id Software’s well-received reboot of the DOOM series proved to be one of the better first-person shooters to come out of 2016 (read here to see why we loved it). Following its recent debut on Nintendo’s exciting hybrid console, Bethesda Softworks looks again to capitalise on the blossoming platform of virtual reality to immerse players in a hellish DOOM experience befitting of the action-packed iconic IP.
DOOM VFR: PSVR [Reviewed], HTC Vive
Developer: id Software
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Release Date: 1 December 2017
Price: £19.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
If anything I was curious to see how the bombastic, breathless gameplay of DOOM would translate into a virtual reality experience, and with 3 different ways to play the game on PS4, there is a luxury of ways to wage war against hordes of demons. It goes without saying that you’ll never feel like more of a badass than you will when wielding the AIM controller to blast demons straight back to hell with the drop of a shotgun shell but for personal preference, I found the 5-hour long experience best played using the PS4’s Dualshock 4 controller. Teleporting is fast becoming the go-to tool to traverse landscapes in VR, and it’s a mechanism that DOOM VFR uses exceptionally well to help the player quickly navigate the many levels with some purpose.
Much of DOOM‘s success came about from its excellent pacing, with great reliance on keeping the player moving at all times to deliver fast and engaging combat, and even with a mixture of control choices on offer, VFR doesn’t shirk away from the breathless momentum of the game that many came to love, helped largely by the use of teleportation. All 3 forms of control do a job and allow the player to teleport freely, which is a simple enough tool to utilise with either form of play. By aiming in any direction and holding down and then releasing the left bumper on the Dualshock 4, I was able to warp from one place to another with little issue, and with minimal ill feeling, thanks to the slow-motion shift incorporated when teleporting.
Aside from being a nifty trick to manoeuvre the player about each level, teleportation is also the only way to accomplish DOOM‘s devastatingly brilliant glory kills. In order to achieve this brutal end result, players can telefrag to staggered demons after damaging them, which lands you directly on top of the selected enemy if performed correctly – exploding demons into fragments of blood and mush with lightning ease. Naturally, VFR‘s take on the glory kill isn’t nearly as gratifying or satisfying as its predecessor thanks in part to a lack of gory animation that comes with each successful kill, nevertheless, telefragging to finish off an enemy has its appealing aspects and has its purpose in-game such as the quick retrieval of health and ammo from the pieces of a downed enemy.
Another angle of DOOM VFR‘s movement control is the ability to dash in steps, an option that allows the player the opportunity to move forwards, backwards and side to side in short bursts when required. Though teleportation will likely be the main source of movement throughout the duration, dash works especially well when close enough to grab essential items off of the ground such as powerups, ammo and health to aid your bruised and battered body. A lack of free movement might have left DOOM VFR‘s gameplay feeling slightly one dimensional or restricted somewhat, but it actually does little to break the immersion of the experience, while lending itself well to the games action-based sequences, of which there is a decent amount considering the short amount of time you’ll spend inside your headset.
VFR attempts loosely to tell the story of a cybernetic survivor called upon after death by the UAC to vanquish demons and prevent a catastrophic disaster aboard the Mars facility. Id achieves this by mostly using recycled locations from DOOM to construct a new story, but for all its best efforts, DOOM VFR‘s narrative is largely disappointing, serving as a mere backdrop to the glorious shooting gallery and delightful gameplay on offer, and though the action starts out tentatively enough, it’s not too long before VFR is throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the player in the form of variously sized demons. It can be a little claustrophobic or overwhelming especially in the latter stages as fast-moving Imps, giant Barons of Hell and Mancubus’ close in on the player with speed or brute force, but the kickass in-your-face action of VFR is a fine tribute to the breathless nature of DOOM‘s combat segments.
To take on all that hell has to offer, VFR progressively arms the protagonist with a selection of DOOM‘s repertoire of arsenal. There’s plenty of weaponry to cater to all types of destruction too. Whether you prefer to blast demons away with the power of a shotgun, sit back and charge up the rather large Guass Canon to eviscerate enemies from a distance, or obliterate a room by throwing a BFG at a crowd of baying demons, which interestingly comes in the form of a grenade here rather than a large weapon, DOOM VFR doesn’t waver from the original game when it comes to satisfying action-driven moments. Combat feels meaty enough even for a VR experience and the addition of a 180 turn to get you out of a tight bind or the option to push back enemies closing in on your vicinity with a short blast only adds to what is a thoroughly pleasing action romp.
Transitioning to a VR hasn’t hurt DOOM one bit either. Visually, it works well enough, even with familiar settings from the former, VFR feels like a fitting DOOM experience with larger than life enemies that literally tower over the player, which is very impressive, to say the least. Although its graphics aren’t quite as sharp as the original, even on the base PS4, DOOM VFR is one of the better-looking VR titles around and with wide open combative spaces to channel your inner marine as you wipe out hordes of demons to a rocking soundtrack, DOOM VFR packs quite a punch for its appropriately affordable pricing.
Hot on the heels of Skyrim VR, id Software has delivered another fine addition to the growing Bethesda VR library of games. To its credit, DOOM VFR doesn’t shrink or shirk away when it comes to delivering on those outrageous combat sequences that made 2016’s entry such a blindingly rich success, instead, it succeeds at immersing the player in the world of demon killing with fast and easy movement thanks to a delightful teleportation system and enjoyable combat in a blast of a VR experience which is only let down by a largely forgettable storyline.