DOOM VFR is the latest in Bethesda’s Games “Remade” For VR, the original DOOM 4 Was amazing and the name “Doom” carries a lot of weight with it, one part technical showcase, one part genre-defining milestone. The Series is known for kickstarting the FPS Genre, but can it do the same for the VRS Genre?
DOOM VFR is it worth it ?
Do you remember the original Doom? Around every corner, you hear the collection of beasts in the next room that all want to claw, blast, or pummel you into mush. Can you remember desperate retreats, with just a sliver of health left, heart pounding in your chest? Can you remember the chilling effect of a looming Cacodemon passing ahead, and the panic of a Pinkie rushing toward you? Did you try the 2016 reboot that recaptured the frenzied spirit of the original and reinvigorated it to its now resplendently modern glory? Because I do. Does the first VR entry for the franchise capture that same spirit? Well, sort of.
You are no longer playing as the Legendary “Doom Guy”, You’re now just some random staffer who comes off second best with a charging monster in the opening moments of the game and finds his consciousness transferred into a cybernetic body. What follows is a fairly insipid, though impressively-rendered trek through a greatest hits collection of locales from Doom 2016.
I Can’t Lie however, the Doom VFR is a mess. It’s Clear that the Developers have tried out a variety of VR controls and interactions, but never really polished any of them to the same level as their contemporaries. Which Means i have to make a list of all the annoying things in the game and they are as follows: you have inconsistent teleporting, a halfway-to-full locomotion scheme called ‘dash’ that handles inconsistently forward/backward and sideways movement ,the glitchy interactions with things in the world, the out-of-whack sense of scale, listless gunplay, and clipping that makes close-up combat completely impossible.
In its quieter moments it almost feels like a museum, or one of the companion VR experiences you get around big Hollywood movie releases. There is a hub area with models of all the enemy units that can be picked up and examined, however they can’t be tilted or turned in any way and the model just stays in a one dimensional state , which makes me think that PSVR was the Main Platform for the game. It’s also representative of the many instances where only the bare minimum effort has been applied in the transition to VR.
But, let’s face it, you’re not playing Doom VFR to look at some models or for a story or for character development. This is still Doom, and it enjoys many of the benefits of being in that world. The bestiary, for a start, remains a collection of some of the best bad guys ever to grace a shooter. The Monsters are mostly the same as the Doom reboot’s , so they are top notch quality, the combination of movement styles, attack patterns, and armaments is thrillingly dizzying in a busy encounter. Spinning round to see a Hell Knight coming right for you will nicely trigger a spike of adrenaline.
The upgrade systems for the player and the weapons comes across in modified form for this VFR outing. Health, slow-motion, and ammo can each be upgraded in three stages, and the weapons can be modified to either improve their effectiveness or unlock alternate fire modes that are triggered by the right hand controller grip button. Many of these feel far more satisfying than the base modes of fire, so it makes looking for the upgrade stations worth it.
As i said earlier, everything makes a smooth transition into VR though. The weapons lack the heft you feel in the flat screen version – here there’s no real difference in feel from a shotgun to a pistol to a Gauss rifle. The lack of impact reactions from the bad guys really sticks out like a sore thumb in VR, a constant unwanted reminder that they’re all basically just bullet sponges waiting for a health pool to empty before exploding into a pile of bones and flesh. But oh don’t get me wrong seeing all those demons explode in VR is way more satisfying and impressive than on a Flat Screen especially seeing them explode in Slow Motion.
As with the 2016 reboot, combat encounters become an exercise in constant motion and triage: whittle away at some of the Imps, take down a Cacodemon, scour the floor for armour pickups, whittle away at some Possessed, go toe-to-toe with a Hell Knight, dodge around the Revenant, find some health, But as we said, not everything is a smooth transition to VR. There’s a downside to all of this, and the choice to use teleportation as the primary control mode on the Vive version is that the encounters become abstract things in your mind. They’re not visceral any more, they’re just puzzles to unpick. Should that particular switch be flicked in your brain, a lot of the majesty of the setting and the horror of the bad guys somewhat diminishes. With a few upgrades under your belt, the encounters suddenly become much easier, and you will find yourself deftly teleporting out of the way of a charging enemies, it all just starts to feel like Cheating.
The added wrinkle of VR motion makes earlier encounters tougher than they might otherwise be, the inability to reset the camera by turning or re-centering is particularly galling in the busier encounters, as is the dodgy teleporting, but if you surrender yourself to flinging about in a room-scale setup, you can grow into the rhythms of the combat and your own need to be very nimble in spinning around to line up kill shots.
