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.
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.
Versions Tested: HTC Vive, PlayStation VR