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Review

Doom VFR Review

Welcome to hell.

With VR slowly appearing more and more into our homes, it was only a matter of time before AAA studios took full advantage of the technology at hand. Bethesda have thrown in their hat perhaps more than any other major publisher, with three separate projects appearing on a combination of PSVR and HTC Vive that lean in on some of their biggest brands. Curiously, the only one to appear on both is Doom VFR, and unlike the other two projects it’s a completely new game.

After a short introductory sequence where even attempting to punch the charging Pinky can’t save you, the game then introduces you to your new cyborg body and teleportation skills, before embarking on a sequence of messing around in the BFG Labs and jumping through short to medium length levels. Much like Doom last year, you can pick up keys or skulls to unlock doors, pick up ammo and health – which mercifully respawns – as well as shoot a whole host of hellspawn determined to kill you. While the cycle can be repetitive on paper, it does allow for welcome breaks as the action can be intense.

For the most part, Doom VFR looks phenomenal, tailored to the VR setting in the choice of locale on offer. It runs at an impeccable frame rate the entire time with the recommended Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 powering the graphics, with the only blemish coming toward the end of the game when some particle effects reduced the game resolution to make it look blurry. A particular highlight was just how impressively imposing the hell level was.

The PlayStation 4 Pro and PSVR also hold up very well, albeit with a softer image through a combination of lower resolution headset and lower powered hardware, but even the base PlayStation 4 puts in a good showing. That said, aliasing becomes more noticeable on standard PS4 and the level of detail drops off closer to the player, in order to keep performance robust.

You move mostly by teleporting around by pressing the centre of the left controller’s circular pad and then release after pointing to an area you want to go. The only cumbersome thing is that you can’t say which direction you want to be in after teleporting, which would have been handy in a handful of situations, though the ability to simply turn around with HTC Vive mitigated this somewhat and you do have a 180º turn.

More troublesome for those prone to simulation sickness is the dash, activated by pressing to where Up, Down, Left, or Right would be on the circular pad. When standing, this made my legs wobble a tad, especially when used in quick succession, and while I did eventually get used to it, I did need to take regular breaks to ensure nausea didn’t set in.

As for the other controls, they’re what you’d expect. On the right controller, the weapons wheel is governed by the circular pad, while the trigger fires and holding the grip button down activates the alternative fire mode. On the left controller, the trigger either fires a grenade or whatever you’re holding in the left hand, and you can also  activates a force field that pushes back enemies too close to you. I personally found the controls perfectly fine when in combat, even if moving took some adjustment.

My only sense of confusion is why Doom VFR requires Room Scale VR. For those unfamiliar, Vive has two settings, one for rooms with smaller space so you can play with standing room only. It acts pretty much the same as Room Scale VR, just with a smaller space. My room setup is only just big enough for the minimum requirements for Room Scale VR, but honestly I felt it didn’t add to the experience as it doesn’t take advantage of the feature. The fact PSVR has a version of the game makes the mandatory requirement all the more baffling.

The real need for the expanded Vive set up or Room Scale VR is that you can and likely will want to turn to face in any direction, which is limited on PSVR by only having one camera – a camera position indicator is part of the HUD on PlayStation, but there’s no way to re-centre your view during lulls in the action. The dash moves also aren’t as intuitive to pull off in the heat of the moment with the Move controllers, given the positioning of the tiny PlayStation symbol buttons and the way that the buttons are mapped. Playing with a DualShock 4 or Aim controller solves this with added options for turning your view or enabling free motion via the analogue sticks.

It’s a shame that those options aren’t properly exposed for all players, and there’s a lack of in-game options to tweak the settings to your comfort as a player. Being able to swap dashes for 30º turns in PSVR could have been useful, as could being able to tweak your in-game height. They’re minor quibbles and do nothing to detract from this fantastic shooter, but VR is something so personal that it’s an oversight not to have more options.

As a VR experience built from the ground up, Doom VFR is relatively short, clocking in at around 3 hours or so. However it felt like a complete package, with each level capturing what made 2016’s Doom a pleasure to play. The big difference is that you are standing in the presence of giant monsters, which can be intimidating when a Cacodemon is staring at you in the same way a predator eyes its lunch. Still with the array of weapons on offer, it’s relatively easy to blow them away.

Those wanting to scratch that itch of having classic Doom levels in VR will find that collecting Doom Guy Dolls unlocks full levels to play in VR. Of course, you’ll still be fighting against the 2016 enemies in 90’s level designs, but for someone who grew up with idSoftware’s games, this is still a massively pleasing experience.

What’s Good:

  • Visually impressive in person
  • Doesn’t feel compromised too much
  • Frantic shooter fun that’s easy to control
  • Extras make revisits a must

What’s Bad:

  • Some minor issues with movement and lack of customisation
  • A moment at the end where visual quality dipped on PC
  • Immensely overstimulating at times

As a VR experience designed from the ground up for the technology, Doom VFR is probably the best example of this to date. There are some improvements to be made with the movement, but it is otherwise a fantastic bit of the ol’ ultra violence that shouldn’t be missed. Bethesda have definitely shown they understand the potential of VR, so hopefully we’ll see more dedicated VR experiences in the future.

Score: 9/10

Versions Tested: HTC Vive, PlayStation VR

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11 Comments
  1. kjkg
    Member
    Since: Apr 2010

    It’s finally starting to happen. We are starting to get highly reviewed games on the VR. I love my PSVR but one of my issues with it was there were loads of “good” games, no “greats”.

