Though the genre has become better entrenched in the last six months, I still head into virtual reality first person shooters with a sense of trepidation. Unlike playing an FPS in its more traditional setting on a TV screen, there’s the fear that the developers have got it just a bit wrong, that there’s motion sickness to overcome or that the control scheme simply doesn’t work.
Thankfully, dipping into the opening of Doom VFR is fantastic, and yet another sign that Bethesda absolutely get VR gaming.
We’ll have a fuller review of the game in due course, but where that will be coming from Dave with his HTC Vive and Room Scale VR set up, I picked up my Move controllers and donned a PlayStation VR headset to see how it fares on Sony’s more restricted system.
First things first, I felt very short. Coming in at a definitely not less than average 6’5″, I’m used to a real world of occasionally being wary of door frames, having to awkwardly stoop to use cash machines and never being able to hear anyone who’s shorter than 6′ when in crowded and noisy environments. Tables are a bit high up, computer terminals are at an eerily and unusually comfortable height, and every corridor and room feels like it’s been built by overly lanky aliens.
That concern soon disappeared though, and you’re dropped into a simulated training scenario – VR within VR, or VR-ception, if you will – to get used to the controls. There’s a fairly standard set up with the quite common ability to point and teleport/zoom to a particular location not too far away, while you have one of Doom’s range of guns in one hand and grenades in the other. While this is designed primarily with two Move controllers in mind – or the Vive’s controllers – you can also play with an Aim Controller or DualShock 4.
The main thing that the game is missing, I feel, is the ability to manually choose the direction you’re facing when you teleport when using Move – free turning can be enabled with Aim and DualShock. All you have on the controller is a 180º turn which lets you instantly spin on the spot, and that can be useful against certain enemies that are shielded to the front, but there’s a slight awkwardness to having to reorient yourself, I feel.
Thankfully, the game’s positional tracking never missed a beat during the opening areas, despite my finding myself facing at least 90º to the side when I took the headset off. Augmenting your teleporting, you are also able to dash in four directions, which helps out in combat as enemies head towards you or lets you simply nudge yourself toward something you want to interact with.
The pace has changed quite dramatically from last year’s Doom revival, so you’re not blazing a trail around arena-like battles, double jumping between platforms and sprinting from one enemy to the next to deal a string of brutal melee finishers, but you can still feel like you’re moving quite fast and can move at pace if you want to. Teleporting and dashing around gives you more than enough mobility to avoid incoming attacks, but the teleport also slows down time for a few moments, letting you really aim with precision to pick your spot and take a second or two for a breather. This slow down is one of the things you can upgrade during the campaign, alongside your health, ammo and adding secondary fire to each of the guns.
Teleporting can also be an offensive weapon. Just as in last year’s Doom, enemies will glow blue once you’ve dealt a good chunk of damage to them, signifying that they’re open to a finishing move. Just teleport into them and, without the cinematic brutality of the regular FPS, they disappear in a wet splat of blood and gore.
All told, the opening hour of the game is really rather encouraging, and it feels like a full on, premium FPS experience. It’s been built from the ground up with VR in mind, as opposed to being adapted like Skyrim was – to admittedly great effect – and it shows in how it’s completely different to the lightning fast Doom of last year, and yet feels like a counterpart.