With five difficulty settings two available only after the game has been beaten on earlier settings players of every skill level should find a challenge that works for them. On the especially designed for masochists “Hurt Me Plenty” Option I needed a good few attempts to clear the larger encounters but it felt challenging and fair in the main.
The largest factor in making victory in the hectic combat possible is the addition of slow motion/time dilation as a game mechanic. This really pays off when the combat environments give the player room to dart around. When the bad guy headcount ramps up, being able to dip into slow-motion to change weapons or relocate is absolutely essential and feels like exactly what the Doom combat in VR needed. There’s also a crowd-control blast that pushes enemies away if you find yourself surrounded, which is a neat workaround for the clipping issue with weapons and up-close bad guys. It’s attached to the Vive’s left grip button however, which isn’t the easiest thing to trigger, and in the thick of battle often didn’t quite work out for me.
And The Controls oh, the controls. They all felt Clumsy and glitchy, the lack of full locomotion will be an instant black mark to a certain set of players, but the combination of dash and teleport worked well for me… when they worked. For Example The Vive track-pad has a strange habit of ignoring some track-pad clicks unless very carefully executed, which makes retreat more fraught than it needed to be and often triggered a dash when I wanted a teleport and vice versa. The teleporting which zooms you to the next location rather than blink you there, which is a nice variation ,has a destination marker that has a habit of phasing in and out. One second a destination is reachable, the next it isn’t. Given that the best way to get health in the game is to stagger an opponent and then telefrag them, this can have serious consequences to the flow of battle. Many’s the time I’d staggered a massive enemy, but couldn’t execute the telefrag before they came back to life.
It’s a shame that the real Doom VFR doesn’t really reveal itself until the second half of the game. At around three-and-a-half hours for a complete run-through, including time to hunt down some collectibles, the earlier areas really are the poorest in the game and somewhat tarnish the package. Once I had a few upgrades, had grown competent with the vagaries of the teleporting, and the game had finally opened up into larger combat arenas, with interesting vertically and sight lines, you could see the DNA of Doom 2016 dragged kicking and screaming into the VR realm. The price at least isn’t at the upper end of the spectrum ($30), and if you feel you might get some replay value from the higher difficulties you can probably double the run time.
At its best Doom VFR really is a very exciting and incredibly fast-paced experience, with thrilling moments of heroism against seemingly insurmountable odds. There is a lot to be said for standing at the feet of a Baron of Hell and looking up at its multi story frame and fighting back a shudder. At its best Doom VFR deserves to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with its forebears. Unfortunately for Doom VFR, its best is short, its flaws way too many, and just as it shows its quality, it’s all over.
Immersion and Graphical Fidelity
You can kill immersion in VR in many ways, and Doom VFR has completely failed, my worst experience was trying to jump on a pad for 20 seconds with no response or my 45 seconds spent failing to press a button in a lift and even if i try to forget those moments, The motion controller tracking didn’t seem to know where I was pointing inside the game; the laser pointer wouldn’t actually appear unless I stood in a particular spot but the game’s teleport didn’t want to play ball.
There’s also an odd sense of wrongness to the scale of the world and the things in it. An early example comes in one scene where you have to use a handheld fire extinguisher to calm a raging inferno, nothing really screams “THIS IS DOOM” like in the base game. Despite the flames appearing to be quite a way down a central shaft, in the ill-fated complex the small handheld extinguisher appears to blast out an improbable cloud of foam that easily reaches the flames. Perhaps it’s a Future Space Fire Extinguisher™, I’m not really up on the Doom lore as it applies to hazard equipment. It isn’t until the game reaches “the hot place” that it manages to elicit a sense of awe and a sense of place, with its eerie otherworldly outcroppings and demonic aesthetic. Prior to that, the nondescript corridors of a science complex don’t offer the most evocative of settings.
Doom VFR is at its worst when it tries to be a VR game – with all the trivial non-Doom interactions some developers feel they need to shoehorn into it – and at its best and most immersive when it remembers to be a Doom game.
Doom VFR is ambitious with its promise to transfer the Feel of the reboot, and it is quite impressive. But it is just too Glitchy, Clunky to recommend. Most of the levels don’t look like they are a part of a Doom Game, it does get better in the 2nd part of the game. But Ultimately the 2nd part of the game isn’t good enough to convince me to recommend this game.
What do you think of DOOM VFR? Will you try it? Let us know in the comments below!