little award and a good evaluation. The game, instead, had not. As I’ve said: I appreciated a lot the visual appearance of it, but I didn’t come out intrigued by it. I’m not saying that is bad, but that it could be a lot better. They tried to be original mixing training, marketing and an escape from the room game but in my opinion, in the end, there is too much confusion about what the experience should be. Even the choice of the escape of the room is strange: if they wanted to mix training and gaming, why haven’t they made a game that simulated the life of a KFC employee inside a restaurant? There could come different customers that wanted different dishes, so I had to prepare them all. The game could become challenging over time because the customer grew in number and they were always more in a hurry, so I had to run like crazy in VR to prepare everything in time! It would have been funny, IMHO.
If you have some free time, the experience can be worth a shot by downloading it for free from the Oculus Store, at least because it is a famous one. But if you are in a hurry, my advice is to spend your time playing something more interesting like Robo Recall or Face Your Fears.
(Header image by Oculus)
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