    Seems to be turning a corner now that devs have maybe got a grip on the tech.

    Comment posted on 04/12/2017 at 16:12.
    • MrYd
      Member
      Since: Mar 2011

      Is it that they’ve got the hang of it now, or that it took that long to get the games out? With a bit of “we’ll wait and see how it does”, followed by “yep, it’s worth doing something”, is it any surprise it might take until the second year before more stuff comes along?

      And if there’s no “greats”, how come my play time for Bridge Crew was over 100 hours last time I looked?

      Hopefully “another Doom”, or “Skyrim, for the 15th time” isn’t going to be all we get now. Yes, it’s good to have them, and they’re probably important to help sell the thing, but they’re not particularly great examples of what VR could do.

      Weirdly, it’s the more social games that are more interesting. Weird because strapping an expensive hat to your head and putting on headphones is probably the least social thing you can do. But put some people you can talk to in that world, and it’s much more interesting. Which explains the 100+ hours on the bridge of a starship. And quite a few hours in Rec Room this past week or 2.

      On the other hand, Resident Evil is a good example of “big game with VR support bolted on” that works well too. And is the single most terrifying thing I’ve ever experienced.

      So big rambling comment boils down to “Doom is probably a good thing to have, but don’t overlook everything interesting”

      And 3 hours long? I’ll wait for a sale, I think.

      Comment posted on 04/12/2017 at 16:40.
      • MOVE
        Member
        Since: Mar 2010

        How many hours at the time do you play VR?

        Comment posted on 04/12/2017 at 17:25.
      • MrYd
        Member
        Since: Mar 2011

        Less than I would if I had Skyrim, I suspect.

        The problem with VR is you can easily completely lose track of time. This is why all VR games should feature watches or clocks that tell you the real time. Farpoint neatly did that.

        Comment posted on 04/12/2017 at 18:08.
      • MOVE
        Member
        Since: Mar 2010

        Cool. What headsets do you use or do you just use the earplugs?

        Comment posted on 04/12/2017 at 19:54.
      • MrYd
        Member
        Since: Mar 2011

        I’ve got a reasonably priced set of wireless Sennheiser headphones I normally use. Because they were cheap enough, and wireless is nice and convenient.

        But that’s obviously a problem when you try and plug the things into the PSVR. So I just use the ones that came with it. Which aren’t too bad, surprisingly. Sound decent enough, and actually fit in my ears quite comfortably. (Which is rare. I’ve obviously got weird shaped ears or something)

        Why do I feel like I’m being interrogated? It’s fine btw. Ask away, especially as I’ll admit to being someone who didn’t see the point of the whole thing until trying it. Right now, I’m going to go and randomly throw virtual darts into some annoying kid’s head.

        Comment posted on 04/12/2017 at 20:04.
      • kjkg
        Member
        Since: Apr 2010

        Being a great game is always subjective I guess. I was more meaning that there has been few if any games for the VR that have had an 8, 9 or 10 review score across the board. Now it feels like we are.

        I’ve spent countless hours on Werewolves Within, a game that will terrify you at how easy it is to get lost in VR!

        Comment posted on 04/12/2017 at 20:42.
      • MOVE
        Member
        Since: Mar 2010

        @MrYd

        Thanks

        I think I’m going to use my Gold Headset but the aux cable that comes with seems a bit on the short side so I probably need an extender – which is silly – an extender for a connection cable.

        Just found out – HDMI connection between ps4 and psvr isn’t enough – one also need to connect them through usb. Which means I need a usb hub as well unless I ok with swapping between usb dongle and psvr.

        Comment posted on 04/12/2017 at 21:58.
      • MrYd
        Member
        Since: Mar 2011

        Yes, the PSVR box has a lot of connections. The HDMI to the PS4, the 2 HDMI connectors (1 might just be for power) on a long lead that the headset plugs into, a power supply, and the USB to the PS4. Oh, and the HDMI pass-through to the TV.

        It works absolutely fine plugged into a USB hub. I have to do that, because 1 of the USB ports on the PS4 has an external drive connected, which have to be connected directly. Any old USB hub should work fine. Mine’s powered, but I honestly can’t remember if the power is connected or not. It’d take me about a month to work out which cable goes where to find out.

        Comment posted on 04/12/2017 at 22:10.
      • TSBonyman
        Member
        Since: Dec 2009

        On the topic of headsets, In-ear plugs never seem to fit my ears well enough to stay put and the over-ear ones make my ears ache after i’ve been playing for a while. So i’ve been trying out using my hifi’s surround speakers to channel the audio.
        I’ve only tested it with Skyrim so far but i’m finding it just as effective as with headphones and it feels more natural somehow. Also it’s less faffing about when i don/remove the headset, making entering VR even more accessible.
        Now, instead of hanging the headphones around my neck, then donning the headset, then plugging the headphones, blindly, into the headset dongle and then moving the headphones into position – i just don the headset and go.

        Comment posted on 05/12/2017 at 01:03.
  2. TSBonyman
    Member
    Since: Dec 2009

    I’ve lost interest in the Doom series over the last few instalments, although that doesn’t mean that playing it in VR wouldn’t be more appealing but i think i’d like to try a demo first. It just might be a while before i buy another VR game thanks to being hooked on Skyrim atm.

    Comment posted on 04/12/2017 at 17:21.

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